Saturday, May 02, 2020
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Friday, March 27, 2020
Thursday, March 05, 2009
All right, I'm sick of having to say, "No, they're not real Conservatives, they're Neocons, I'm the real thing." To which the response is, "Paleocon Nazi!" And if this is a matter of semantics, am I anti-Semantic?
One of the classic hallmarks of Neoconservatism, as represented by Leo Strauss, is the philosophy of religion -- that we, we "philosophers," should pretend to be believers so that the great unwashed multitude should not see through our scheming to its ultimate basis, when we are much too sophisticated for any such thing.
Far, far otherwise the true Conservatives, the T. S. Eliots, the Richard Weavers, the Russell Kirks.
Then a fellow named Taki had me take another look at Kirk. I picked up the annoying and pretentious autobiography I had avoided for years. The result was depressing. William Buckley's pet intellectual, who had flaunted his conversion to Catholicism for years as a sure sign of his superiority to the common herd, boasted that he had better things to do on Sunday mornings that go to Mass. Like sleep.
For those of you not raised in the Faith, let me lay it out for you. The man claimed that the Church has the right to command assent in faith and obedience in action, The Church commanded attendance at Mass on Sundays and other days of obligation. And Russell Kirk boasts he has better things to do.
It gets worse. The man claims to believe that the Son and Word of God has become incarnate in Jesus, and continues to manifest his sacred body and precious blood at the words of consecration every seven days a short drive from Kirk's mansion, and the Squire of Piety Hill can't be bothered to get out of bed, though he graciously sends the wife and kids. For all I know, the servants too.
Faith is for fools, obedience for servants.
I began to be aware of the sort of "Catholics" hanging around the Conservative movement, Catholics obsessed with their bitter hatred -- of the Catholic Church. I mean the one everybody else means when they say, "the Catholic Church." That Church is, for these people, a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy, even a Satanic conspiracy, though they now claim to see signs that Rome is turning back to their Truth. In a pig's eye.
Talk to enough of these guys and you will find that the real hot button with them is not the English Mass, or the exoneration of the Jews, but the Bishop's conspiracy to destroy America, white America, by tolerating and even welcoming immigration from Mexico. (A Jewish plot, they say, but the Church has sold out.)
You don't have to be Catholic, or even Jewish, to find this sort of thing amusing from a distance, but quite revolting up close. (Yes, this is a halfhearted apology for letting it get to me.)
And don't bring up the subject of Eric Voegelin, in his own way as paleocon as Strauss, Let's save him for another time. And Weaver. And even old Tom.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
If I am to continue with my economic, social, political, cultural, religious, and spiritual commentaries, I shall do so independent of my former connections to parts of what calls itself the Conservative Movement, one of which dates back to the middle 1960s, in fact to the year after I joined Mensa. Come to think of it, I cut my ties to Mensa a couple of years ago, in a passive sort of way -- my annual renewal notice started to look like just another bill, and not a very urgent one at that.
Let me clear the air about a few things, if only to warn off former associates.
Jacques Maritain, Gabriel Marcel, Thomas Merton, Swami Abshiktananda (Dom Henri LeSaux, OSB), Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB (Swami Dayananda), and Dom John Main, OSB, are my heros. If I am damned for this in the eyes of the Feeneyites in the Lefevre swamps of false traditionalism, so be it.
I petitioned for and obtained a Transfer of Ritual Church to one of Byzantine Rite and Slavonic usage, not because I reject Vatican II but lack the balls to curse the Pope in public, but because I fell in love with Berdyaev when I was sixteen or so -- yes, for those of you who are keeping track, even before I joined Mensa. Along with Quaker educator Rufus Jones (not to be confused with the jazz drummer of the same name), he is one of the stars by which I still steer.
And even before that my father taught me that racial hatred and contempt are among the worst sins of our country and our world. I have never turned my back on that truth, though so many attempts to promote equality in the past few decades have turned out to be misconceived and disastrous.
Like the war. Like every war I can think of; even that between the States.
I remain active in Communion and Liberation because Don Gius got it.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
You know you're on the Upper West Side when you pass a guy walking his King Charles cavalier spaniel down West End Avenue wearing Crocks over gym socks. On a cold day. One pink Crock. One purple Crock. Now how gay is that?
