By the Rivers of Babylon

To traditional Christians, Babylon is a name instinct with meaning.  It is an apocalyptic symbol that parts a veil of illusion and casts light on hidden reality.  This is because Babylon is not only the name of a city in ancient Mesopotamia, but also the name of a mystical city that Christians believe is one of two possible homes to the human spirit.  St. Augustine calls it the “mystical name” of the city where “the devil is king,” and the spiritual home of all those who are his (1).  This is why we find the words “Mystery, Babylon the Great,” written on the forehead of the Scarlet Woman in the Apocalypse of St. John.  The Whore of Babylon personifies the diabolic glamor that entices spirits to declare themselves citizens of this mystical city (2). Continue reading

The Bloom of Health Is Not Itself Health

Liberty is not the basis of rightly ordered society, as liberals think. Liberty is rather a byproduct of a rightly ordered society. A society that lacks liberty – that, i.e., contravenes the doctrine of subsidiarity (that devolves to each organ of the social hierarchy (thus, in the limit, to individuals) all the powers they can well handle, or delegate in their turn) – is not just; but that injustice lies, not in its lack of liberty, but in the fact that it is wrongly ordered to begin with.

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George Inness: The Rainbow

Inness George (825 – 1894) Rainbow (1877 - 78)

George Inness (May 1, 1825 – August 3, 1894) belonged to the second generation of the so-called Hudson River or Hudson River Valley School, the first distinctively American school of painting.  In his early work, Inness advances the “luminist” tendency of his precursors (Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, and others); and like them, he is almost exclusively a landscape painter, interested in the effects of light on mountain, valley, plain, lake, ocean, and sky.  In his later work, Inness innovates in the direction of Impressionism.  The Hudson River painters were American Romantics, steeped in the nature-philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his followers, but also conversant with the late-medieval tradition of reading nature as the outward sign of the supernatural (think Jakob Boehme), a tendency that culminates in the strange but influential writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.  Inness occasionally identified himself as a Swedenborgian.

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An Image for Our Time

Atlantic Abomination 01 (Art by Richard Powers)Edmund Alexander “Ed” Emshwiller (February 16, 1925 – July 27, 1990) was a commercial artist and illustrator and later, in the 1960s, an auteur of so-called experimental film.  He is notably identified with the science fiction genre, having contributed scores of covers to Galaxy magazine, and other similar periodicals, in the 1950s and 60s.  Emshwiller’s illustrations also graced many a paperback cover, as in the case of the Ace paperback edition of John Brunner’s Atlantic Abomination.  I have posted Emshwiller’s Abomination (so to speak) previously at The Orthosphere.  It is time to display it again.  Emshwiller’s painting instantiates the possibilities that lay within the popular and commercial genres of art in the middle of the last century.  It is a powerful image with many resonances in the archives of painting and drawing, which, to my mind, speaks deeply to our condition.

I invite commentary on Emshwiller’s image, or indeed on Brunner’s story, his lone foray into H. P. Lovecraft territory, should anyone have read it.

P.S. I call dibs on any That-Woman interpretation of the image.

Political Correctness and the Death of Education – Requiem for a Dream

Sydney Traditionalist Forum today published Political Correctness and the Death of Education – Requiem for a Dream which argues that we in the West are not supposed to prefer our own culture to other cultures and that the culture of repudiation that rejects our cultural heritage as patriarchal, oppressive, imperialist, etc., makes the notion of aspiring to be well-educated a politically incorrect anachronism.

Islamic America

I just this morning received a notice encouraging me to encourage students to sign up for a graduate-level course called “Islamic America,” which will be offered this fall by the English Department at this university.  I should actually say that it may be offered, since the course is presently under-enrolled, and will be cancelled if this notice fails to have its desired effect.  “Islamic America” is, I should add, the title of the “topic” that will (or may) be treated in a course officially known as “Topics in American Literature and Culture to 1900.” Continue reading

Should the West Consider Christ’s Victory?

We are pleased to offer another guest post by blogger Mark Citadel.

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In Gustav Aulén’s 1931 book Christ the Victor, he writes, “the work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil.”

Such a concept is unsurprisingly alien to most Western readers who have for so long been believers in a very different theory of atonement, that is, what exactly occurred at the metaphysical level during our Savior’s crucifixion. While Aulén’s theory would not have been at all controversial before the turn of the first millennium after Christ, when the east and west were divided, the western portion of the Occident was heavily influenced by the works of St. Anselm of Canterbury and his book Cur Deus Homo?, which was published in 1097. It’s important we understand what this model puts forth.

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Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress (2011) & the Crisis of Subscendence

Damsels in Distress CD COVER

Filmmaker Whit Stillman has managed with considerable aplomb to avoid the clichés of the romantic comedy, a genre within whose parameters he nevertheless works, not least in his fourth film of five, Damsels in Distress (2011).  In addition to being a romantic comedy, to the extent of transforming itself in its denouement into a 1930s guy-gets-girl musical number, with Fred Astaire’s voice patched into the soundtrack, Damsels in Distress is a college film.  Because Stillman understands the meaning and function of college, his college film is also a film about civilization – or rather about the current degeneracy of what used to be Western Civilization, as made manifest by the decline of higher education.  In Damsels in Distress, Stillman has undertaken to represent what I once, in a casual essay, half-jokingly called subscendence, a kind of active anti-transcendence that seeks the lowest level in everything; but Stillman has also created a set of characters, in his eponymous damsels, who, discerning subscendence and judging it repellent, rally themselves to mount resistance against it.

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