Friday, November 30, 2007

Conversion

Reflections on my journey to Rome


In medias res

October 9 -2005
The holy tears . . . Today at Mass at St. Colman's. I had attended Quaker Meeting at 10 AM at Radnor and then went to the 12 Noon Mass at St. Colman's. My feelings about the Quakers are complicated, but it is now certain that while their intentions are pure, and I appreciate their anti-militarism, these virtues alone are not sufficient. This protestantized world seems so sad, with people lacking access to the Holy Ritual to take them out of themselves. Thank God no one mentioned the Catholic Scandals in today's Meeting: I don't think I could have stood it. I have avoided going to the Meeting ever since the Scandals broke, and the newspaper has been full of it. Today a few people shared good feelings - I mean, one mentioned that it was the time of Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah, and the recent earthquake which killed 20,000 people in Kashmir... and then another woman mentioned a recent religious event where a priest, a rabbi and an imam had all gotten together and affirmed that they all worshipped the One God, and how inspiring that was for her. I was reminded of a passage I had underlined in Georges Bernanos' book, The Diary of a Country Priest---
"Comforting truths, they call it! Truth is meant to save you first, and the comfort comes afterwards. Besides, you've no right to call that sort of thing comfort. Might as well talk about condolences! The Word of God is a red-hot iron..."
The speaker, the Curé of Torcy, describes the kind of priest who preaches the "comforting truths" -- "who descends from his pulpit...with a mouth like a hen's vent, a little hot but pleased with himself, he's not been preaching: at best he's been purring like a tabby-cat." Most of the Quaker witness I have heard this past year have been little more than the purrings of a tabby-cat. Is it any wonder that I have sought the Catholics?

Radnor Meeting is a beautiful old meeting house in the suburban green land, with a hillside full of graves behind it and well-tended trees. St. Colman's, by contrast, is in Ardmore - a beautiful old church, to be sure, but with no green around it, only pavement and parking lot, and across the street a string of automobile sales yards, the new and used cars sporting American flags. Certainly this is no beautiful setting. But to enter this Church and attend this Mass is to be in another order of reality altogether. It felt to be not only in a different world from the Quakers, but on a different planet. And yet this is not true, for the Quaker Meeting and the Catholic Mass exist or rather co-exist in this world and in this same city.

Two weeks ago, when the Grand Jury report was put out and the Philadelphia Inquirer leapt at the opportunity it provided to -- once again -- take up the cudgels against the Catholic Faith, Father Tadeusz Pacholoczyk conducted the Mass. He gave a long homily, first apologizing --"for I have much to share with you today." His talk was pew-gripping intelligent -- not glossing over the problems of the sexual abuse scandals, but not omitting mention either of the anti- Catholic sentiments fomented in the way the press handled them. He managed to weave a good bit of history and theology into his remarks; I felt I was witness of a long and ongoing drama, of a story that had been told before, confronted before, atoned before. "Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church..." The Catholic Church has always known itself to be the Church of sinners: it has always clasped this knowledge of human negation, so to speak, to itself. It was something the Jews refused to grasp, and the Protestants negated. Protestantism is thus, in a manner of speaking, a kind of double negation. It is primarily a negation of Catholicism, and, being in effect a form of negation, it let slip the firewalls which Catholicism had erected concerning the knowledge of sin -- the original negation. A double negative is thus not a positive; it is only a contortion. I think this explains many of our woes today, from the abuse of our land to the abuses of our politics. More on these matters in time.

I was, in fact, overwhelmed, by Father Tad's homily; and afterwards, when we were streaming out, I gripped his hand and practically shouted in his face: "Wonderful, wonderful! I felt like clapping!" He was at first taken aback but then he smiled when he understood my import, and gave me his blessing.

Indeed this young priest -- he is perhaps 35 or 40 -- is a star -- or so I feel the term is not amiss when describing the presence of a spiritualized intelligence. Father Tad, Ph.D. is on the staff of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and lives, when in Philadelphia, at the St. Colman's Rectory. Indeed, St. Colman's is richly blessed in its priests. Father Sherwood is often present at the RCIA sessions which I attend, conducted by Deacon Shaeffer and his wife. There is in addition Father Wright, who is retired, but still conducts Masses; and a Father Maloney who assists on weekends. All of these priests, as well as the Deacon and his wife, as well as the women lay readers during the services, impress me with their devotion and faithfulness. No one has ever struck a false note or said a false thing. Every Mass I have attended has been conducted with beauty, truthful simplicity and honor.

In short, I have found a faithful Catholic parish two miles from my home. I am utterly thankful for this miracle.


Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity -- an important book in my conversion stages. Some quotes:

... The most fundamental feature of Christian faith ...is,namely, its personal character. Christian faith is more than the option in favor of a spiritual ground to the world; its central formula is not 'I believe in something,' but 'I believe in you.'

...Christianity... put itself resolutely on the side of truth and turned its back on a conception of religion satisfied to be mere outward ceremonial that in the end can be interpreted to mean anything one fancies... what can go on existing only through interpretation has in reality ceased to exist... The logos of the whole world, the creative original thought, is at the same time love; in fact this thought is creative because, as thought, it is love, and, as love, it is thought. It becomes apparent that truth and love are originally identical; that where they are completely realized they are not two parallel or even opposing realities but one, the one and only absolute... To this extent one could very well describe Christianity as a philosophy of freedom... the Christian option for the logos means an option for the personal, creative meaning [and] ... at the same time an option for the primacy of the particular as against the universal. . . But if the logos of all being, the being that upholds and encompasses everything, is consciousness, freedom, and love, then it follows... that the supreme factor in the world is not cosmic necessity but freedom. The implications of this are very extensive. For this leads to the conclusion that freedom is evidently the necessary structure of the world... and this again means that one can only comprehend the world as incomprehensible...For if the supreme point in the world's design is a freedom that upholds, wills, knows, and loves... then this means that together with freedom the incalculability implicit in it is an essential part of the world.. With the boldness and greatness of a world defined by the structure of freedom there comes also the somber mystery of the demonic, which emerges from it to meet us...As the arena of love [the world] is also the playground of freedom and also incurs the risk of evil. It accepts the mystery of darkness for the sake of the greater light constituted by freedom and love . . .

... The doctrine of the Trinity did not arise out of speculation about God.... it developed out of the effort to digest historical experience. ..God stands above singular and plural. he bursts both categories... To him who believes in God as tri-une, the highest unity is not the unity of inflexible monotony...... When it becomes clear that the being of Jesus as Christ is a completely open being, a being 'from' and 'toward,' which nowhere clings to itself and nowhere stands on its own, then it is also clear at the same time that this being is pure relation (not substantiality) and, as pure relation, pure unity..... The 'I' is simultaneously what I have completely and what least of all belongs to me...

...to understand him as the Christ means to be convinced that he has put himself into his word... he has identified himself so closely with his word that 'I' and word are indistinguishable; he is word. In the same way, his work is nothing else than the unreserved way in which he merges himself into this very work; he performs himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself...


... From the point of view of the Christian faith, man comes in the most profound sense to himself, not through what he does, but through what he accepts. He must wait for the gift of love, and love can only be received as a gift. It cannot be 'made' on own's own, without anyone else; one must wait for it, let it be given to one. And one cannot become wholly man in any other way than by being loved, by letting oneself be loved...If he declines to let himself be presented with this gift, then he destroys himself.Activity that makes itself into an absolute, that aims at achieving humanity by its own efforts alone, is in contradiction with man's being... The primacy of acceptance is not meant to condemn man to passivity... On the contrary, it alone makes it possible to do the things of this world in a spirit of responsibility, yet at the same time in an uncramped, cheerful, free way, and to put them at the service of redemptive love.

The disinterested character of simple adoration is man's highest possibility; it alone forms his true and final liberation.


Cor ad cor loquitur


October, 2005

"Heart unto heart speaketh . . ." This is how to call a posting about the Jews. Only the deepest to the deepest, truth to truth.

Last summer I had a short-term employment as an editor in a college publications office. On my first day L. showed me around campus. We got to talking about city life. He was concerned about the education of his children, so he and his wife and family had moved to the suburbs, although they preferred living in the city. "You wouldn't consider a Catholic school?" I murmured. He seemed to start inwardly, "No... we are Jewish," he remarked, as if to say that being Jewish meant that the idea of sending one's kids to a Catholic school was simply unthinkable, beyond any bounds of possibility.

My position, although temporary, turned out to be even more temporary than I had thought. I was hired for four weeks and fired after two weeks. My boss, a Swiss woman living in the U.S., went seemingly overnight from an encouraging and friendly colleague to a venomous and heartless tyrant. To this day I still have no idea what I did to displease her so. At the final meeting, L. was in the room, and I recall whispering half-aloud - while this woman boss was sitting across from me, lashing me for my mistakes and saying how she didn't have the time for me -- "It is God's will." I don't know why I said it but I felt, rather than saw, L., sitting to my left, make an inward shudder, a gesture of recognition, of hearing, of assent. I felt a deep bond with him - a bond I have so often felt with truly faithful Jews.

These two reactions are very charcteristic. In the first, L. could not conceive of his Jewishness other than as a form of ethnicity. In the second case, he experienced the reality of the God in whom both Christians and Jews believe. The first case was ideological, a kind of programmed ethnicity; the second case was real and experiential. It had burst the bounds of the program to touch his deepest heart. It was real life, heart speaking to heart.