Last week the kid and I were watching CSI New York; a couple of days later the waitress at the corner diner, who had not seen it, told me the real story -- of a woman who bought a new Chanel evening dress and come up in rashes. From formaldehide. It seems that the dress had been bought before and returned -- after the burial.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
In Identity and Violence, the concluding sentence of which I have quoted above, Nobel Prize economist Sen meditates on what the Patriarch of Venice has well indicated as the unavoidable fact of civilizational hybridity. Sen, like Cardinal Angelo Scola, is sensitive to the concerns that many of us, who call ourselves cultural conservatives, have over what passes for multiculturalism:
“There is a real need to rethink the understanding of multiculturalism both to avoid conceptual disarray about social identity and also to resist the purposeful exploitation of the divisiveness that this conceptual disarray allows and even, to some extent, encourages. What has to be particularly avoided (if the foregoing analysis is right) is the confusion between multiculturalism with cultural liberty, on the one side, and plural monoculturalism with faith-based separatism on the other. A nation can hardly be seen as a collection of sequestered segments, with citizens being assigned fixed places in predetermined segments. Nor can Britain be seen, explicitly or by implication, as an imagined national federation of religious ethnicities.” (p. 165)
And neither can the United States — or Europe. Yes, we are members of communities of faith. But there is common humanity, and, in various places and at various times, common civilizations have flourished, each articulating that common humanity in its own unique way. Our own civilization has been fairly unique in offering hospitality to those who come to us from other civilizations and their outskirts, trusting to our common humanity and to a set of institutions and traditions designed to allow members of different communities to collaborate as neighbors, clients, and colleagues. And this has worked remarkably well, at least in America.
August 1, 2007
A priest came in around noon to give the condemned the last rites — and one last chance to save his neck. “I cannot and may not take an oath in favor of a government that is fighting an unjust war,” the prisoner said, and politely turned down the offer of religious tracts and a reading from the New Testament. “I am completely bound in inner union with the Lord, and any reading would only interrupt my communication with my God.” The priest never forgot the joy of his countenance. It was a year to the day since the Jewish philosopher Edith Stein, now Saint Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, was consumed in Hitler’s Final Solution.
A week before George W. Bush arrived in Rome for their first meeting, Benedict XVI put his signature to a document proclaiming Franz Jägerstätter a martyr of the Church for refusing to serve in an unjust war, such as Benedict and John Paul the Great insisted the Bush war against Iraq has been from the beginning. The decree means that the Bishop of Linz in Austria, whose predecessor had tried to talk the farmer out of his rash act of resistance, can go ahead with the beatification; a miracle is not required, as it would be in the case of a Servant of God who was not a martyr. (A miracle will be required, however, before the Blessed Franz becomes Saint Franz.) The beatification will take place on October 26—just about the time that some observers expect a departing, lame-duck President Bush to launch a Pearl Harbor style pre-emptive attack (perhaps a nuclear one) against Iran.
From Taki's Top Drawer
July 6, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
"We are in for interesting times."
-- Rabbi Jacob Neusner in The Jerusalem Post
Monday, May 21, 2007
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Well, I had to rewrite the lead (or lede, as they now spell it) at the last moment to go with publication this late in the month -- and introduced an historical howler which was detected within minutes! Keeps you humble, it does...
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Bethell admits that he avoids interreligious dialogue, as well he might; he doesn't really believe in it. For him the occasion, and the man, were insufficiently confrontational, and the subtext here seems to be an invidious comparison between the spirit of Scola and the movement he is taken to represent, and that of the sainted Escriva, and the movement he founded. Bethell is resigned to the idea of a Papa Scola as the third in a series of professorial pontiffs, as the best that can be hoped for at the moment. Were he writing today, after Papa Ratzi's alleged right turn, he might be more upbeat about things at the Vatican.
But this is the essence of his take on the situation: "It may also be that, at a time when undiluted Catholic teaching is increasingly at odds with the world, a conservative prelate is only being prudent when he veils his orthodoxy behind philosophical abstractions. I felt at times that Scola was doing just that. The Communion and Liberation movement does have that inclination."
Yet Bethell himself shows that Scola freely and cheerfully admits his orthodox Christianity. Indeed, he might even be said to flaunt it. So the philosophical abstractions must be something other than a smokescreen. They are, I think, an attempt, and about as successful an attempt as one could hope for, to express the universals of human experience to which the Gospel speaks, and to express them in a way a Muslim, or even a Pagan, can recognize -- and to state Christian dogma in those terms. I take it that that is what Giussani, Scola's professor and the founder of CL was up to. The latter was speaking to a generation so alienated from the traditions of European civilization that they could only be reached by an appeal to the universally human, and that may be the only address Muslims of good will. I suspect that there are such, though Bethell implies they are sleeper agents waiting for the signal to turn on us.
The passage of Scola's speech that Bethell holds up to ridicule is rather a bold challenge to Muslims and Jews who reject the doctrine of the Trinity, indicating that the alternative may well be some kind of pantheism. And this is neither obfuscation nor pussyfooting.
