Holiness Spirals versus Sanctity

Holiness spirals are a problem only insofar as those who in them signal their virtue are not in fact auguring in on true sanctity. Truly holy men are the *opposite* of a problem; rather, they are the whole point and summit of the human endeavor.

But most public protestations of “holiness” are in fact evidence of profanity.

How to tell the difference?

Who signals his virtue at all is vicious. Think: “Honest Abe’s Used Cars.” It’s oxymoronic, no? If you testify to your honesty, prudent men must perforce presume your dishonesty.

The truly holy seek anonymity in their good deeds.

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Therefore when thou dost thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:1-6

Likewise, the test of fitness for public office is whether the candidate somehow or other needs it. Nolo episcopari: that’s how you can tell a fit bishop.

So if you see a holiness spiral in operation anywhere, be assured you see guilty self-hating vice covering its own tracks.

There is only one exception to this rule: where public signals of your moral commitments – of, that is to say, what you deem to be virtue – entail risk to your person, property, or family. Martyrs, and those who in their witness offer themselves up implicitly for martyrdom, are free of moral or prudential taint (at least with respect to their public testimonies).

Which means – conveniently for us orthosphereans – that reactionaries are these days in the clear with our public attestations of our reactionary convictions. Publishing them, we as much as say: come and kill us, if you dare!

True virtue abnegates self interest, even as in the ultimate analysis it efficaciously serves the true interests of the self.

How nice for us, no?

Deus vult!  Amen, amen.


6 thoughts on “Holiness Spirals versus Sanctity

  1. Pingback: Holiness Spirals versus Sanctity | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: Holiness Spirals versus Sanctity | Reaction Times

  3. @Kristor – lucid, helpful, true.

    The phrase ‘holiness spiral’ is itself of the devil (and against Good) in the situations I have seen it used – it is used covertly by the secular ‘Right’ implicitly to justify an agenda of this-worldly utilitarianism (i.e . the same anti-Christian basic agenda as the mainstream Left, but with the scope of the favoured hedonic community differently defined).

    In short: those who use the phrase holiness spiral, don’t believe in eternal holiness as a Good – they believe in pleasure/ comfort/ absence-of-suffering as the only real Good.

    • Yes. The term is implicitly ironic; it denotes not a true holiness spiral, but a “holiness” spiral. The irony is apt in that the “holiness” toward which such spirals converge is not true holiness. But those who use it seem often to presume that there is no such thing really as holiness, toward which we might tend (and therefore ought to tend).

  4. As I understand it, a holiness spiral is a sort of demonic dance in which members of a group strive to outdo each other in ostentatious displays of ersatz piety. Of course an individual who sticks to this sort of dancing will, over time, outdo himself; but social striving and status seeking are at the heart of the spiral. The “hypocrites in the synagogues and on the streets” are trying to upstage each other, and are thus acting out of envy and pride rather than love.

    I agree with Bruce that the term “holiness spirals” encourages cynicism about holiness itself, but so does the spectacle of the spirals themselves. I think, for instance, that the exquisite fastidiousness of environmentalists caught in a holiness spiral actually harms the environment by making environmental stewardship seem absurd. Or consider the way that stories of the extreme sexual decorum of the Victorians have been used to ridicule all sexual decorum. Or consider the way that today’s holiness spirals about racial etiquette are used as an excuse for the most boorish forms of racism.

    Holiness spirals are not only vain so far has those in the holiness spiral are concerned, but they also poison the well of true holiness. The hypocrite who “loves to pray on the street” actually makes prayer itself seem hypocritical. Jingoism tends to taint true patriotism. Pedantry tends to taint scholarship.


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