These two experiences describe for me the paradoxical nature of the Jews. Perhaps the Jewish heaviness is indeed, being divided between these two alternatives, and being unable to find the true third way, the mediating way - of being true to oneself without becoming frozen into the mold of ethnicity. Zionism has exploited this sad contradiction and irresolution of Jews to declare who they are. Lack of clarity and spiritual purpose always leaves one open to the invasion of demonic beings, and in this case the invading being is perhaps one of the worst, perhaps the worst. Zionism is the worst of both worlds -- the secularized Jew who does not want to be set-aside in an ethnic ghetto, and a religious Jew who has been unable to find the true religion and has been fashioning a religion of himself, his race, his nation, his people, complete with historical footnotes, victimology, suffering.

Once the Jew ceased to universalize his God and share him with all people, this God went inside and turned into Satan. The Jew suffers from a periodic, recurrent, historic inability to be true to himself. But when they do waken to themselves and are faithful, they can be counted among the very greatest of souls.


Whole and part


Catholics tell me that Catholicism is the 'fullness' of Christian truth, the 'fullness' of the faith. I was pondering this as I sat today in a weekday Mass. If you take a drop of water or a grain of salt and split the water-drop or slice through the grain, the molecular structure remains intact, and it is not true to say that half the water-drop or a fragment of salt is less than water or less than salt. This is the nature of matter or of material substance.

But the same is not true of spiritual truth - and the echo of this can be heard in the oath that is sworn in a court of law, "the truth, the whole truth, so help me God." It is not possible to take away anything from truth and have it maintain its character as truth. To remove the slightest bit of it, to twist a word from a plain meaning to an obscure one, to add something to it which does not belong to it, to shade the context with diverting or irrelevant details or aspersions of bad faith, covert motives, interests not subjected to open inquiry -- all these things undermine the possibility of truth. And actually truth remains in a mysterious ether, an atmosphere or aura of good faith between men - or at least the possibility of this good faith. Ultimately spiritual truth is bathed in this aura of Mystery - and even the truth, the whole truth, the truth of the material witness, the truth of the material world - depends upon it.

Men think that by stripping away to the very roots of the material world they will arrive at the truth they seek. Our culture has been consecrated, so to speak, to this task. But it is actually an anti-consecration, a kind of cursing of matter, a condemnation of matter to material disintegration. What this act of anti-consecration means is that modern men have lost the flexibility of thought to move from the material to the immaterial realm. Thinking is a spiritual act, and they have the spiritual means of thinking but they have lost all knowledge of the guidance of a spiritual force. So a spiritual force not guided by spiritual principles becomes anti-spiritual. It becomes demonic.

Before the splitting of the atom in 1945, I believe that the material world lay under a kind of protection, so that the despiritualization of human thinking did not penetrate to the roots of life. But now we are in the midst of this despiritualization. The havoc lies all around us, in our culture, our landscape, our politics, our lack of loyalty to anything. There are times when I come close to a great despair in humanity. It's not that no one cares. They care, but they cannot listen. They don't know how. The instrument of thinking has to be attuned to the ether in order for listening to become possible - somewhere, deep within man, this instrument has to vibrate with the whole truth. This is not to say that the 'whole truth' can be known. But somehow it must be felt, or believed, in a living core of incorruptible faith. But this living core has been squelched for modern man. Perhaps this is the real meaning of Modernity - that the core of faith should be shut up in a dank basement labelled the 'Unconscious,' full of unclean spirits that feed off of it in the darkness.

It is not by unburying the Unconscious that we reclaim the whole of ourselves but by the restoration of the fullness at the core of faith.




"The renunciation of truth does not heal man."--Benedict XVI, Truth and Tolerance

"...The teachers of the Church unfold the classic view...of the fact that man was not shut out from the Tree of Life until after he had maneuvered himself into a position that was not appropriate by eating from the Tree of Knowledge... for man to be immortal in this condition would indeed be perdition... There are indeed final boundaries we cannot cross without turning into agents of the destruction of creation itself." God and the World

"...when Christianity is taken away, archaic powers of evil that had been banished by Christianity suddenly break loose again." Salt of the Earth (1996)

Santayana on the Spirit: "...the Nicene Creed tells us the Son was begotten not made, that is to say, came through an inner impulse, without plan or foresight, from the substance of the Father... ... the novel fact of human existence is passion of the spirit. "This passion would certainly not have overcome the spirit in heaven, where the harmony between powers and form is perfect, and life is ever at its topmost, ecstasy - as in the God of Aristotle. But that is sheer myth; and as matter can exist only in some form , so Spirit can exist only incarnate in the flux of matter and form... Passion is therefore inseparable from Spirit in its actual existence, and exposes it to perpetual obscuration and suffering."

Its degradation: "Obscuration and suffering bring temptations with them, and spirit is tempted... to love evil and be content with lies... to deny matter; to despise form; and to pose itself the only power... and arbiter of truth...But this is itself the greatest of lies and the sin of the spirit against its own vocation. Spirit proceeds, and is always proceeding, from the Father and the Son . . . It was not the Holy ghost that denied his dependence on the Father and the Son; it was Lucifer. and Lucifer merely lost his brightness and became Satan..."


Salvation

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutáre
-"It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation"

- What is salvation?-- October 15, 2005


Salvation! What a load of history this word bears for Western man - as though salvation or the desire for it were the very engine of our history itself. True, the horizon of salvation, or rather the thirst for salvation, has been gradually disappearing in modern times. Modernity is the desire for salvation and history to coincide, which is to say, modernity is the ambition to do away with the supernatural horizon of salvation, or to empty salvation of its supernatural content. The traditional anchors of this supernatural content, Hell, Heaven, and Limbo, have been pushed beneath the frontiers of consciousness. They no longer correspond to any real sense of place in the cosmos, but they do continue to eke out a small living in the moral sphere, like the Salvation Army.

It is an interesting question, and one asked by far better minds than my own, whether history can continue to exist unless it can coexist with a concept of salvation which is beyond history, outside of history. That is to say, can man continue to exist as man unless he also coexists? This seems to be the battle arena of our time. As Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, "Even Adorno said that there can be justice only if there is a resurrection of the dead, so that past wrongs can be settled retroactively, as it were. There must, in other words, somewhere, somehow, be a settling of injustices, the victory of justice." [From his conversation with Peter Seewald, in Salt of the Earth,1996.]

Putting the same thing more boldly and dramatically, George Bernanos once commented that "the thirst for justice will lay waste the world." That is because man's thirst for justice refers to the coexisting supernatural in him. Take away the supernatural coexistent and all that frustrated energy pours into the heart and soul of man, creating rancorous reverberations and resonances at every turn.

We live in such society now,which George Orwell depicted as the "Two-Minute Hate" of the totalitarian tyranny of 1984. We see the "Two-Minute Hate" principle applied to Catholics as a matter of course, and other targets and groups as needed. We have in this world a media, television and newspapers, which can disseminate these rancorous messages all day every day - although they are not called rancorous messages but "news." This is old hat. But it is always good to get reminders, such as Simone Weil's "The whole intellectual climate of our age favors the growth and multiplication of vacuous entities," or her comment on the intellectual decadence of our civilization: we are "almost incapable of applying elementary principles of rational thought -- e.g. loss of use of the elements of intelligence: ideas of limit, measure, degree, proportion, relation, comparison, contingency, interdependence, interrelation of means and ends."

The loss of the idea of salvation has often been correlated with the rise of ideological this-world salvational movements --e.g. "Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God it becomes, not divine, but demonic." [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance] But too few people correlate the loss of the supernatural with the decline of thinking. This is because the people who do the thinking in society have no interest in such pursuits. For "... the intellectuals, especially academics, are fascinated by power," Paul Johnson reminds us, in his book Intellectuals(1988).

Intellectual man is the heir of religious man. But he would rather not be an heir but a ruler in his own right, dispelling all secrets [cf. Johnson: "It is one of the characteristics of the intellectual to believe that secrets, especially in sexual matters, are harmful."] with the exception of the shameful -- to him - secret of his own origin.

Declaration and Commemoration

November 20, 2005.

Today at Radnor Friends Meeting I made my announcement or declaration that I was taking steps to become a member of the Roman Catholic Faith. While sitting in the silent meeting meditating about what I would say, or whether indeed I would get up to say anything, I felt some fear and uncertainty. I knew that there was some anti-Catholic sentiment in at least a few of the Friends, though more as a subcurrent or mood than as a conscious or principled decision. Indeed, anti-Catholicism is the subcurrent mood of Protestant or ex-Protestant society in general; the general tenor was established in the 1550's and only increased in the revolutionary events of the 1600's and the so-called Enlightenment. It seemed to be the craze to subtract from God or from all the things that had heretofore carried society, as if by a process of subtraction and denigration, an addition and heightening of mankind would mysteriously turn up on the other side of the equation.

One has to ask: was it necessary, in the development of rationality and science, for this absurd balance-sheet attitude toward the relation of God and man to have gotten started? For the experiment is still going on, although it has entered a self-contradictory and even suicidal phase. Perhaps in essence that is what 'rationality' is: it is that in us which always sails perilously close to fixation, and it is only through a conversion experience of some kind that we escape shipwreck.

Still, I need not have worried about speaking. Afterwards a number of people came up to me and said how much they appreciated my sharing my religious journey. "That's what it's about - sharing the journey, walking the talk." The Quakers proved themselves most worthy of their name -Friends.