I'm sure OD has its place in the Church. But my place is not with them.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Then Diomed killed Axylus, son of Teuthranus, a rich man who lived in the strong city of Arisbe and was beloved by all men; for he had a house by the roadside, and entertained all who passed; howbeit not one of his guests stood before him to save his life, and Diomed killed both him and his squire, Calesius, who was then his charioteer -- so the pair passed beneath the earth. -- Iliad VI, 12-19,
In the city of Milford, at the Delaware Water Gap, by the side of the road to Port Jervis (the end of the railroad line to New York), stands an old stone house used by the National Park Service. A sign near the highway, of the sort marking lesser battlefields of the Revolution, identifies it as Arisbe, the last home of Charles Sanders Peirce, and of his mysterious wife Juliette.
The name Arisbe was perhaps suggested by the justly forgotten sentimental poet of "The House by the Side of the Road," who sang that Axylus "lived in a house by the side of the road and was a friend to man."
By the 1890s America's greatest philosopher had no higher ambition. Hounded out of his government job and his academic appointment, Charles Peirce was rich only in his knowledge and in his love for his ailing wife. Did Peirce ever turn back to Homer and reflect that of all who feasted of the bounty of Axylus, none stood up to save his life? Malnutrition may have played its part in the martyrdom of America's greatest thinker, as the deathbed photograph makes painfully clear.
I have used the word martyrdom for reasons I must now explain. Martyr is Greek for witness. To what or to Whom does Peirce at Arisbe bear witness? We know much less than we should like to about the end of his career as a scientist and teacher -- only the orignis of his second wife are more obscure. But there is a passage in The Philosophy of Loyalty which I have lived with for many years with a growing conviction that there is only one man Josiah Royce can be describing so movingly. (If any Royce scholar has another candidate than Peirce in mind, please let me know!)
There was a friend of my own youth whom I have not seen for years, who once faced the choice between a scholarly career that he loved, on the one hand, and a call of honor on the other, -- who could have lived out that career with worldly success if he had only been willing to conspire with his chief to deceive the public about a matter of fact, but who unhesitatingly was loyal to loyalty, who spoke the truth, who refused to conspire, and who, because his chief was a plausible and powerful man, thus deliberately wrecked his own worldly chances once for all, and retired into a misunderstood obscurity in order that his fellow-men might henceforth be helped to respect the truth better. Now, the worldly career which that friend thus sacrificed for the sake of his loyalty is far from mine; the causes that he has since loyally served have not of late brought him near to me in worldly doings. I am not sure that he should ever have kept our interests in close touch with one another even if we had lived side by side.
For he was and is a highly specialized type of man, austere, and a little disposed, like many scholars, to a life apart. For the rest, I have never myself been put in such a place as his was when he chose to make his sacrifice, and have never had his great choice set before me. Nor has the world rewarded him at all fairly for his fidelity. He is, then, as this world goes, not now near to me, and not a widely influential man. Yet I owe him a great debt. He showed me, by the example of his free sacrifice, a good in loyalty which I might otherwise have been too blind to see.
He is a man who does not love flattery. It would be useless for me now to offer to him either words of praise or words of comfort. He made his choice with a single heart and a clear head, and he has always declined to be praised. But it will take a long time, in some other world, should I meet him in such a realm, to tell him how much I owe to his example, how much he inspired me, or how many of his fellows he had indirectly helped to their own loyalty. For I believe that a good many others besides myself indirectly owe far more to him than he knows, or than they know. I believe that certain standards of loyalty and of scientific truthfulness in this country are to-day higher than they were because of the self-surrendering act of that one devoted scholar.
-- J. Royce, The Philosophy of Loyalty, Lecture III, Section VI, Paragraph 11.
But martyrdom? Certainly Peirce worked tirelessly and creatively with no real hope of an audience in his lifetime, in terrible pain and worse anxiety for his wife. But where is the specifically religious dimension the term martyrdom connotes?
Charles Peirce was far from an orthodox Christian as we generally understand the term. Raised Unitarian in the circle of Emerson, he became an Episcopalian on the occasion of his first marriage, but could not attend services with a good conscience, feeling his intellectual integrity compromised. His alienation from historical Christianity troubled him greatly until one Sunday morning in 1892 he suddenly felt permitted, invited, commanded, and indeed compelled to return to Holy Communion.
Not that he suddenly became orthodox in his thinking, but orthodoxy suddenly didn't matter. Later that day Peirce wrote a letter to the pastor of St. Thomas's on Fifth Avenue in New York, where this occurred. Kenneth Ketner sent a copy to Walker Percy, and it was recently published in their correspondence. In this remarkable letter, Peirce wrote that
(T)hat which seemed to call me today seemed to promise that I should bear a cross like death for the Master's sake, and he would give me the strength to bear it.
I am sure that will happen.
My part is to wait.
I have never before been mystical; but now I am.
-- A Thief of Peirce, p.137.
