A sovereign who has lost the Mandate of Heaven is no longer legitimate, and is sooner or later doomed.
“Legitimate” stems from the Latin legitimus, which meant originally “fixed by law, in line with the law.” Sovereigns lose their legitimacy and so – with their domains – become weak when they promulgate law that is at variance with the Law of GNON – laws that are perverse, and that are therefore at war with Heaven, and so with Earth. Such laws are themselves illegitimate. As perverse, and so ill fitted to things as they truly are, they cannot work too well – indeed, prevent things from working as well as they might otherwise have done in the absence of their interference – and force all those who obey them to enact by that obedience an ontological falsehood; to behave falsely, to lie by their acts. Everything then starts to go wrong, as acts informed by bad law work out badly in practice.
As deformed by ill-formed law, and so less properly coordinated to reality, acts grow more and more corrupted by noise and error, and so tend further to corrupt their successors. Confidence in acts deteriorates, uncertainty increases; legal, compliance and due diligence costs rise; regulation by the sovereign cannot but increase; so commerce is ever harder, riskier, and more anxious. Counterparties then become more and more dubious. Social trust degrades. Things fall apart; the center no longer holds. The people then no longer credit the sovereign viscerally, or believe in him. Their guts tell them that the sovereign is lying to them about what is real, and about how they ought therefore to act. They grow cynical and bitter – not to mention poor, so restless and irritable.
There are many things for a traditionalist to dislike in the postmodern university. Its bigotry and persecution of traditionalists, for instance. But too many traditionalists have allowed this dislike to darken their reason and betray them into placing their hope in two dangerous nostrums. Continue reading →
I had an unoriginal thought worked out this morning that I wanted to share. Mostly it’s already well-established, but it does go in a slightly novel direction in explaining the ‘holiness’ spiral of modern society.
Modern progressive liberalism (viz. WW2 and after) is a specific negative type of Christianity. That much is obvious. Where our once-for-all and yet repeated-daily Eucharist (Malachi) is the navel and foundation of our religion, the Holocaust is the navel and foundation of modern progressive liberalism (hereafter MPL to save keystrokes).
“What is tolerance nowadays? Is it a moral virtue in the possessor, or is it a recognition of a necessity arising from an equilibrium of parties? It often seems to me that we speak of it as if it is the first, when actually it is the second.” (Letter of Mandell Creighton to Lord Acton, April 9, 1887)*
Mandell Creighton was an English churchman and historian, and he wrote these lines in answer to Lord Acton’s savage review of the second volume of his History of the Papacy During the Period of the Reformation. Although Creighton was himself one sort of liberal, he had described the persecutions of the early fifteenth-century Church with an air of tolerant understanding, and this outraged Acton, who was another sort of liberal. Continue reading →
We can’t work our way into Heaven, for finity is incapable of infinity. Indeed, we cannot achieve anything greater than ourselves, whatever; but only, rather, what is lesser than we. So, Heaven is given to us gratuitously. Our work consists only in accepting its invitation; in wu wei.
So then, there is a difference between interior holiness spirals and exterior holiness spirals. The former are done in secret, and in service of true spiritual ends, so as to accept the invitation of the Logos; whereas the latter are done publicly, and for purposes of social advantage. As essentially worldly, exterior holiness spirals partake the Arms Race to the Degenerate Bottom. They are motivated by the urge to be accepted and approved by the mob. So do they accept the conditions of the mob, and instantiate it.
Authoritative sacerdotal hierarchy controls for competitive holiness spirals which, unconstrained, are vicious positive feedback cycles that cannot but end in schism and war – in cultural disaster.
Holiness spirals are not first a search for social status, but rather for ontological safety. Nevertheless, once they have got going, they do result in an arms race to see who is holiest, thus of the highest moral and political rank, and thus least suitable as a scapegoat.