I should not fail to mention also that after I had spoken, another Friend got up to add on to what I had said. I had never seen this lady before; apparently, she was a visitor. She spoke most intelligently and appropriately about how the outlawing of Catholic churches in England in the 1500's had created a number of people who felt a loss, who felt that they missed the old services, and that George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, had perhaps appealed to these lost former Catholics in his message and preaching. This made complete sense to me; in fact, I wondered that I had not thought of it before. It seemed providential in a way that this lady had visited the Radnor congregation today - she was from Ithaca, New York. How do you explain that my message of conversion to Catholicism was received with all cordiality of spirit amongst these people, and that in fact it found an answering chord in this visitor who just happened to be present on this day?

I learned in Meeting today that our Radnor Friend, and my personal friend, Louis Hepburn, had died. There is to be a memorial service for him this afternoon. Louis was a warm presence in that meeting and a welcoming person to me. I had looked for him when I came in this morning.



Invasion of the Ultra-Subtle
October 25 - 2005


One purpose of cultivating true religion is to teach instincts how to function as protections, so that souls may turn the invasions of the ultra-subtle to learning moments rather than occasions for hapless subjection. The ultra-subtle rains continually into human life like cosmic dust, and for the most part these invasions are absorbed without conscious awareness. This arena of spiritual battle has been tucked away out of sight nowadays -- we call it the "Unconscious," and thus feel we have earned the right to ignore it. Or we pay Psychology and the Scalpels of Science explore it. Thus we relinquish our knightly task - the part of us that needs to be awake, the part that needs to fight and oppose -- the part that needs to keep the sword ever sharp and at the ready. Thus we abandon huge areas of our human experience and leave them open to the forces of devastation.

I wish to describe an infinitely small incident yesterday that took place in the question and answer session following a talk on the "ghostly tales" of Russell Kirk. An academic scholar read a long paper, lasting an hour, about Russell Kirk's literary side, and he used the term "experiments" to describe Kirk's ventures into supernatural fiction. This academic paper, competent and detailed though it was, seemed long. The mood lightened considerably when Dr. Kirk's widow spoke, telling stories and filling in some of the human background of her life with Russell Kirk, and some of the characters in his stories.

During the questions, I raised my hand and indicated that I was directing my comment to the scholar. I mentioned that I had read Kirk's Lord of the Hollow Dark, a novel of supernaturalism inspired by T.,S. Eliot's poem, The Wasteland, also Watchers of the Strait Gate, a collection of short stories. I recalled having read Dr. Kirk's introduction to said stories, in which he made the point that such fictions were "experiential." That was to say or to affirm that the encounters with mystery and supernatural were, for Russell Kirk, real experiences -- not mere "experiments."

A kind of icy shudder held for a split second, while the professor appeared to wrestle with my comment as with an invisible opponent, finally throwing it down upon the ground in a gesture of spurning rejection. I don't know if was anything that he said, or indeed if he said anything. I attest to feeling a sense of panic, fear, or rejection emanating from him. For if what I said was true, then all the professor's careful delimitation of Kirk's supernaturalism could not be true. For how can a "ghostly tale" be a mere experiment, given what Kirk himself had written, and given the premise of his tales? This premise was well stated by T.S. Eliot when he wrote something to the effect that that the authentication of religion lies in the fact that, for mankind, spiritual reality is a discovery, not an invention. An "experiment" is an invention; an experience is a discovery. The whole intellectual world stands or falls on this distinction, that is, whether or not the intellectual life is is authentic and valid. I think that the professor knew this -- "subliminally," not consciously -- and that he was profoundly chagrined that my question had "exposed" him. My question forced him for a moment to war with himself.

Mrs. Kirk, true to her Catholic upbringing and gracious sense, decisively saved the moment soon after by remarking, "That is a good point," and a palpable sigh of relief seemed to move through the room like a lifting shadow. She took the professor's own muteness from him, and rode the reproach of his unsaid words to joyous victory.

More and more I am convinced that our ultimate human fate will depend on whether or not we succeed in wresting the intellectual life from the professoriate. I believe that in this little tiny incident, Satan, or one of his minions, had come to call -- that he left us his calling card in that momentary ice, that hushed uncertainty and fearful anticipation. The moment called for a decision, and the execution of such decision is only possible for someone with trained instincts. The human and gracious religiously-cultivated goodwill of Mrs. Annette Kirk was able to cut through the fog of the soul of a man dangling in the pride of Satan - which is to say, a man unwilling to renounce his pride.

Above all Satan wants to gird the wall of intellectualism round about the experience of the spiritual world, so that there will be no intercommunion, no two-way traffic.

Much today depends upon whether the Catholics, trained in the Holy Obedience, can win through to the Holy Initiative - and whether they are truly attuned to the invasions of the ultra-subtle even in their own midst.


My 1989 and 1993 reviews of Russell Kirk's Watchers at the Strait Gate and Lord of the Hollow Dark, have been posted to the Sword in the Mouth website.

New World Order

Friday, December 01, 2006
The New Sabbatarianism - Part One
I plan to resume my postings on the Soul, but in the meantime interrupt these reflections with an update of the latest developments here in Philadelphia.This past week, the Philadelphia Business Journal published a front-page and several accompanying page articles about the casino industry. They begin their front page encomium with the words, “It is exceedingly rare that a state would create an entirely new industry.” Another article begins: “With two casino projects totaling at least $700 million in combined development costs looming on the horizon in Philadelphia, local builders are poised to get a piece of the action once a winning project is selected.” The article went on to report that these projects far outstrip recent major developments in Philadelphia construction history, including the $543 million international airport terminal. Still another article reports that casino operations are pledged to support nonprofit institutions, making the following statement without any apparent irony: “At the same time, statistics and experience suggest that the new gaming halls will create new compulsive gamblers, some of whom will turn to nonprofits for help.”Tax relief experts are not far behind in chiming the advantages to Philadelphia. Bernard Anderson, a professor at Penn, enthuses that "the arrival of casinos in Philadelphia is going to be the [city's] most important economic development venture in the last half century." Then he adds, as if the absurdity of it suddenly broke through his trance: "I really believe that." Other articles intone that “slots save[d] racetracks from ruin” and that local law firms are lining up for a chunk of the goods through the granting of gaming licenses. Likewise, the workforce will benefit from the manna of gaming. “We are talking to all the local universities about not only training, but ongoing course work that will start to create a pipeline of qualified applicants as we become bigger in the future,” said Philadelphia Park CEO David Jonas. Finally, to top the pie-in-the-sky, it was learned that Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell signed into law a provision that will allow casinos to serve free drinks to customers.In another local development, the employees of the Philadelphia Inquirer are currently on strike because the new owners insist that 190 jobs must be cut because the paper has not been bringing in adequate advertising revenues. Owners blame the Internet for cutting into newspaper advertising sales, but apparently never mention the news side of the affair. I mean, do people read newspapers to get news? Brian Tierney, the new owner of the Inquirer, is partnered with an associate of the Toll Housing empire (all those huge plywood mansions in fake English styles sprouting up in formerly productive meadows and fields, and which people now are starting to evince a disinclination to buy) and came into great fanfare, when he bought the paper, as a “Local Owner” (as opposed to absentee ownership) even though many people criticized him because he is Catholic. (The preponderant Jewish ownership of the American media somehow escapes the radar screen.)Whether Catholic or not, Brian Tierney apparently believes in the Market Gospel with all of his heart, mind and soul. It does not seem to have elicited his interest that the Philadelphia Inquirer is a mediocre paper that degrades and ill-serves this once-great city, the founding city of American Constitutional government. Few people complained when the Philly Inquirer joined the anti-Catholic crusade against molesting priests, a campaign fomented by District of Attorney Lynne Abraham, a member of Planned Parenthood and the Anti-Defamation League. Priests who had been accused but not convicted of sexual misdemeanors had their faces and biographies published on the Inquirer website week after week -–a good example of how readily the management of that paper was willing to throw the Catholic Church to the mob. Nobody seems to object when fanatic neocons like Charles Krauthammer regularly publish their crusading tirades or when “neoliberal” economists like the recent writer from Pat Robertson’s Regent University published an op-ed steaming with fetid falsehoods concerning the public debt. Few people dissented when the Inquirer ecstatically greeted the ignorant and stupendously misinformed opinion of Judge Jones, of Dover fame, in his ruling against the Intelligent Design movement. Likewise, the Inquirer's positive spin on the Franklin Museum's grisly display of human corpses in the plastination exhibit "Body Worlds" hardly elicited a murmur of dissent, and Penn "bioethicists" like Arthur Kaplan or Paul Wolpe can always find editorial space to tout the "educational value" of such exhibitions, or the magical possibilities of high-tech cannibalism, i.e. embryonic stem-cell research. [1]These are just a few of the turds left behind in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s steady march to the drumbeat of the New World Order, in which all standards of decency and civilized thought are sacrificed to the God of the Market. But at least with the Inquirer, one may discuss the corruption of business, whereas with the arrival of the gambling casino “industry,” we have to do with the business of corruption. It is, so to speak, a neat turn, and one that Americans have been performing with agility and near-invisibility on the world stage for a quarter-century. However, it seems to have escaped the perceptual capacity or analytic ability of Inquirer editors even to question the ruling regime's total commitment to mammonism with its distortions of truth, subversion of the public good, and insouciant disregard for humane, civilizational, or ecological values all across the spectrum of life. After all, such analysis does not compute in the "advertising revenues," and perpetual mediocrity assures steady sales. The hollowing out of the American economy seems rarely to occupy the minds of the Inquirer's economics editor, and the deeper question of what "productivity" is, even in economic terms, is simply beneath notice. The "life on the ground," as with those poor Inquirer employees who are about to lose their jobs -- as again with the thousands recently laid off by the Ford Motor Company -- is no longer real to the pundits, who have likewise abandoned the first duty of reason, which is, to connect thought with life.Given this situation, it is perhaps not surprising that the Philadelphia Business Journal has now appeared with an issue in our midst extolling the casino "industry."I wrote the following letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Business Journal:Dear---I have a strong objection to your glowing review of gambling as an “industry.”Gambling is a predatory activity that particularly negatively impacts the poor. It fosters illusionism, the idea that you can get something for nothing, and the get-rich-quick mentality.All of these have had a devastating effect upon the American character – and economy.I think your fatuous coverage of gambling in Philadelphia was socially destructive, irresponsible,short-sighted, superficial, poorly thought out, and lacking in social and moral insight.Sincerely,Etc.~~ And received the following genial reply from “Bernie”: “I'm happy to run this. Thanks for your opinion. Typically a letter would run with a place of residence under the author's name. Can you provide that please?”Hey, Bernie, always glad to oblige.[1] This is a list of complaints against the Inquirer's coverage of local issues and also the Inquirer's propensity to showcase neoconservatives in its op-ed columns. However, the Inquirer has not seemed to me to be rabidly pro-war in its own editorials, and the excellent work of Inquirer foreign correspondent, Trudy Rubin, has always elicited my appreciation and respect. The new owner of the Inquirer does not seem to appreciate the value of foreign correspondents. Rubin reports today that Brian Tierney remarked to a Washington Post media critic that, "I can get what's going on in Iraq online. What I can't get is what's happening in this region." ("The latest casualty: detailed foreign news," Sunday, Dec. 3) Tierney's concern for regional focus is not to be deplored, but why the zero-sum mentality, why the idea that good international coverage means less regional coverage? Rubin remarks that mid-sized papers all over the country are shutting down their foreign news bureaus, but that "As you look back at the coverage of the Iraq story,... you'll see that some of the bravest, most informative analysis was done by correspondents from mid-size papers." The commitment to excellence and quality news reporting is what will bring the Inquirer back from the grave. "Quality" is not a materialized entity like "sales," although quality is ultimately the driver of sales. "Quality" is a spiritual value, a vertical or hierarchical concept that diffuses from the coherence of commitment. The inability of corporate managers to think dynamically, that is, in terms of interacting vertical and horizontal considerations, is the ultimate cause of poor business performance and "flat" sales.
posted by Caryl at 1:28 PM 4 comments