Peirce never became a mystic in the Randian sense of submitting his mind to external authority; his religious experience made him more of a freethinker than ever. But he was now convinced that in following the truth wherever it led, without looking back to see if anyone was following him, he was somehow at one with the Founder of Christianity, and with the divine source of creativity and love he posited as the cause of Evolution.
Axylus and Calesius of the strong city of Arisbe passed beneath the earth, slain by Diomed. The ashes of Charles Sanders Peirce reposed in an urn on the mantlepiece of his Arisbe livingroom: I do not know what has become of them; perhaps nobody knows. His manuscripts somehow survived, many of the most important have been published in one form or another, and a critical edition is at last begun.
At the start of a new century, Charles Peirce stands as an icon of integrity to all who would study, teach, or practice philosophy, whether inside or outside the sacred Grove of Academe.
The place where they meet is Arisbe.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Monday, April 30, 2007
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Monday, April 02, 2007
Monday, 26 March 2007
By Webster G. Tarpley
The long awaited US military attack on Iran is now on track for the first week of April, specifically for 4 AM on April 6, the Good Friday opening of Easter weekend, writes the well-known Russian journalist Andrei Uglanov in the Moscow weekly “Argumenty Nedeli.” Uglanov cites Russian military experts close to the Russian General Staff for his account.
The attack is slated to last for twelve hours, according to Uglanov, lasting from 4 AM until 4 PM local time. Friday is a holiday in Iran. In the course of the attack, code named Operation Bite, about 20 targets are marked for bombing; the list includes uranium enrichment facilities, research centers, and laboratories...
Observers comment that this dispatch represents a high-level orchestrated leak from the Kremlin, in effect a war warning, which draws on the formidable resources of the Russian intelligence services, and which deserves to be taken with the utmost seriousness by pro-peace forces around the world.
Asked by RIA-Novosti to comment on the Uglanov report, retired Colonel General Leonid Ivashov confirmed its essential features in a March 21 interview: “I have no doubt that there will be an operation, or more precisely a violent action against Iran.” Ivashov, who has reportedly served at various times as an informal advisor to Putin, is currently the Vice President of the Moscow Academy for Geopolitical Sciences.
Our Russian friends have been putting this out for the last week. This is the first I've heard, and not from any mainstream source. If all is well Thursday night, I will wonder what this was all about, as I wonder about much else.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
March 20, "of the Feria" then as now. Venerable Fathers of St. Sabbas in the East. The New Calendar East. Go back two weeks for the old one and it's the 40 martyrs of Ammonium. Ammorium. But at least the forefeast, back then, of our own Benedict, of whom I am, on paper, still a novice Oblate.
I visited the church website today and looked up the history, and saw what at first appeared to be an enormous gap in the list of pastors. Then I realized why:
"In the 125 years of Holy Trinity Parish life, there are fifty-five golden years that stand out above all. This was under the guidance of Rev. Henry J. Watterson, who arrived on St. Valentine's Day in 1913, at the age of thirty-seven. He was a man of great determination and tenacity. When he decided to become a priest, he worked day and night to complete a thirteen-year course of study in ten years. He was ordained in 1901 and his first assignment was to St. Lucy's Catholic Church in
I doubt he performed the baptism himself, but it is good to think this remarkable man was my first pastor. And he might even be amused to know that the baptismal register now states, or should, that I am no longer a member of his church, but a subject of the long vacant Russian Exarchate. One of them, anyway. Harbin, perhaps?
Westfield, New Jersey. Where I do not remember living. Home of Charles Addams. Inspiration of the Addams Family. No wonder, to those who know me.
Next time, perhaps, something of Weehawken.
Monday, March 19, 2007
This morning I got an email informing me that a cause has been opened for the canonization of Prince Dmitri Gallitzin, a Russian child of the French Enlightenment settled near Pittsburg, where he was for a time known as Father Smith. Only in America... Although Prince Dmitri was a cradle Orthodox, on his conversion he was not assimilated to any of the Eastern Churches, nor would he be today, as he had a Roman Catholic mother, and however you are raised, your ritual church is that of your Catholic parent. That was Catherine Doherty's problem, more serious in her case, as she was indeed a child of Eastern Christendom. The elder Prince Gallitzin was a friend of Voltaire; his son turned to the Church about when his mother returned to it.
Interesting scene last Thursday when some friends were discussing Giussani's Journey to Truth. One retired lady drew the wrath of a True Believer when she said she didn't quite see things the way Father G. did, and he accused her of being a Gnostic. He didn't know that she had spent years studying one Eric Voegelin, who had a bee in his bonnet on the subject of Gnosticism, if indeed he knew who Voegelin was. Needless to say, she let him have it!
