On the Reality and Ubiquity of Witches

“For my part, I have ever believed, and do now know, that there are witches.”

Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (1642)

“You have sold yourself to do evil.”

1 Kings 21: 20

In a recent post, Kristor confessed his belief in daimonic reality, as indeed every logical human must.  Belief in spirits is not an archaic superstition, but is rather a valid inference from the fact that the natural world is not self-explanatory.  As Sir Thomas Browne explained in the middle of the seventeenth century, the “learned heads” that say it is self-explanatory “forget their metaphysics.” Continue reading

The Amorphous Soul

                                           “Another shapeless soul,
Full of revolts and hates and tyrannous force.”

Lewis Moris, Epic of Hades (1876)

There is talk of “reeducation camps” in the lively comment thread ensuant to Kristor’s recent “Never Panic” post.  This talk should really be of “more rigorous reeducation camps,” since every culture is nothing but a reeducation camp in which men and women are, as Machiavelli said, “reminded of those ordinances in conformity with which they ought to live.”*  The only question is whether those men and women participate in this universal reeducation camp as eager or refractory campers. Continue reading

Notes for an Anthropoetics of the Flying Saucers

Talpazan, Ionel (1955 - 2015) - UFO Swarm

Ionel Talpazan (1955 – 2015): Illustrating a UFO Swarm (No Date Given)

Classicist Robin Lane Fox (born 1946) sets aside a chapter in his compendious study of Pagans and Christians (1986) to discuss the topic, current in the 1980s, of “close encounters,” a phrase originating with the Ufologist J. Allen Hynek and made popular by cinema director Steven Spielberg in his Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).  Fox’s study surveys the religiosity of what scholars now refer to as “Late Antiquity,” a period comprising the centuries from the Third through the Fifth during which the Roman Imperium saw its organizational collapse in the West and, perhaps more importantly, the demise of Paganism as the public religion of Imperial society and its replacement by Christianity in the form of the Church in its Latin, Greek, and Coptic branches.  The religiosity of Late Antiquity has, for Fox, a peculiar flavor.  It runs to intensity, not only in the contest between the old religion and the new, but within the old and the new, where disagreements over belief set people at odds theologically.  Another element in that peculiar flavor is that, on both the Pagan and Christian sides, theology absorbed philosophy, which, at the time, the school of Neoplatonism dominated.  This absorption of philosophy into theology resulted in elaborate systems of strict syllogism, on the one hand, interconnected with mystic speculation, on the other.  Folk-religion also infiltrated these systems and along with it, the motifs of magic.  People of Late Antiquity all over the Mediterranean world had vivid, personal encounters with gods, angels, and demons.  Although Fox criticizes the arguments of E. R. Dodds in the latter’s Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety (1966), he acknowledges that in the folk-basis of Late-Antique worship, prophylaxis against bad luck played a prominent role.  Such prominence indicates a linkage between the psychological state of anxiety, longstanding and pervasive, and the character of religious practice. The mere appearance of a god — on the road, at sea, or in a public place before a crowd — placated the ubiquitous unease of the age.

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Whom Do We Imitate?

We imitate absolutely everybody, at least potentially. We will imitate homeless drug addicts with psychiatric disorders, our boss, celebrities, our children, and anyone we interact with socially. When anyone at all says “Hi” to you, you will say “Hi” back, unless we are angry with them and are passively aggressively refusing to speak to them. In a small town, when we walk down the street, other pedestrians might give a little close-lipped half-smile, we give exactly the same close-lipped smile back. You extend your hand in friendly greeting, I extend my hand in friendly greeting. Someone, such as the homeless person, addresses me rudely and angrily, I address them rudely and angrily, unless, for instance, I am worried the homeless guy might be a physical threat. We cannot exist socially without constant imitation. Conversationally, you wait for me to finish my sentence. I wait for you to finish your thought. You reveal some intimate thing about yourself, I do the same. Continue reading

Never Panic

There are two options now before me; before America; before the West; before Christendom, as we all approach what seems to be a cultural crisis hundreds of years in the making: either to panic, or to commend our spirits to God, so renewing our pledge of fealty to him our Captain, and then to keep fighting, and before all else to keep praying.

There must be a demonic aspect to the present crisis. Our adversaries on all sides are too various, distributed and yet spookily coordinated for any merely human agency to have organized them so well. Another clue to their demonic inspiration: they are rather dense, as befits an army dedicated to confusion and disorder. They make stupid, obvious mistakes, such as threatening election officials – a federal offense – and then posting recordings of those threats online.

Synchronistically, I just finished the book Daimonic Reality: a Field Guide to the Otherworld, by Patrick Harpur. I have been reading about demons and angels a lot over the last five years or so. I had not wondered why, until yesterday morning. The topic is interesting, but so are many others. Why had I got on to it? Perhaps, I then thought for the first time, out of the blue: perhaps, it has something to do with our present crisis. Perhaps I have been prepared. Or we: for, I am not special. Lots of people in recent years have begun to take angels and demons rather more seriously than had been the case since 1900 or so.

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Plato and Love

10Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and all your soul. And your neighbor as yourself. This is the first and greatest commandment.

Love is experiential, mysterious, and only minimally analyzable. Kant was suspicious of it because it cannot be commanded, it comes and goes, and thus seems like an unfirm foundation for ethics. It is, however, central to Plato’s philosophy (and Christianity). It drives the development and the education of the philosopher. The philosopher is defined by love. He is the lover of wisdom and wisdom is practical. A pretentious hypocrite is not wise. The merely intelligent are not wise. Plato loved the Form of the Good, and Beauty, Justice, and Truth, its progeny. Continue reading

The Morlock Question

“One consequence is the breeding in the slums of our great cities . . . of a hoard of semi-barbarians, whose unskilled labor is neither required in our present complex industrial organization, nor capable of earning a maintenance there.” 

Sidney Webb, The Difficulties of Individualism (1896)

“Proletarianism is a state of feeling rather than a matter of outward circumstance.” 

Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, vol. 5 (1939)

Webb wrote this line as a Fabian socialist, and therefore argued that the “hoard of semi-barbarians” could be redeemed if the state would only take up their cause and civilize them.  He believed that “the private ownership of land and capital” was the root cause of this hoard of semi-barbarians, because private property had an “evil effect on human character and the multiplication of the race.”  Webb therefore believed that this evil effect would disappear if only land and capital passed into the hands of the state. Continue reading

On to Martyrdom & Everlasting Victory

Whatever the outcome of the present electoral controversy in the United States, it seems that we are bound soon to some radical political crisis, that will profoundly shape the American future – and, so, the future of all Christendom, such as she still is.

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