They are driven not by the nisus toward excellence, but by fear. Nor – apart from the minds of the spiritually ingenious – is the fear that drives them fundamentally supernatural – which is to say, in sane minds, sane and proper – but rather mundane, social, profane, and as such – not being ordered to the Truth himself, but to a Fallen social milieu – fundamentally disordered.
Holiness spirals are, first, a search for the proper constraints of true sanctity and righteousness upon conduct. When there is no established sacerdotal hierarchy that can authoritatively define the unquestionable constraints of holiness and righteousness, and then offer people a way to get back within those constraints when they have strayed beyond their pale – that can give them a way to know that they have reached safe harbor – people are going to push and push toward holiness however they can discern it according to their own best lights, without let or correction, and without possibility of any satisfactory completion of the search (because a forecondition of success for any search is a definition of success – such as can be authoritatively furnished to the searcher only by an incontrovertible authority). Anyone who disagrees with the notions of those who find that as a result of their quest for holiness they themselves are of the holiest sort then becomes a legitimate scapegoat in their eyes, and so a social enemy. There is then mutual repudiation and scapegoating of adversarial sectarians; mutual excommunication; schism; and, with the ensuing conflict of irreconcilable cults, civil war either hot or cold.
“‘Passive evangelism’ goes both ways, and you don’t look winsome to the abyss without it looking winsome back to you, or, more importantly, to your kids.”
The epigraph comes from a review of Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option (2017) by the intermittent but invariably impressive blogger known as Handel. I strongly encourage you to read the whole review here, but advise you to first brew a very large coffee, since it is very long. For those who are too harried or impatient for that, it may be enough to know that Handel says to Dreher what Aragorn said to Frodo after the calamity at the Prancing Pony. Continue reading →
Personal circumstances have given me occasion to think about the resentment that naturally festers between young men who are trying to get ahead and old men who are trying to hold on. To a young man, an elderly colleague appears as a creaky and long-winded valetudinarian, who dresses funny, probably doesn’t smell very nice at close quarters, and may be suspected of napping when his office door is closed. To an old man, a youthful colleague appears as a brash and bumptious braggart, who dresses funny, probably doesn’t smell very nice at close quarters, and may be suspected of sexual improprieties when his office door is closed. Continue reading →
There are students who will wrangle for every possible point, and like the proverbial penny-pincher, I suppose these inveterate wranglers wind up richest in the end. “A point here, a point there, and before you know it, you’re talking a whole a whole letter grade. And, you know, that G.P.A isn’t going to raise itself.” Continue reading →
Those Highly Individuated Champions of the Oppressed Bravely Hiding their Faces
When Publius Virgilius Maro, more familiarly Virgil, accepted the commission from Augustus, formerly Gaius Octavius, to create a national identity for the Roman people by matching the epic precocity of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in Latin verse, the imperial presumption can only have been that such an identity did not yet exist or, at least, did not adequately exist, but required to be conjured into a useful state of being. Virgil’s famous ambiguity about his manuscript of the Aeneid – his having composed a note during his fatal illness asking his friends to burn its pages on his death – has been ascribed by one faction of scholarship to his worry about metrical imperfections in some verses of the poem’s second half. As only a few such technical flaws make themselves evident, however, some other explanation must be sought. The German novelist Hermann Broch, in his Death of Virgil (1945), suggests a crisis of conscience, reflecting the poet’s qualm that in synthesizing a myth of Latin and Roman origins so as to settle legitimacy on the adoptive heir of Julius Caesar, and thus also on the newly constituted monarchy into which the Republic had been absorbed, he had falsified tradition and served propaganda, whereas his highest calling was to honor the muse by cultivating her art. The crisis of identity appears as a theme in the Aeneid, the first six books of which narrate the exile and homelessness of the refugees from Troy, whose buildings the besieging Greeks have toppled and burned, whose men they have slaughtered, and whose women and children they have impressed into slavery. Troy is no more and no more is the Trojan people. There is only a desperate remnant in the urgency of its flight. Continue reading →