I guess Gnostic is a general term of opprobrium you pick up in the seminary. In this case a singularly inappropriate one, as her fault was admitting that she had no great sense of Certainty, but had to be content to walk by faith. And of course the idea of some esoteric mental posession, higher than mere faith, the mark of the elect, is the very definition of theological Gnosticism, never mind Voegelin's political varieties.
Frankly, I think Gnosticism is the special temptation of all these new ecclesial movements. CL does better than most by refusing to segregate themselves from the main body of the Church, but sometimes I do hear the strains of esoterism, however faintly.
Don Luigi seems to have two things in mind. He speaks of moral certainty, the ability to act with enthusiasm and confidence. And he speaks of the existential attitude of being open to reality as a whole. I see what he means, but there is also the risk of cutting yourself from the human race by defining everyone who expresses himself differently than you do as an inauthentic human being. For example, there are some followers of Lonergan who don't think it's worthwhile to talk things over with people who disagree with you, as they are in need of radical conversion.
Of course there are problems adapting a high school and college youth movement to adults. Young people do need to be reminded that that they don't have to undermine their confidence by always brooding over how the world thinks. But adult Catholics don't need to fall into the defensive mentality of Kuyperian neo-Calvinist worldviewism. There are also cultural differences. Secular Americans are not Italian secularists -- even our Freemasons are not of the Grand Orient -- indeed, they are forbidden to associate with Grand Orient Masonry!
Italians still concern themselves with Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors. Americans, on the other hand, have rediscovered the formula for the blessed man's cologne, and are not only selling it, but advertising it on the National Catholic Reporter's website -- even the "progressives" here have a sense of humor. Sometimes. I must admit, I am truly curious what it smells like, though it doubt it will put the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab out of business.
On the causes for canonization front, I am happy to see the founder of Mondragon listed -- but don't ask me to spell his name now! But Julius Nyerere? (Which I have probably misspelled too.)
Sunday, February 18, 2007
In his latest book Sen, a Nobel Prize economist, meditates on what the Patriarch of Venice has well termed the unavoidable fact of civilizational hybridity. Sen, like Cardinal Scola, is sensitive to the concerns that many of us, who call ourselves cultural conservatives, have over what passes for multiculturalism:
"There is a real need to rethink the understanding of multiculturalism both to avoid conceptual disarray about social identity and also to resist the purposeful exploitation of the divisiveness that this conceptual disarray allows and even, to some extent, encourages. What has to be particularly avoided (if the foregoing analysis is right) is the confusion between multiculturalism with cultural liberty, on the one side, and plural monoculturalism with faith-based separatism on the other. A nation can hardly be seen as a collection of sequestered segments, with citizens being assigned fixed places in predetermined segments. Nor can Britain be seen, explicitly or by implication, as an imagined national federation of religious ethnicities." (165)
By cultural liberty Sen means the ability given by education to make intelligent, informed, and responsible choices among the cultural alternatives offered. As Goethe says somewhere, we do not really own what we inherit until we freely embrace it. If you wish to call this the criterion of Western civilization I will not dispute you, though it is one we have not always honored, and Sen points to paradigmatic instances of it east of Suez.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I don't know how I feel about Google taking over Blogger. I didn't appreciate Yahoo taking over Rocketmail and then Egroups, and Microsoft swallowing up Hotmail and Listbot, but that is the way of things. On the other hand, I no longer have to pay for enhanced service or go to an outside provider to have comments enabled, and that's a good thing.
Some folks in cyberspace and real life know that I am attending something called the School of Community, and are worried that I have Joined a Cult. Yeah, right. I do enjoy reading and discussing some paragraphs of Luigi Giussani with others so inclined, as does a certain Bavarian resident in Rome. I find in Don Juice (as he is known, or at least as he is pronounced) an echo of the philosophical position I had developed in the context of American pragmatism or pragmatic idealism, and of the approach to theology exemplified by Rufus Jones and Richard Neibuhr (not the other fellow).
But more of these matters later.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
I see that I haven't been active here for almost three years, during which I have posted a great deal in my LiveJournal, some of which is worth preserving and reposting here, with backdating, if the system allows it, as I think it does.