Saturday, December 02, 2006
The New Sabbatarianism - Part Two
Illustration: Diplodocus carnegiiCourtesy Michael Skrepnick, @1988http://www.ucmp.berkeley/edu/diapsids/dinosaur.html"And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold. Why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need and was an hungered, he, and they that were with him?How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shew-bread which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.Mark 2: 23-28Review: John McMurtry-- Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy. 2002. John McMurtry is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, Canada, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada."The unseen moral syntax" of the New World Order is the subject of John McMurtry’s astonishingly important book, Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy,published in 2002 by Pluto Press of London and Sterling, Va. If there is one book which readers of this site are urged to read, it is this, because it connects the dots of the globalization movement in terms of its values, presuppositions and preferences - rather than its presumed goals and ideals. This distinction is important, for values and assumptions occur both above and below the normal registers of awareness and perception. Analysis at the level of nearly pre-conscious or emotional adherence is infrequently recognized, much less attempted. Such analysis brings up issues such as zeitgeist, group-mind or collective consciousness -- which are difficult for modern people, steeped in the culture of the psychological 'Unconscious' even when they don't believe it. For some reason, taking responsibility for, or even acknowledging the existence of, a group-mind is, for many, a trespass against the sacred concept of individualism.McMurtry eschews both ‘conspiracy theory’ and ‘power politics’ as models of explanation for globalist-New World Order agenda thinking. He rejects the presumed ‘value neutral’ or ‘ethical neutrality’ stance of modern philosophical, scientific and economic thinking. In fact, he states, "lines of force follow lines of value," (his emphasis) and it is the deep structure of values, choices and consequences in which are to be sought the causes of our increasingly dysfunctional economic thinking. Only an acute value-system analysis is capable of penetrating the sludge of lies, evasions, deceptions, and rationalizations which now form the standard operating procedure of the "Infotainment State." What is repressed from view in the jigsaw-puzzle cascade of "news and events" is precisely the "absolutist value-set" and the "a priori prescriptions" which drive the transnational money-sequencing that increasingly rules the world. These hidden values and presuppositions have not been considered to be matters of philosophical importance, thus by stealthy means "economic laws" slide into the slot occupied by "laws of nature"-- the human factor of choice and decision of the former meanwhile overlooked entirely. The human will, now occupying a position more arbitrary and less appeasable than the gods of old, escapes the scrutiny of people who might be sensitive to issues like fate, determinism, or superstition. Ideological global oligopoly is both deterministic and superstitious, but by avoiding the traditional carriers of these intellectual poisons, it appears both "modern" and "progressive."McMurtry argues that the evidence of shocking ecological and economic disasters, corporate swindles like Enron, tax invasions of poor countries and their mounting "endebtification" are all the results of an essentially emotional and pre-conscious value set which, in the last two decades, has become ever more fanatical. It is locked into a repetitive self-identification and self-affirmation of itself as the ‘Good,’ which is also, simultaneously, ‘historically necessary’ and even ‘historically inevitable.’ McMurtry analysis penetrates this new variant of economic-historic determinism to uncover what are actually its human and political decision-points, choices, and preferences.It is important to recall, for example, that prior to 9/11 there was a rising global movement of disquiet at the disastrous results of the globalization movement on the world’s ecosystems and peoples. The popular movements of resistance are a matter of documented record – not only Seattle, but also Genoa in the summer before 9/11, in which more than 350,000 people protested the unaccountable actions and decisions of transnational corporate bodies. As McMurtry puts it, "The attempts to portray young and socially conscientious citizens in protest as worthy of mass gassings and cagings had failed." Something more was needed to justify the systematic prescriptions for economic restructuring, deregulation and privatization of public wealth. The ongoing march of secretive economic bodies to override accountable controls by governments needed a new charter – or shall we say carte blanche or cause célèbre? The events of 9/11 imposed a convenient and timely "global amnesia" upon public perceptions about how the system for corporate rule was losing public legitimacy. [1]It is important to review some of the facts regarding the "new freedom" ushered in by neoliberal (sometimes called neoclassical; see note 2) economic practices. Since the Reaganite 1980’s, the top 10% of the U.S. population saw their incomes double within five years. By 2000, the top 1% in the U.S. had more wealth than 95% of the U.S. population. Poverty in Eastern Europe increased sevenfold from 1988 ‘under Soviet domination’ to 1994 with ascension to the ‘Free World.’ More than 100 developing nations "suffered disastrous failures in growth and more prolonged cuts in living standards than industrial countries in the Great Depression." (UN Development Report, 1997) These ‘structural adjustments' and 'painful sacrifices' demanded by economic doctrine are the costs of the ‘Free Market,’ which in fact is not free at all but consists of a global oligopoly system in which "over 60% of international trade is between offices of the same firms or interlocked partners," not to mention the considerable assistance from government tax policies and subsidies as well.Hardly ever in the mass media from 1985-2002 was the global market experiment raised as an issue of concern. Instead, evangelical certitudes plastered over the evidence of the senses and quashed contrary perceptions. The repetitions involved torturously contradictory assertions claiming that "oligopoly is free competition," "leveraged money demand with no production of real goods means moral justification, i.e., market success"; "catastrophic ecological and social results mean necessary economic reforms," and "bombing poor civilians and destroying their life infrastructure means humanitarian interventions."As a corollary to this iron-clad rule by fist economy and fiat money, it is sadly instructive to note how Western intellectual elites abandoned their former commitments to "free inquiry," "free will" or "freedom of choice," "rule of law," etc – such as existed in the most longstanding critiques of Soviet-style socialist systems. Academic postmodernism was a frivolous intellectual movement unmoored from real life, but fostered an attitude of devaluation and mockery in the belief of the value of truth. In the past few years we have seen increasingly shrill and indeed fanatic attacks on religion and ethics from media and NWO-favored intellectuals like Dennett, Dawkins, and Singer and their followers in the Darwinian and "bioethics" camps. "Evolutionary psychology" becomes the new breeding-ground for intellectuals who have lost their religion, like John Derbyshire, and the scientistic establishment and their impacted constituencies in universities, government, pharmaceutical and agricultural laboratories are wedded to the proposition of changing whatever is natural into a saleable commodity. All of these capitulations of what was once an independent sphere of intellectual life represent the marriage of the unthinkable with the unstoppable – epitomized by the remarks of the Tony Blair, the boy ruler of Britain – "These forces of change driving the future don’t stop at national boundaries. Don’t respect tradition. They wait for no one and no nation. They are universal."The net effect of these accumulating determinisms is to drive barriers between perception and reality, action and responsibility, thought and life, not to mention further eroding the institutions of society that provide accountability. The deepest and most interior cause of this continuing moral brutalization is the severance of intellect from life. But this spiritual "cause" goes deep into history and indeed it initiates that history from the very first pages of the Creation story in Genesis, when the Tree of Knowledge is separated from the Tree of Life. In the Genesis story, the Tree of Life is guarded by the Cherubim with the flaming sword, because it was recognized that if man with unspiritualized intellect invades the sphere of life, universal destruction would result.The New World Order could be called an accelerated program for breaking and entering the realm of the Cherubim – that is, subverting what has hitherto provided a ring of protection around the Tree of Life. This is why Henry Makow, the Canadian author of "Save the Males" website, writes that the NWO program functions to strip citizens of their identity in race, tribe, nationality, culture, tradition, law, sexuality, religion – leaving them utterly pliable and ductile in the hands of the transnational money regime. Whether to "strip" people of these attributes or to distort their consciousness of such attributes through multiculturalist exaggerations is equally useful, for in either case a tradition or state of being that might have provided a barrier to the commodification of life is rendered null and impotent, and all sense for mutual common interests in society is destroyed.As McMurtry puts it, "… the ineluctable destiny of all peoples on earth to compete to succeed in serving transnational investors is the ultimate given of social value… What peoples had long set their souls against – an order imposed on them by wheels of a higher, inexorable power – is now prescribed as every society’s final meaning."McMurtry’s analysis of the causes for the wars on Yugoslavia and Iraq is the most compelling that I have read. Quite simply, Yugoslavia and Iraq had to be converted to "corporate feeding cycles" because by 1991 they were "the last resource-rich functioning socialist resource economies in the world." Indeed,
...What is not ‘open to the free market’ is any society, however peaceful,with developed social sectors and publicly owned resources closed to foreigncorporate expansion and exploitation… The Yugoslav and Iraqi societies were nottargeted in spite of their regionally advanced social systems, but because ofthem."
For bear in mind, that it is the preeminent goal for the system of global determinism that there should be no alternative. Neither Iraq nor Yugoslavia wished to re-travel the route of re-colonization, and in both societies there was a high level of worker income security, health care and education and public ownership of key resources. In other words, both nations had a successfully functioning life-economy – in contrast to the USA, where neither libraries nor public transit can be assured of funding, in fact suffer continual funding cuts, where health care is a spoils system of gargantuan inefficiency, and where the phrase ‘public good’ carries an antiquarian flavor, along with all the others like good manners, clear thinking, honest debate, checks and balances, life and liberty, rule of law, balanced reporting, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind, etc. etc. ad infinitum. Even lower on the scale of meaningful content are slogans with "democracy, "freedom," "compassion," "equality," etc. – such phrases and slogans are never employed with limiting or relational concepts, or in any meaningful historical context. They may thus be taken as signposts of continuing assault on the ability to think coherently - not exactly a prized quality for citizens who are being programmed into consumers.For it is ultimately the colonization and occupation of the mind that feeds the money sequence regime. The results are particularly apparent in the American mass media, which has totally abandoned its mandate to provide a fair account of world events. The mass media outlets are merely sluices for advertising, through which disjunct, atomized, and uncontexted bits of "news" occasionally pass. It is true that this has not escaped the more discerning members of the population. But still the deeper concepts are lacking. The transition from a productive to a predatory economy has been occurring in the USA at an uneven pace, but in the last few years it has accelerated to the point of garishness – as described in my previous post regarding gambling casinos. The "new Sabbatarianism" of the modern economic machine seems the precise opposite of that pharisaical obsession with "keeping the Sabbath" mentioned at the head of this post, yet opposites merge after all. In the old Sabbath, nothing was to be done; in the new, nothing is to be left undone. Cessation has been replaced by incessancy, but both doctrines claim an unshakable authority and a fanatical adherence. The new, modernized, and streamlined economic doctrine that has come to rule the world is a sort of secularized Darwinian theocracy, where the "losers" are the economically unfit (or the theologically out of grace). Stability is derided, traditions are destroyed, and neither borders nor laws possess any restraining action to the ‘free flow of capital.’The dragons have returned from the abyss of time in the form of a fanatical economic determinism. A society without accountability, without countervailing authorities of restraint and decision-making, is a society on the way to barbarism. The advocates of the global money regime enjoy what civilized life has made possible while betraying or subverting civilized standards at every turn. A system of thought so estranged from life and sustainability comes to resemble a reptilian fate. But the question in the end is whether the reptilian fate is to be that of the corporation or of mankind itself.As a final note, the last half of McMurtry’s book explores the entirely feasible ways in which society may move towards restoring life-economy goals. I will not undertake to review these here, except to note that, despite many reasons to be pessimistic, there are always grounds for hope. Once the deterministic trance is broken and values, decisions and preferences are exposed, real thinking will be possible again – that is, the connecting of thought with life that is the necessary condition of being human.[1] The author does not explore the 9/11 event in this book. Later reflections on this event can be found in his "9/11 & the 9/11 Wars: Understanding the Supreme Crimes," printed in the compendium of essays edited by David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott, 9/11 and the American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out (Vol. I) Olive Branch Press, @2006.[2] See "What we learn when we learn economics," Christopher Hayes, In These Times: "Neoclassical economics, as the Chicago School of thought is now called, has become an international elite consensus, one that provides the foundation for the entire global political economy." Article here .See also: a related article of interest posted previously on this website- "The Evaporation of Civilization" by Hugo Salinas Price (See "This Week’s Must-Read Article," Oct. 15)Note: I have ordered an additional copy of the book (which may be hard to obtain) for circulating purposes. Anyone who is interested may borrow it for three weeks, with the assurance of returning it and paying the freight of return postage.
Labels: economics, globalization, Henry Makow, Hugo Salinas Price, Iraq, John McMurtry, mass media, New World Order, predatory capitalism
posted by Caryl at 5:10 PM 5 comments

