Moloch is But a Vassal of Our True Enemy

Back in 2010, I commented to a post at VFR:

Nominalism is satanic, I’m telling you. It’s a device to destroy man. Convicted nominalism has to end in suicide, whether cultural or personal. If there are no transcendent values, but rather only and merely our own personal, private preferences, then our personal private preferences are false to facts. This is a little tricky to see, until we draw the analogy to the schizophrenic. The schizophrenic’s impression that there are black helicopters pursuing him are peculiar to him. The black helicopters are not really there. So we understand that his impressions are illusions. But nominalism says that the values we apprehend in things and people and activities, like the black helicopters, are not objectively real. And this means that our feelings of value are—just like the schizophrenic’s black helicopters — hallucinations. They are false. Nominalism says that there is in reality no value out there to be had.

But to say that there is no value really to be found in the world is nihilism. And the consistent nihilist, who has the courage of his convictions, cannot believe that his own life, or anyone else’s life, or the life of his nation, are worth a hill of beans. So he cannot find any way to defend them—none at all. And this will result in death, one way or another, even if only through the sheer lassitude of utter ennui.

I thought at the time I sent that comment to Lawrence, God rest his soul, that in characterizing a school of epistemology as satanic I was perhaps engaging in a bit of rhetorical hyperbole. Firing for effect, as it were.

But then, the other night, I was reading An Exorcist Explains the Demonic: the Antics of Satan and His Army of Fallen Angels, by Father Gabriele Amorth, SSP. Father Amorth was for many years the exorcist of the Diocese of Rome. I read the following passage from his explanation of Satanism (beginning on page 30):

What is the [objective of Satanists]? Satanists wish to develop [their] depraved form of devotion through a diffusion of the theory and practice of three basic principles: you can do all that you wish, no one has the right to command you, and you are the god of yourself. The first principle intends to confer full liberty to the adherent on everything he wishes to do, without limits. The second is the release from the principle of authority, that is, from any obligation to obey parents, the Church, the state, and whoever places restrictions in the name of the common good. The third denies all the truth that comes directly from God: paradise, the inferno, purgatory, judgment, the Ten Commandments, the precepts of the Church, Mary, and so forth.

With a shudder, I recognized our Enemy. Don’t you? Compare Justice Kennedy’s infamous statement in Planned Parenthood versus Casey:

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

Of that statement, Clifford Goldstein wrote in 1997 [emphases mine]:

… it’s ironic that mostly political conservatives attack it, because at the heart of Justice Kennedy’s at-the-heart statement is the essential message of political conservatism, and that is personal liberty.

On the surface all this metaphysical “universe,” “meaning,” and “existence” stuff does sound like something uttered from a channeler or from Shirley McClaine (Judge Robert Beezer of the U.S. Court of Appeals said that the phrase can – especially out of context – sound “so broad and melodramatic as to seem almost comical in its rhetorical flourish”), but what Kennedy says does, in fact, encapsulate basic Jeffersonian conservatism, and had Kennedy written the sentence in dissent to Casey’s affirmation of abortion “rights” (which is at the heart of the rancor over the dictum), this same quote would have been seen as sweeping summary of classical conservatism.

Putting aside the actual Casey decision itself (which is problematic enough) – it’s hard to see how in principle (as opposed to the application) any freedom-loving American, especially a classical small-government-lower-taxes-gun-owning-strong-military conservative could reject Kennedy’s basic message.

“Our law affords,” the justice began the paragraph containing the infamous phrase, “constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education.” For a nation that prides itself on freedom, what else could the justice have said? “Our cases recognize ‘the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.’ Our precedents ‘have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.'” Again, what better summarizes the essence of classical conservatism? “These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.” Next comes the “mystery” passage: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” And he ends the paragraph with this: “Belief about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under the compulsion of the state.”

Whether the “right” to an abortion appropriately expresses this philosophy is surely an open question. But so often what’s attacked is the phrase itself, as if those words somehow were blatantly hostile to sacred constitutional principles. Yet despite their somewhat otherworldly tone, they clearly reflect the essence of what a government designed to protect the religious rights – indeed, all the rights – of its citizens should be about.

In fact, “one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” depicts, essentially, religious ideals. After all, what is religion if not an attempt to explain existence, the universe, and human life? Had Kennedy used more Judeo-Christian phraseology, like “one’s own concept of Deity, of Creation, of man’s relationship to God,” he would have been saying the same thing while no doubt sparing himself the ridicule that the phrase itself, especially taken out of context, has engendered. On the other hand, perhaps Kennedy purposely used desacralized language in order to avoid the problems caused by such statements as Justice Douglas’s oft-cited line in McCollum: “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being” (a phrase that Douglas supposedly was later sorry he made).