This was, after all, my only 'blog, until the good Bishop Seraphim was persuaded to bring as many of the Transfiguration community as he could over to LJ. And I shall no doubt continue to update my online diary there, while posting or reposting my more serious reflections here, where the older items are easier to get at.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
"Thought at the present time has become subject to the dissective influence of nominalism. In the consciousness of mankind, the ontological reality is decomposed and pulverised. This process also affects Church consciousness. And how often the most reactionary tendencies of Church thought have appropriated to themselves a nominalistic understanding of the Church. They have ceased to comprehend the Church integrally, as an universal spiritual organism, as ontologic reality, as the Christified cosmos. There has prevailed a differentialised understanding of the Church, whether as institution, as community of believers, or as hierarchy and temple. The Church was transformed into a curative establishment, in which they deal with individual souls for healing. Thus is affirmed a Christian individualism, indifferent to the fate of human society and the world. The Church exists for the salvation of individual souls, but has no concern for the creative aspects of life, for the transfiguration of social and cosmic life. Suchlike a kind of exclusively monastic-ascetic Orthodoxy in Russia was only possible, because that the Church entrusted all the organisation of life to the state. Only the existence of the autocratic monarchy consecrated by the Church made possible such Orthodox individualism, such a separateness of Christianity from the life of the world. The Orthodox monarchy upheld and guarded the world, and churchly order was also maintained by it. The Church was indifferent not only to the arrangement of cultural and social life, but also to the arrangement of churchly life, to the life of the parishes, to the organisation of a non dependent churchly authority. The existence of an Orthodox autocratic monarchy is the obverse side of monastic-ascetic Orthodoxy, of perceiving Orthodoxy exclusively as a religion of personal salvation. And therefore the collapse of autocratic monarchy, of the Russian Orthodox tsardom, implies substantial modification in Church consciousness. Orthodoxy cannot remain predominantly monastic-ascetic. Christianity cannot be reduced to the individual salvation of separate souls. The Church inevitably turns itself to the life of society and the world, and inevitably it needs to participate in the formation of life. In the autocratic monarchy, as a type of Orthodox theocracy, it was the angelic, and not the human principle, that reigned. The tsar, in accord with this concept is in essence of the angelic, and not of the human order. The collapse of Orthodox theocracy ought to lead to the awakening of creative activism of a very Christian nation, an human activism, for the formation of a Christian society. This turnabout should begin first of all with this, that Orthodox people make themselves responsible for the fate of the Church in the world, in an historical actuality, that they be obliged to take upon themselves churchly formation, the life of the parishes, a concern about the temple, and organisation of churchly life, brotherhoods, etc. But this change of Orthodox psychology cannot be restricted to formation of churchly life, it extends also to all aspects of life. All of life ought to be thought of, as churchly life. In the Church all aspects of life enter in. A turnabout is inevitable for an integral comprehension of the Church, i.e. for the surmounting of Church nominalism and individualism. The understanding of Christianity exclusively as a religion of personal salvation, the constriction of the scope of the Church to something existing alongside with everything else, -- when the Church is the posited fullness of being, would be also the source of the greatest disorders and catastrophes in the Christian world. The abasement of man, of his freedom and creative vocation, the inculcation of suchlike an understanding of Christianity, would also evoke the revolt and rebellion of man in the name of his freedom and his creativity. Upon that desolate spot, which would remain in the world to Christianity, the Anti-Christ would begin to build his own Babylonian tower and go far in its construction. Seducing the freedom of the human spirit, the freedom of human creativity would ultimately perish upon this path. The Church ought to guard itself from the evil elements of the world and the evil developements in it. But the genuine guarding of things holy is possible only under the admission of Christian creativity."
Some twenty years before Weaver went to work on the nominalists -- though about seventy after Peirce did -- Berdyaev wrote the above in "Salvation and Creativity," which probably found its way in some form or other into The Meaning of the Creative Act, which is, alas, unobtainable at the moment, at least in English. Am I wrong to see this essay, along with some early papers by Marcel and Jaspers, as one of the first stirrings of what would become known as Existentialism? (Richard Weaver the Existentialist, now that's a hoot! Though on second thought, he's not all that far from Marcel in some respects, is he?)
Thursday, November 24, 2005
The following is from the first chapter of The Pursuit of God, which I am pleased to find on line and to call to your attention:
The doctrine of justification by faith--a Biblical truth, and a blessed relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort--has in our time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such manner as actually to bar men from the knowledge of God. The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be `received' without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is `saved,' but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little.
God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys feels, loves, desires and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.
You and I are in little (our sins excepted) what God is in large. Being made in His image we have within us the capacity to know Him. In our sins we lack only the power. The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition. That is the heavenly birth without which we cannot see the Kingdom of God. It is, however, not an end but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart's happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead. That is where we begin, I say, but where we stop no man has yet discovered, for there is in the awful and mysterious depths of the Triune God neither limit nor end.
Shoreless Ocean, who can sound Thee?
Thine own eternity is round Thee,
To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul's paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily- satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. St. Bernard stated this holy paradox in a musical quatrain that will be instantly understood by every worshipping soul:
We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still:
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.
Hymnody is sweet with the longing after God, the God whom, while the singer seeks, he knows he has already found. `His track I see and I'll pursue,' sang our fathers only a short generation ago, but that song is heard no more in the great congregation. How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of `accepting' Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy, and it is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus the whole testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing Church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiential heart- theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture which would certainly have sounded strange to an Augustine, a Rutherford or a Branierd.