Catholicism and Islam

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Regensburg vs. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia - Lithograph, 1852. I have a high appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI, and his accession to the Papacy was a confirming sign that my decision to enter the Catholic Church was the right one.Nevertheless, I was disappointed in the Pope's speech at Regensburg. His reference to an obscure Byzantine Emperor's disparaging comments about Islam showed poor judgment, and unfortunately this comment overshadowed the good things that the Pope had to say in that speech. In my view, anything that directly or indirectly supports the neoconservative jihad against the Muslim world is to be deplored.The Chiesa website has undertaken to publish "Two Muslim Scholars Comment on the Papal Lecture" - which shows an admirable willingness to hear the other side. Aref Ali Nayed, the manager of a technology company and devout Sunni Muslim, made a number of cogent points:
"It is strange that Benedict XVI selected an admittedly 'marginal' point from an obscure medieval dialogue, written at a particularly abnormal and tense moment in history, to find a 'starting-point' for his reflections on 'faith and reason.' One could imagine an infinitely large number of possible, more direct and sensible, starting points..."When someone gratuitously invokes a very obscure text that expresses hateful things one has a moral obligation to explain why he goes out of his way to [invoke] it, and a further obligation to respond to it, and to dismiss the hate expressed in it. Otherwise, it is very reasonable to assume that the person invoking the hurtful text does mean it, and does share the views expressed in it... To claim that no hurtful intent was present, and that Muslims simply did not understand the text, agonizingly adds insult to injury..."The image of a non-violent hellenistically 'reasonable' Christianity contrasted to a violent unreasonable Islam is foundational for the lecture of Benedict XVI. This self-image is amazingly self-righteous and is oblivious to many painful historical facts. It is very important for our world that we all begin to see the poles that are in our own eyes, rather than focus on the specks in the eyes of our brethren..."
Nayed's essay was a long one, focusing on the Pope's concept of reason and bringing up many theological and historical objections. There was also a link, at the end of the article, to a Question-and-Answer session with "a Vatican official," Father Thomas Michel. In responding to a student, Aysha, who asked why, if the Pope didn't believe in the statement he quoted, why did he use it in his speech? Fr. Michel replied, "My own view is that whenever we use a negative example, we should take it from our own history rather than from someone else's. The Pope could have used the Crusades, for example, if he wanted to criticize religiously-inspired violence and it would not have given offence to others." Father Michel seconded my notion that the Pope's remarks "were not wise" and should have been vetted by someone in authority in the Vatican.Speaking of the Crusades, we ought to remember the Fourth Crusade and the final capture of Constantinople, when "... the crusaders inflicted a horrible and savage sacking on Constantinople for three days, during which many ancient and medieval Roman and Greek works were stolen or destroyed. Despite their oaths and the threat of excommunication, the Crusaders ruthlessly and systematically violated the city's holy sanctuaries, destroying, defiling, or stealing all they could lay hands on; according to Choniates a prostitute was even set up on the Patriarchal throne. When Innocent III heard of the conduct of his pilgrims, he was filled with shame and strongly rebuked them." (This is from Wikipedia)Herbert J. Muller describes the closing years of Christian Byzantine history in his book, The Uses of the Past:
“On the night before the final Turkish onslaught on Constantinople, in 1453, the Emperor Constantine Paleologus, the last of the Constantines, received communion in St. Sophia. Then, accompanied by the Patriarch and a large crowd, he proceeded to the church of St. Theodosia, to pray to this martyr…whose relics were famous for exceptionally miraculous powers. At dawn the next day, which was St. Theodosia’s day, he returned with a small band to the city walls, to fight and die gallantly. Most of his subjects spent the day in the churches…instead of aiding their emperor.When the Turks fought their way into Constantinople, they found ten thousand persons in St. Sophia, still praying….The fall of ‘New Rome’ made a terrible impression on Western Christendom, which had failed to come to the aid of its Eastern brethren…. Horror was intensified by fear of the advancing Turkish power, and by dismay at the loss of commercial privileges that Italians had enjoyed in Constantinople. For some ten years after the disaster prelates kept calling for another Crusade, to preserve Europe from the Turks...The excitement soon subsided however. Western Christendom was too absorbed in its own wars and commercial rivalries to keep worrying about the Turks, especially when the infidels permitted European merchants to trade in Constantinople again…Although the last Byzantine emperors, in their desperation, made sweeping concessions to the Papacy in hope of aid, the Orthodox masses stubbornly resisted the Roman heresy….[Although the Turks plastered over the mosaics in St. Sophia] more importantly, they preserved it for posterity by a thorough, skillful job of repair. For they respected the splendid capital of Eastern Christendom. They respected even the patriarchate, granting it religious freedom... Exemption from taxes, and civil authority over Orthodox Christians throughout the Ottoman Empire; by their conquests they gave it a wider jurisdiction than it had had in its heydey. The unwholesome moral is that in spite of their initial cruelties the terrible Turks were more civilized and humane than the Christians of the Fourth Crusade, who had captured Constantinople before them."
I think it is interesting that "the Orthodox masses stubbornly resisted the Roman heresy…." One of the great inheritances of Christianity is the mystical stream -- the Christianity of the Desert Fathers. This arose in the Eastern part of Christendom, and may perhaps represent the most advanced and deepest understanding of thinking that has ever been enunciated. It is the understanding of thinking as esoteric energy - human reason being the lowest level of contact with the Holy Trinity.The West, having lost this mystical inheritance, is now in the process of abandoning reason itself. There are many examples of this that the Pope could have used - and in fact, has used in previous lectures and writings. But it is above all that Western reason he come unmoored from its mystical and esoteric roots. This is the point that the Pope needed to address, and this is why his speech at Regensburg sounded so hollow.I believe and hope that this Pope can do better. Along these lines, Aref Nayed in his rebuttal of the Pope pointed out that "In Islam, just as in Christianity, it is not human calculative reason that is salvific, but rather the free undeserved grace of God. One of the many graces that God gives to human beings is the gift of reason... Reason as a gift from God can never be above God."Deciding the future of reason may be the historic task of the religions of Abraham. This future concerns us all. I hope this Pope's first misstep will not prove to be prophetic.
Labels: Islam, Logos, Pope Benedict XVI, reason, Regensburg
posted by Caryl at 5:10 PM 5 comments







