“There should be some restraint of law against foolish and impertinent scribblers, as well as against vagabonds and idle persons . . . . I do not speak this in jest: scribbling seems to be a sign of a disordered and licentious age.”
Montaigne “Of Vanity” (c. 1580)
“Cobbler, stick to your last.”
Apelles of Kos (c. A.D. 79)
Montaigne was of the opinion that everyone could lend a hand in the destruction of society, since each man could bring to this great work his own pernicious power. “One contributes treachery,” he wrote, while others, differently gifted, contribute “injustice, irreligion, tyranny, avarice and cruelty.” As in happier undertakings, “the same spirit” is in this evil enterprise advanced by “diversities of gifts” and “diversities of ministrations” (1).
“O wad some pow’r the giftie gi`e us,
To see ourselves as others see us!
It wad frae mony blunder free us . . .”
Robert Burns, “To a Louse” (c. 1785)
Burns wrote these lines after he spotted a louse capering on the bonnet of a particularly proud and vainglorious woman who was sitting before him in church. In her own mind, Jenny was a lovely object of envy and admiration; to everyone else she was a lousy popinjay and a slovenly groomer. And so we have all blundered, at one time or another, swelling with vanity at the very moment a booger dangled from our nose, or our fly stood open to the four winds, or a louse did the jitterbug on our bonnet. Continue reading
Understand the terms used here. This is about evolution in the Darwinian sense: That purely material forces drive all biological change and therefore God is not the creator of the species and the human race. As a Christian I reject Darwinian evolution; the Bible says that God created the living beings, including mankind, and therefore Darwin contradicts Christianity. I do affirm evolution in the other senses, including microevolution, minor variation in already-existing forms caused either by natural selection or by deliberate human interference. I believe it because we see it happening now. But Darwinian evolution, which goes far beyond the observable evidence to postulate that all biological change was non-theistic, is doubtful and unnecessary.
And by “dissident right” I mean the non-mainstream yet non-insane right. Others may try to define the term more narrowly, but since the mainstream right is not helping to restoring a sane society, we need a term for rightists who are on the right path. At the moment, “dissident right” is the best candidate. Continue reading
Hugo Alfvén (1872 – 1960) jumpstarted the genuinely Swedish school of concert music in the last decade of the Nineteenth Century and sustained his effort during the first half of the Twentieth Century. Following the example of the Russian composers, the ones denominated as “The Mighty Five,” Alfvén assimilated the heady tradition of Swedish folk music to the conventions of symphonic music. Alfvén wrote three “Swedish Rhapsodies.” The first, from 1908, celebrates the vestigially Catholic and vestigially Pagan festival of “May Eve.” The composition imitates Swedish folk-tunes, but all of the thematic material in Midsommarvaka is original to Alfvén. The composition falls on the ear as spontaneous and “natural,” but the score is brilliantly unified. Midsommarvaka is, in effect, a short symphony, in four movements, on Swedish themes. I have loved it since I first heard it in the early 1970s and I am happy to share it with the community of the Orthosphere.
We have heard on occasion from atheists who argue that the system of what is and has been – our cosmic history – is uncaused (so that it stands in no need of a Creator). It’s an old argument. Each of the bits of our cosmos are indeed contingent, so it goes; but the system as a whole is not: there had necessarily to have been something or other, and this particular series of contingent events is just what we happen to have inherited on that account.
It won’t do.
Say that I had a chain composed entirely of steel links. Would you believe me if I said it was a golden chain? Would you buy it from me at the present price of gold?
The performances of the Russian, St.-Petersburg based, musical group Otava Yo, whose self-explanation is accessible here, much impress me. We live in an age where actual identity, that of the living person, finds itself in opposition to identity politics, which obliterates the living person for the sake of a wicked abstraction. Otava roots itself in the soulful tradition of Russian and (I believe) Ukrainian folksong. The old Cossack ditty, Oy Dusiya, Oy Marusiya, in lezhginka rhythm, taps into the richness of an authentic ethnic tradition. The moment in the video when the young woman sees herself in the mirror in traditional costume is particularly moving. Whoever directed the video directed it well. From the folk-costumes to the reference, through several historical layers of recorded music, to the lore of song, and to the fashioning of folk-instruments, the visuals tell a story of the debt to ancestry. Those who repudiate tradition condemn themselves to a shallow plagiarism of the prevailing correct opinion, while those who embrace the patrimony find themselves endowed with originality and creativity. Otava Yo’s women fetch me especially. They seem unembarrassed in being beautiful, which they are extraordinarily – and they pay tribute to feminine beauty in a powerful way, not least in their ritual hauteur. If anyone could explain the samovar subplot, I would welcome enlightenment.
If you wish to become a successful witch doctor, you must be the first in your tribe to discover a pattern in the natural order. For instance, imagine yourself as a member of a tribe of savages, your tribe as the inhabitants of a dismal swamp, and the swamp as home to a hideous black snake, the bite of which kills men at a rate of 1:2. Being slightly more observant than the other savages, you notice that, within two days of being bitten, the feet of a doomed man emit a faint but peculiar odor, whereas a glutinous yellow slime coats the inner eyelid of a man on his way to recovery.
If you were a modern doctor, you would publish your findings; but a witch doctor keeps his findings to himself. Continue reading
On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers
by Friedrich Schleiermacher (1799)
Orthosphere readers will have mixed feelings toward Schleiermacher. On the one hand, he is perhaps the founder of the study of the phenomenology of religion, a study which was later carried to greater heights by Rudolf Otto and Mircea Eliade; he and these other thinkers have proved that religion is not merely a substitute for philosophy for the uneducated but contains its own irreducible value and insights. In working to tie Protestant Christianity to the nascent Romantic Movement, Schleiermacher also stands as a forerunner of Romantic Christianity. On the other hand, he more influentially stands as the founder of Liberal Protestantism, the project of gutting Christianity to accommodate bourgeois bohemian sensibilities. Consider the title of the book. It sounds ironic; we expect these “cultured” despisers to have their lack of proper cultivation quickly shown up. The first speech’s hearty praise for the intelligence, morality, and progressiveness of its readers (presumed to be haters of religion) in what I took to be deliberately overwrought prose seems to confirm this impression. I was a couple dozen pages in, still waiting for the hammer to drop, when I began to realize to my horror that Schleiermacher’s praise for his atheist friends is entirely in earnest and that what I had been reading is his real prose style.
The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea
by Arthur O. Lovejoy, 1936
originally posted at Throne and Altar
The author proposes to trace the career of an idea from its invention by Plato to the early Romantics at the beginning of the nineteenth century. To sum up, the “great chain of being” is a proposed reason God had for creating the universe. Although perfect and self-sufficient, He is prompted by His very goodness to share His being and have it reflected in various partial ways through finite creatures. Although some creatures are more excellent than others, none perfectly manifests the perfection of its Creator, so a fuller, better universe that more adequately glorifies its Creator will have a diversity of creatures all along the scale of being, from the highest angels to the lowest inert matter.
I do not see why very wealthy parents should not purchase places for their dull offspring at prestigious universities. College classes are very seldom full, so these silver-spoon admits very seldom “take the place” of students with more brains and less money. In fact, with the wealthy parents’ gifts in hand, prestigious universities could cut costs for other students. And if the classrooms get crowded, they could use the gifts to build bigger classrooms. Continue reading