I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.
Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and the servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.
When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the `and' lies our great woe. If we omit the `and', we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.
We need not fear that in seeking God only we may narrow our lives or restrict the motions of our expanding hearts. The opposite is true. We can well afford to make God our All, to concentrate, to sacrifice the many for the One.
The author of the quaint old English classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, teaches us how to do this. `Lift up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love; and mean Himself, and none of His goods. And thereto, look thee loath to think on aught but God Himself. So that nought work in thy wit, nor in thy will, but only God Himself. This is the work of the soul that most pleaseth God.'
Again, he recommends that in prayer we practice a further stripping down of everything, even of our theology. `For it sufficeth enough, a naked intent direct unto God without any other cause than Himself.' Yet underneath all his thinking lay the broad foundation of New Testament truth, for he explains that by `Himself' he means `God that made thee, and bought thee, and that graciously called thee to thy degree.' And he is all for simplicity: If we would have religion `lapped and folden in one word, for that thou shouldst have better hold thereupon, take thee but a little word of one syllable: for so it is better than of two, for even the shorter it is the better it accordeth with the work of the Spirit. And such a word is this word God or this word love.'
These words were written many years ago, I do not know how many. I find them no less true and telling now. Yes, they do cast a harsh light on what passes for Christianity in the America of George Bush, but they also remind us that we cannot judge the reality of the faith from its common practice. The uncommon practice of the Cloud of Unknowing is that of hundreds, if not thousands of parish groups, by no means all Roman Catholic, of the World Community for Christian Meditation, but the transformed reality Tozer is calling us to can be seen in the saint of the cash register who makes everyone on the checkout line feel, if only for a moment, like a child of God. I hope you know her. I'm quite sure you know someone like her, who might not even be a card-carrying Christian. And for her, or him, we may all be grateful today.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I had to deal with a work-related emergency last night, though most of my emergencies are more related to my not working.
About 4:30 I got an email from the Editor in Chief of the book I contributed to asking if I could be at Le Perigord at seven, as one of the original invitees had had to cancel. So it was necessary do a load of wash in order to have matching socks, and to give myself a shave when I had already showered, and of course to dine on Nouvelle Cuisine, even though the menu was based on the dinners eaten by the revolting peasants of the Vendee in honor of their martyred King and Queen. (I was used to the latter idea from John's occasional anti-Bastille-Day parties.) I did not realize until I made my way to my table, having primed the pump with a certain amount of red wine, that I was a last minute substitute for the infamous Taki. Nobody else but my editor knew, so there was no disappointment in me on that account, though I was at one of the tables at which one was expected to introduce oneself to the audience at large. (Unlike the ones where the admiral and the general were sitting.) I merely pointed out that I was a campus chapter leader of the Institute before it was the Institute. There was only one other veteran of the old days in the room.
I met some interesting folks, and even made some professional contacts which might prove useful; I seem to get on with the President of the Institute, a Reagan domestic policy advisor, who liked the patriotic tie I had bought shortly after 9/11/01, which he recognized as a variation on one of the Confederate flags. (It was in my coat pocket because I had worn it to the Russian Church dinner, as red, white, and blue were the Imperial colors.)
Good to see my name in print, even as Contributing Editor. I see that some of my favorite sentences didn't survive the final redaction. Such is life. If you ever need a college guide, or know someone who does, Choosing the Right College 2006 is the one.
I think I shall send my postmodernism piece to these folks for the scholarly quarterly which they publish now, in the hopes that they will go for a book version later.
I have at least satisfied myself that they are still in Paleocon hands, as I want nothing to do with the Neos. (I am otherwise at the point of letting the Bushies define me as a Liberal -- as if there were anything wrong with that.)
Monday, March 10, 2003
One dismal November Saturday I attended a Pannychida, or memorial service, for the ten million victims of the artificial Ukranian famine of 1932-1933. Coming home in the cold rain, I ducked into the Barnes and Nobles on Fifth that used to be Brentano's, and walked around the basement visualizing how the racks used to be set up so many years ago. My attention was attracted to Blood Brothers, by Elias Chacour, a priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and the first Palestinian to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I wanted some answer to the evils of the last and most vile of centuries.
I sat up that night reading, forcing myself to get through the early chapters quickly before anger overtook me, for indignation at what his family suffered comes more naturally to me than the Gandhian spirit in which his father met it. Father Elias went on to found the Mar Elias Educational Institution under the auspices of the great Archbishop Joseph of Nazareth, a man for whom our little family on Mulberry Street has the warmest feelings. The book recounts how Patriarch Maximos, upon his election, summoned Bishop Raya from Alabama to replace him in Galilee, and I recalled how young Father Raya, then of West Paterson, had been the first priest to associate himself with the ministry of the venerable Catherine Doherty, herself a pioneer of what became the civil rights movement, and a parishoner of ours at St. Michael's. (Dorothy Day would come too, but remained a Roman Catholic.)