Saturday, October 28, 2006
The Last Katechon
Icon at Hagia SophiaI am pleased and surprised at the response my previous post has generated, and wish to thank all who wrote in to comment. Evidently, the topic of the Islamic faith is an important topic, on the minds of many. Thanks, Andrew, for your cogent point that perhaps the Pope “intended to provoke a response from peaceful and reasonable Muslims…” This may have been so. And yet I will have to say that his example, taken from a Byzantine emperor under siege over a thousand years ago, is almost ludicrous, given the scale of devastation in Iraq, the cluster-and-carpet bombing of Lebanon, and the ongoing threats against Iran, Syria, and other Middle Eastern or Arabic nations. To discuss Muslim violence amidst these US-Israeli sponsored wars of annihilation and cultural nihilism directed against Muslims is a grave sin against the Holy Spirit – the one sin the Bible assures us cannot be forgiven. For the Holy Spirit is above all the spirit of truth, and the love of truth is the sole foundation for a life of reason.One can only mourn the passing of the love of the spirit of truth when reading material that now forms the tsunami of propagandistic hate directed at Muslims by neoconservatives and their allies. One of these, Rebecca Bynum, writes in the October issue of the New English Review:
“Consider the phrase, ‘truth and falsehood cannot coexist.’ This is a central concept in Islamic thought – that everything ‘false’ must be destroyed. Therefore, all other cultures, when having come under Islamic domination are eventually annihilated by Islam, including their art, music, books, cultural artifacts of any kind, and of course, history, all have been obliterated because these things are un-Islamic and are thus deemed worthless.”
Unfortunately, Miss Bynum has yet to have her mind enlightened by a study of something as inconvenient as historical facts. Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in tolerable amity for nearly five hundred years on the Iberian peninsula, from about 900-1500 AD. I invite Miss Bynum to google the words “toleration and Ottoman Empire,” where she will be treated to many Google entries on the subject, the second one reading: “One of the most noteworthy attributes of Ottoman Turkish rule was the Ottoman toleration of different religious beliefs.” This 4-page article on “Turkish toleration” notes that “The Turks of the Ottoman Empire were Muslims, but they did not force their religions on others.” And it ends with this: “The success of Ottoman tolerance can most easily been seen in the fact that large Christian and Jewish communities existed in the Ottoman lands until the end of the Empire. Then it was European intervention and European-style nationalism, not internal failure of the system, that destroyed the centuries-long peace between religions that had characterized the Ottoman system.”Miss Bynum ends her venomistic screed that extols the forked tongue with these words: “Those who think Islam provides some sort of comfort or consolation to its billion or so adherents should think again.” I dropped a message in Miss Bynum’s inbox to the effect that perhaps she should marry Ann Coulter. Those two feminist priestesses of war blood can then stimulate each other into an eternity of mutual Muslim-hatred. They should join the Israeli schoolgirls who scribbled messages on Israeli bombs intended for Lebanese children, who, I’m sure, they with dismembered legs and blown-off heads, would be only too glad to read them.Enough of these neocon harpies. The issue I brought forward is Pope Benedict’s speech about reason. I believe I understand why the Pope issued his appeal to “Hellenic reason” in Germany. This is an important element in Christianity, in Catholicism especially, but I don’t think it will suffice to win the minds of European secularists. We forget how long and how painful is the story of reason. “Reason” is something engaged in among equals, or near-equals. Those who are powerful have no need for it, as Thucydides put it and as the modern West is demonstrating. Western history is in many ways the story of various clashes of power, and reason as an ideal was to the mutual advantage of all. This ideal of reason also fitted in very well with the nature of Western society, in which people cohered less according to tribe and ethnicity than through the mutual forging of alliances, churches, intellectual allegiances, and the like.Reason in this sense is the fruit of a process of de-tribalization – a thought powerfully reinforced by Christianity, in which the concept of ethnicity also is alien. The ideal of reason formed for many centuries a kind a tribal substitute for Western peoples. This process has now been carried to its ultimate, in the sense that even the fragile tribal coherence of the West is breaking down. The first breakdown of the West was the devaluation of the Christian religion, and the second is happening in our time, with the devaluation of reason. The point is, the West no longer possesses the cultural integrity that forms the basis for reason. Culture has been displaced by the economy, and in this new dispensation reason no longer provides a motivating aspiration for Western people. Western leadership reveals this fact. Western leaders no longer really represent their “people,” which has become a multicultural mob, atomized and harassed by a political correctness that continually undermines and degrades the heritage of Western people while preaching the advantages of uncontrolled immigration. This doctrine emanates from the Western elites, which have increasingly pulled away from identification with their nations and people, and which enjoys life in the stratospheric circles of international finance and business. Western leaders like Tony Blair and George Bush have become mouthpieces for these powerful economic interests. Along with this, the Western mainstream media has abandoned investigative journalism, and especially in the United States, has virtually collapsed. A recent poll taken of the world press ranked the US as one of the least free and most conformist in the world.Thus the Pope’s appeal was understandable but, given the seriously unbalanced nature of Western life, it seems too little and too late. The West has degenerated past appeal to reason. Serious attention needs to be given to the matter of cultural (and personal) integrity, ecological sustainability of our economies, the need for the sense of limits, and respect for truth. Related issues concern the status of international law and sovereignty of nations – the U.S. and Israel (and perhaps China) being today the only de facto sovereign nations – as judged by their behavior and what they get away with. Without these foundations, an appeal to reason is nothing but an endorsement of the status quo: neither new to those who know the philosophical history of Catholicism, and not convincing to those who give no priority to reason.The problem of reason has long outgrown its medieval reason-faith synthesis. Today the problem is reason (intellect) in relation to life itself – or perhaps, more truly, the “Afterlife.” Men need a strong incentive to be reasonable, just as they need a strong motivation to act rightly and think justly, and if there is no judgment in this life or in the next, reason will degenerate into ideology and rule by the strong. The position of the Catholic Church, so admirable and firm when it comes to condemning the “Culture of Death” that results from a merely intellectualized and reductionist view of life, seems helpless to take the next step and take the bull by the horns, so to speak: grappling with the very intellect whose time, locus and symbol, Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, strikes at the very heart of its faith.For Western man has abandoned or outgrown the old teachings of Heaven and Hell and the afterlife and judgment. But we have no new teaching – such as reincarnation – to take its place. It is for this reason that the life of reason in the West is in “Limbo.” It is perhaps timely or ironic that this Pope “declassified” Limbo from the realm of theological purgatory. That is because “Limbo” has incarnated. We are already in it. Limbo is our now.(To be continued...)
Labels: Catholicism, Hagia Sophia, Islam, New English Review, New World Order, Pope Benedict XVI, reason, toleration
posted by Caryl at 1:40 PM 2 comments

Saturday, November 04, 2006
The Last Katechon - Part Two
Continuation from previous post...I don’t know much about Islam, but my natural inclination is to side with the underdog. “God is beautiful and loves beauty,” says one of the verses from the Prophet, and certainly even a superficial acquaintance with Islamic art would suffice to convince one of the high level of esthetic attainment in Islamic cultures. The picture on this post is courtesy of Linda Komaroff’s lectures on Islamic Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.I think in its esthetic reach Catholicism (and Orthodox Christianity) are closer to Islam than either the Protestant or Judaic sensibility. Even Dostoevsky admitted that “beauty will save the world,” and he was no esthete, but a deeply ethical man, deeply anguished by the human cruelties in the world. It was characteristic of a Protestant culture that caused a division to arise between the ethical and the esthetic, so well delineated in Kierkegaard’s Either/Or. The love of beauty assists the development of the higher mind and the practice of good. It is not a guarantee of it, but neither is virtue guaranteed when beauty is torn from religion. Sometimes, though, the radical simplifiers believe so, and there are radical simplifiers in Islam as in Christianity. Rules and austerity replace the “joyous simplicity,” and the somber-minded take over.I think that Christianity stands in the intermediate or mediating position between Judaism and Islam, and that in order for it to remain balanced it needs both the gravitas of the Old Testament – the Judaic side – as well as the esthetic and transcendent “Islamic” side. The Fathers of the Church were very aware of the gravitational influence of the Old Testament, and they repelled the efforts of the gnostics in the early Christian centuries to drop the Old Testament from the canon. Islam, of course, was not yet then in existence. It is for our time that the recognition of Islam – many would say the reckoning with it – has come. I believe this is the historic task that confronts us today.There are a few other things to note in the triumvirate Judaism-Christianity-Islam. The Holy Day of Islam is Friday, the day of Venus (vendredi) – goddess of love, and the day on which the Son of God, the manifestation of God’s love for humanity, was crucified. Thus both Christians and Muslims honor Friday as a day of love.The Jewish Holy Day is Saturday, the day of Saturn, who is Chronos in the Greek tradition, and a fierce and limiting cosmic Being in all sacred tradition. Without Saturn we would, figuratively speaking, have no bones. We would be dissolved, merely fluid and spineless beings. It is thanks to the very rigidity of Saturn that we can walk upright. And thanks to “Saturn,” too, that we age. The Judaic tradition exemplifies this “saturnine” quality and possesses its tendency to intellectual rigidity or materialism in thinking. I have written before of the intellectual materialism that was developing in Western culture from the end of the medieval period and beginnings of the Age of Science. Western man was already embarked on this path when he encountered, with the emancipation of the Jews in the 19th century, another great wave of cognitive materialism. The contribution of the Jews to the intellectual culture of the West is astounding and prolific, but at the same time it was a further development of what was already unfolding, not the initiation of a new direction. It was not the Catholic, mystical, esoteric or poetic stream that was revivified from the encounter with the Jews, but (primarily) the anti-philosophical and unesthetic impulse of Protestantism, commerce, and scientific reductionism already in motion.Alas, the West today is so thoroughly imbued with this way of thinking that the Islamic tradition does indeed appear even more distant and alien than it was already, with the embroidered fancies of the Arabian nights and magic carpets thrown in for good measure. Oil, of course, has changed the equation, if “equation” is the right word, and it is one of the mysteries of Divine Providence that the Arabian and Muslim nations occupy the lands sitting guard upon these treasures.This is not the place, nor do I have the learning, to embark on a discussion of Anglo-American policy with respect to Arabian oil. One would suppose that a purely self-interested regard for obtaining the black gold would lead Western policy makers to exercise a prudent diplomacy with respect to the Arab world. Perhaps, with many reservations, one may say this was the case up until 1950 or so. The emergence of Israel created an enormous counterweight to the practice of diplomatic prudence. “If Britain had limited herself, as she had promised, to ‘viewing with favour’ the Jewish home, instead of supporting it by force of arms, she might have retained that traditional friendship with the Arab and Muslim world which is so essential to her interests,” wrote Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb in his 1957 book, A Soldier with the Arabs. The key words here seem to me “as she had promised.” It would be revealing for Westerners to review the history of Anglo-American Arab relations in the light of broken promises, perfidious betrayal, and duplicity, practices deeply antithetical to the true spiritual inheritance of the West as well as to traditional Arab notions about honor.The Israeli counterweight has arisen not only out of the character of the Israeli state but because of the character of Western societies, which have been deeply penetrated by Jewish intellect, finance, and publicity (i.e., overwhelming Jewish dominance in the media and entertainment industries). To be modern is in some sense to be Jewish – as Yuri Slezkine declared in his book, The Jewish Century. The reader is invited to pursue on his own the many works detailing Jewish influence, many of them written by Jews. A short list would include Douglas Reed, The Controversy of Zion; Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique; Norman Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: The Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History; Michael Neumann, The Case Against Israel; and the new book by James Petras, The Power of Israel in the United States. This is but a small sample, and I have not read the last three mentioned. But I will have to say that it is not possible to be educated without a thorough grounding in Jewish history, and that it is highly imperative for Americans in particular to study this literature.As for myself, my 2000 book, Consecrated Venom: The Serpent and the Tree of Knowledge, was an admiring look of the Creation story in the Old Testament, which I have always regarded as perhaps the most sublime document in the history of the world. Yet, as I have since learned, the relationship of these Old Testament patriarchs, the Israelites, to modern Jews, is very problematic. The Creation story teaches of the Fall of Man, yet the translation of this concept into the doctrine of original sin was effected by Christians, not by Jewish theologians. I am uncertain as to whether Jews believe that they are affected by original sin or the Fall. The teaching on this point, as far as I can gather, is hazy. As one writer put it, the idea of a “Chosen People” is one thing in a nomadic and pastoral world of several millennia ago. It is quite another in context of a modern State armed with 600 nuclear warheads. Indeed, the persistence of Old Testament themes of chosen-ness, land ownership and conquest into the modern era is alarming, especially given the advocacy of Jewish lobbying groups against similar persistence of religious traditions in other peoples.Israel Shamir, the Russian Jewish convert to Christianity and author, believes that
“The ‘liberal democracy and human rights’ doctrine carried by US marines even across Tigris and Oxus is a crypto-religion, an extreme heretical form of Judaized Christianity… In my view, this new religion can be called Neo-Judaism: its adepts imitate classic Jewish attitudes; Jews often act as priests of the new faith and they are considered sacred by its adepts… Everybody can become one of the ‘Chosen’ of the new faith—the choice is yours: the Newest Covenant admits both Gentiles and Jews; worship Mammon, disregard Nature, Spirit, Beauty, Love; feel you’re belonging to a race apart, prove it by some this-worldly success – and you can enter it. On the other hand, every Jew can opt out of it; there is no biological guilt or virtue."
And again:
“Neo-Judaism is the unofficial faith of the American Empire, and the war in the Middle East is indeed the Neo-Judaic Jihad. It is intuited by millions: Tom Friedman of the NY Times wrote that the Iraqis call the American invaders ‘Jews.’ Neo-Judaism is the cult of globalism, neo-liberalism, destruction of the family and nature, anti-spiritual and anti-Christian.”
Shamir believes that Islam is to be viewed as a “branch” of Christianity: “… the Orthodox stress Christ Resurrected, the Catholics concentrate on Christ Crucified, and the Muslims follow the Holy Spirit… In my view…’Christianity’ includes Islam and the great Apostolic Churches of East and West.” Thus:“…. Islam is the last great reservoir of spirit, tradition and solidarity; and the Neo-Jews fight it with all the firepower at their disposal… [It] is the last katechon, in terms of St. Paul’s Second Letter to Thessalonians, the last defense of our sacral heritage…” [Italics mine]From his essay, “The Trefoil and the Cross,” on his website.Finally, there is Mark Glenn, a conservative Catholic who authors the Crescent and Cross website, an attempt to resist the demonization of Islam. He writes in one of his essays that
“…what exists in the Middle East, or in The Old World, as some would call it, is a culture that is still devoted to principles concerning basic moral values, values that have not yet surrendered to the corrupting influence of Western media or Western money. Within the last 50 years, every culture has fallen before this corrupting power that seeks to enslave all men in such a way that the individual is reduced to the value of what he produces and what he consumes, and in pursuit of that method, the individuals behind this program have quietly but decisively removed every obstacle in their way, be it religion, culture, morals, tradition, or world view, through the methods of media, academia, and finance; that is, except the culture encapsulated in the Arabic/Islamic World. By the description “Arabic/Islamic,” it should not be understood as solely a “Muslim” thing. The culture existing in the Arab world is held by both Christian and Muslim alike. Indeed, there are millions of Christians in the Middle East, who have in essence the same culture with their Muslim counterparts in much the same way as most Americans, regardless of religion, have the same culture. It is those Christians and Muslims alike who reject these “modern” notions such as abortion, birth control, sodomy, pornography, usury banking, and “market value” of services and resources. They still view the family, the traditional family, with all its traditional roles, as the most important building block of their society, and they take very seriously anything that threatens it. They recognize the value of their children, as well as how dangerous the moral relativism of the West has become, and whose ideology threatens the stability of society directly. They recognize that if their children and society as a whole are subjected to ideas that promote moral decay for an extended period of time, what will eventually and unavoidably be produced is national decay.”
From: See Crescent and Cross site for essays by Mark and several other writers alarmed by the neoconservative campaign against Islam. This is not a joke. Recently, on the Berkeley college campus, one Yaron Brook, Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Foundation, called for the "elimination" of "several hundred thousand Muslims." Islam is violent?One is not likely to encounter a defense of Islam in the Western press, which is more and more bent toward the promulgation of “Neo-Judaism,” as Shamir puts it. But we desperately need to balance our views of Islam and its societies before embarking upon any discussion about the nature of Islamic religion. The West used to be known for having esteem for impartiality and justice, and this esteem was the best fruit of its Christian (and classical) traditions. But the modern West appears to be jettisoning both of these traditions, and its new game of deadly self-righteousness is anything but appealing.
Labels: biblical epistemology, Catholicism, Islam, Israel, Israel Shamir, Jews, New World Order, oil policy
posted by Caryl at 2:33 PM 9 comments