I wondered what was left of Father Elias' work after the ghastly decade and a half since his book was published, and found, to my enormous relief, that it still flourishes, supported by an American charity called the Pilgrims of Ibillin. I commend it to your prayerful and generous attention.
Friday, September 06, 2002
For that year the media have drawn an implicit but sharp contrast between the valiant heros in uniform of September and the hapless civilian victims, who had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As far as I know this is not the attitude of any firefighter or police officer in New York, but of the militarists of the communications empires.
The accident in the mine a few weeks ago, and the miraculous rescue of the trapped miners, reminided me forcefully of the real heroism of ordinary people who just go to work every day, and Homer Hickham's Coalwood stories drove the lesson home. But this doesn't apply to the bond traders, administrative assistants, deliverymen, and janitors vaporized on September 11. Or does it?
Everyone who went into the towers on a windy day and felt them move from side to side knew in his gut that they were coming down some day whatever the engineers said, and after the first Islamicist attack we all had a pretty good idea how. Women working in the Trade Center faced more immediate danger. The product of the socialistic megalomania of the Lindsay years, the buildings were never fully rented, and many floors were virtually unpatrolled. I don't recall any murders, but it is generally understood that many rapes, any of which could have led to murder, were unreported or covered up. We all know people who refused to work there.
Men and women went up into the towers for the same reasons men go down into the mines, a few to prove their machismo, but most to make a life for their families, the same reason we have faced danger and death from time immemorial. It is no disrespect to the uniformed services to recognize that here too is heroism, no less real for being unspectacular and uncelebrated.
© 2002 F.P.Purcell. All rights reserved.
Thursday, July 04, 2002
Happy 4th of July!
As we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, let us keep in mind what truths the founding fathers felt were self-evident. Our media doesn’t give us all of the information that a free press should. Below are just a few facts that you might not have been aware of.
· US citizens are being held in military prison, deprived of their constitutionally protected rights, such as the right to a lawyer, a trial, or even the writ of habeus corpus, which allows citizens to petition the federal government to right and unjust arrest.
· The FBI has gone down the path of COINTELPRO, a counter intelligence program that was used in the 50s, 60s, and 70s to hold down the civil rights movement (according to the FBI’s own files, “The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” certain organizations). The new program allows federal agents to dig through library records of ordinary citizens, conduct surveillance of religious or political organizations without a warrant or even probable cause.
· The “War on Terrorism” has turned into an excuse to put down dissent. On May 30th, Jaoudat Abouazza was stopped on the pretext of a minor traffic violation, but when the police found leaflets of a legal, permitted protest, he was handcuffed and brought into the police station without being read his rights. From there he was turned in to the FBI and the INS, who have held him since, even from appearing at his own trial on the orders of the court. On June 16th, the prison guards pulled him from his cell, restrained him in his chair, and pulled 4 of his molars against his will and without anesthetic. Similar cases of the federal government putting down dissent can be seen with Ahmed Bensouda, an activist who just graduated from UIUC, and Faruk Abdel-Muhti, an activist in New York.
· The “War on Terrorism” has turned into a witch hunt, encouraging people to turn in people they don’t like. For instance, the Haitian bus driver in Boston who, after getting into a petty argument with another bus driver about a parking space, was turned in to the FBI the next day as a “suspicious character”.
· Strong evidence of US war crimes by US troops against Taliban prisoners has been ignored by the media and the government, amid calls for an investigation by Amnesty International
· The US media has been censored from publishing anything critical of the current administration. Not only are articles questioning US policy pulled from news sources, but US based news outlets are not sending reporters to cover the millions of people standing against the current administration’s policies in the US and abroad.
· Attorney General John Ashcroft is attempting to exempt the department of Homeland Security from the Freedom of Information Act and the Whistleblower’s Protection Act, citing national security claims, even though those acts specifically allow for national security exemptions. In effect, he is trying to create an unaccountable federal security force.
· The US has kept the G8 summit from addressing the AIDS epidemic in Africa so that we can rally support for our “War on Terrorism”
Thank you for coming out today to celebrate the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Stand up and speak out against these actions. Contact your representatives in congress and demand change, write your newspapers and insist on fair and complete coverage of the world’s events, and get involved!
“Those who give up liberty for the sake of security deserve neither” – Ben Franklin
Interesting. I hope some of these stories will upon investigation prove baseless. Even so, the main points would remain. On which please see, not National but Rational Review. --FP