Saturday, November 11, 2006
Return of the Republic?
I am feeling a little better since the elections, which seem to indicate a desire, on the part of the American electorate, for a return of the Republic. The real work will be a labor of generations, for the Nation has fallen into many bad habits, and the neoconservative-inspired orgy of arrogance and self-righteousness will not be easy to shake. Nevertheless, we can hope - and a thread of reasonable and realistic hope is far stronger than pillars of nationalistic rhetoric.I wish to complete this phase of my inquiry into the Islamic religion by mentioning Karen Armstrong's book, Islam, as a surprisingly fair-minded assessment. I say "surprisingly," because in the past I was not impressed by Karen Armstrong, this English ex-nun who wrote a very bad book about Genesis. Why is it that so many people in the West denigrate their own religious and cultural heritage and reduce it to trivial-mindedness? Such people surprise us when they exemplify the best of the Western tradition in their explorations of other traditions. I would not have expected from this author such a strong, concise, elegantly-written and informative history of Islam, but she has done it, and I am glad to say that my earlier negative view of Karen Armstrong was premature and unfair. The book has been included in the Modern Library series, which is some indication of its quality.Armstrong points out that, in the early days of the formation of Islam, this religion was actually a peaceful and unifying force among the warring Arabian tribes. She traces the ups and downs of this religious inspiration through many of the dynasties. No doubt the Mongol invasions (circa 1200's) had a bad effect, and caused a kind of retrenchment and narrowing of outlook. There is a militant stream in Islam, just as there is in Judaism and Christianity, yet in my cursory readings of the Koran this militancy did not strike me as more excessive or extreme than its counterparts in the other Abrahamic religions. At the time of these revelations, as now, the Arabic and Hebraic peoples were much entertwined, and perhaps the Prophet's message to the "Children of Israel" is just as relevant today as it was then: "Children of Israel, remember the favor I have bestowed upon you, and that I exalted you above the nations. Guard yourselves against the day on which no soul shall stand for another: when no intercession shall be accepted for it, no ransom be taken from it, no help be given it." I love this reminder of the presence of the intercessory spirit, and that in mutuality and co-inherence, all the Children of God stand together. These are the kinds of messages that must be heard today amidst the "warring tribes" of the present.Finally, we can recall that Islam means "submission," a word which often grates on Western ears. But again, before we rush to judgment, let us recall Jane Austen's wonderful novel, Persuasion, in which the theme of "submission" or "persuadability" is taken up most wonderfully. People who have read it will recall that the hero, Captain Wentworth, went through a change of mind on this issue. His lady, Anne Elliott, had been persuaded not to marry him, and he was much embittered because of this, being led in future to seek only "strong-minded characters." Yet in a subsequent flirtation with a stubborn and self-willed young lady, he began to see that the ability to be open to persuasion was not necessarily a sign of weakness, but rather of integrity and quiet strength.This novel has a timely message for American leadership today, for if we have had nothing else demonstrated, we can see how delusional it is to believe that recalcitrance to persuasion means strength. "Hardness of heart" and a narrow, self-willed stubbornness of mind has characterized our public persona and foreign policy for nigh to a decade, and it is the "elitist" camp followers of the neocons -- whether in First Things or the odious New English Review -- who have cheered and followed. It is good to see that apparently, the American people think otherwise -- more along the lines of a reformed Captain Wentworth who had the sense to catch his lady on a second try.Thus the "submission" which is Islam is not too distant from this literary portrait of it, or from Catholic "obediential potency" or even the Quaker "tenderness." It seems the glory of the Kingdom teaches spiritual surrender. But even the kingdoms of this world need some of it if they are to endure, and a "surrender" to the claims of truthfulness and the common good are much needed today. In this regard I would like also to mention Michael Kinsley's recent (Nov. 5) book review in the New York Times, where he says that the main problem in our society today is "intellectual dishonesty." I think this essay is a hopeful sign that perhaps a few in the pundit class are catching on. Deception and dishonesty are an inevitable part of human society, but to embrace them actively is to destroy it. The maggots and worms need to be exposed if we are to have a future.In other matters, I think the next area of my focus and interest will be an inquiry into the nature of the Soul. It seems to me we are in need of the soul, and of trying to gain an understanding of it, before we can understand other things, or talk about what is true, or even talk by means of the very Reason which presupposes it. The problem with our Western Reason today is that its presuppositional energy, that of the soul, is either nonexistent or poorly grasped. Accordingly, these will be my themes in upcoming posts.Thanks again to all who have written in. I encourage readers to add comments, as this increases the traffic and ratings of the blog.
Labels: 2006 mid-term elections, Catholicism, Islam, Karen Armstrong, New English Review, persuasion
posted by Caryl at 1:22 PM 8 comments

Sunday, November 19, 2006
Gadflies and Angry Hornets
I have been upsetting the hive of the web-based magazine, New English Review, and some of the angry bees have been buzzing around this website, although no one has yet, to my knowledge, left a comment. Some of their writers have been engaging in a form of dialogue with me on their website (in their favor, I should add that the New English Review allows for reader comments) and one of them remarked that my interpretation of Jane Austen's Persuasion was "topsy-turvy."While I will grant that my analogy between "persuasion" and Islamic "surrender" or "submission" was probably far-fetched - the former a secular, the latter a religious sensibility - I don't think my actual interpretation of the novel was incorrect.It would do well for Westerners to recall that Persuasion was a Greek goddess, yet Empedocles (ca. 450 BC) reminds us that : "It is not possible to bring God near within reach of our eyes, nor to grasp him with our hands, by which route the broadest road of Persuasion runs into the human mind." [1] His next verse recalls that it is the Mind, "holy and ineffable, which darts through the whole universe with its swift thoughts" - and yet, what is this Mind? This is hardly the intellectualized rationalism we have come to identify as the leading characteristic of Western thought, and which is trumpeted by Rebecca Bynum in one of her anti-Islam screeds [2]-- "And reason cannot compromise with unreason without destroying the basis for its existence. By the same token, unreason cannot become reasonable without destroying itself as well."I have thought a lot about this comment. Bynum's view of reason is the Kantian "pure reason" exaggerated to the point of caricature. I don't know on what plane of Olympianism she pronounces that "reason cannot compromise with unreason," but it is certainly not the plane of history or reality, or even the meaning of the word. First of all, reason, ratio, implies relation, or the relation of one thing to another, hence the strict opposition between "reason vs. unreason" is misleading if not false. To remove reason from the nexus of relations is to "idolize" it, to turn it into a mere abstraction that has no more practical or meaningful, soulful or worldly, dimension of energy or work. (In this regard, I note that the message I left in Bynum's Comment box was to the effect that "Reason has to compromise with unreason all the time - that is why it is called reason!) It just becomes another achievement, another "accomplishment," with which Westerners endlessly congratulate themselves for possessing. And because they already possess it, they never have to question what the use of it presumably entails. This is the a priori assumption of the reasonableness of the Western mind which fosters an irredeemable pride, unlike what might be considered an analogy from the Catechism of the Church - which may be equally formal and incontrovertible but at least has the avowed purpose of fostering humility.I am reminded once again of Simone Weil's comments on the Western reason - noted in 1937 - in her essay "The Power of Words": She writes that the glossy surface of our civilization hides a real intellectual decadence -- that "we are almost incapable of applying elementary principles of rational thought," as witnessed in the loss of the use of the elements of intelligence such as ideas of limit, measure, degree, proportion, relation, comparison, contingency, interdependence, interrelation of means and ends. The result is the "lethal absurdity" of our political universe which is peopled exclusively by" myths and monsters." And she concludes thus: "The whole intellectual climate of our age favors the growth and multiplication of vacuous entities." [3]It is my contention that a hothouse display of "vacuous entities" can be seen to proliferate in the digital pages of the New English Review, which, I think, consists of a panel of young and wet-behind-the-ears writers that have latched on to the luminous Theodore Dalrymple as a way of providing themselves with some legitimacy. That these writers come across as insufferably arrogant Brits is the least of it. No, the worst is the pretence of thinking - to put forth articles and opinions in the guise of rational language but without a glimmer of intellectual charity. The New English Review is a good example of Chesterton's point about the peril against which, rightly or wrongly, religious authority was reared as a barrier: "That peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself.""Religious authority" is perhaps not the only way one can protect oneself from this peril, but it has been proven to be a sure and lasting one. The other way is deeper and more difficult, and perhaps I will try to sketch out some of the lineaments of this "Way" in future posts dealing with the theme of the Soul. But I think it has something to do with what Empedocles, considered one of the "fathers of Western rationalism" said about the heart -- "[It is] nourished in the seas of blood which courses in two opposite directions; this is the place where is found for the most part what men call Thought; for the blood round the heart is Thought for mankind."[1] Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers. ed. Kathleen Freeman, Harvard University Press, 1971.[2] Rebecca Bynum, "Islam, Predestination and Free Will" - November New English Review[3] From Simone Weil's Selected Essays, Oxford University Press, 1962.
Labels: Islam, New English Review, persuasion, pre-Socratics, Simone Weil, Theodore Dalrymple