Whatever his motives, Kennedy’s “notorious mystery passage” is neither notorious nor a mystery; it is, instead, a politically correct expression of the best principles of a people who considered rights of conscience so fundamental to how they wanted to live that they framed a Constitution to protect those rights. The mystery, instead, is why those who profess to believe in those same rights should find the passage so notorious.

Indeed. Exactly. The irony is so thick, it verges on tragedy.

The bottom line is this: the appeal to personal liberty can be used to undermine or support anything at all – even so drastic a curtailment of personal liberty as ruling murder effected via abortion a sacrosanct right of all women. And, the assertion that life is essentially and thus incorrigibly mysterious, which is to say, fundamentally unintelligible, so that no one can authoritatively dictate the terms of reality – this being a retail version of the doctrine of nominalism as practically implemented – is effectually the assertion that life is worthless.

Either reality is essentially up for grabs, and is what we make of it, so that nothing is more important or worthy or justifiable than anything else, and nihilism is the only apt attitude; or, not. Only in the latter case can there be such a thing as true good, true virtue, true beauty, true truth – or true life.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Ephesians 6:12

16 thoughts on “Moloch is But a Vassal of Our True Enemy

  1. Pingback: Moloch is But a Vassal of Our True Enemy | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: Moloch is But a Vassal of Our True Enemy | Reaction Times

  3. Apologies if this is slightly off topic, but I was reading Pope Pius X’s big encyclical condemning Modernism the other night, from which I extracted and saved for future reference the following quote:

    In the meantime the proper course for the Catholic will be to proclaim publicly his profound respect for authority, while never ceasing to follow his own judgment.

    This is spot on and prophetic. Pope Pius is of course addressing Catholics and Modernism’s effects on Catholics specifically as is proper, but we can replace the word “Catholic,” with “Protestant,” or “mainstream conservative,” etc., etc., and the statement is just as relevant and accurate.

    Modernism/Liberalism is an equal opportunity destroyer.

    • Modernism/Liberalism is an equal opportunity destroyer.

      Aye. Everyone is equal before its law; it is no respecter of persons. The Revolution eventually devours even her own authors.

  4. It is surely satanic that the privacy of the family can be used by the state as an excuse to permit the murder of an unborn child, yet the same state now seems to disregard the notion of privacy when it comes to over-ruling the rights of parents to object to their children’s undergoing sex-change.

    • Whatever x can be used as a means of destruction shall be used. Whatever x obstructs that destruction must be destroyed.

      The Left is not consistent, or coherent, and does not notice its inconsistency and incoherence as defects – indeed, does not usually notice them at all – because it is a child of the Father of Lies.

  5. I don’t really see what is “essentially” conservative about the “mystery of life” passage. It adopts the Left’s radical philosophy of the supremacy of private, personal meanings of words. For the Right, words have always had an historical, cultural context from which they derive their meaning. If you don’t have that context, then you can’t have any law at all.

    It might be true that Jefferson would be pleased with the reasoning, such as it is. But I don’t consider Jefferson one of the paragons of conservatism.

    • You are right that, as “conservative” was first used, Kennedy’s passage is not conservative. But in these latter days, “conservative” has usually been taken to mean what “liberal” first meant: advocacy of personal liberty, as against the liberties of the state. “Conservative” is these days cognate with “libertarian.” Libertarians and classical liberals are not conservative in the original sense of that term, except in virtue of unprincipled exceptions, by which they smuggle Natural Law or Divine Law into the political mix, as furnishing the absolute standards and ideals of virtue and sanity to which free rational untrammeled minds must in the long run putatively tend – this tendency being the means by which the traditions beloved of reactionaries stochastically evolved.

      “Conservative” libertarianism combines the freedom of conscience ostensibly championed (but really abhorred) by the Left (which abhors the Good, ergo the conscience thereof) with a rejection of nominalism and an emphasis on transcendental truths.

      There is much to be said for it. It’s just that, from one generation to another, libertarianism is not by itself enough to sustain society. Traditions aren’t really quite traditions if they are subject to radical revision by every untrammeled mind. This, even though traditions perdure by means of individual minds never quite wholly trammeled. For, as a tradition is not traditional if it is subject to whim, nor is it traditional if it is not alive to circumstance. Not for long, anyway.

      Traditions need lively, trammeled minds. Trammels are the forecondition of liveliness. No form, no being.

      For tradition to perdure through the generations, *so that* it can be amended as circumstances require, *it must be authoritatively imposed.* It must be inculcated, and enforced. This imposition, inculcation and enforcement need not engender feelings of discomfiture, or therefore of injustice. The denizens of a living tradition are indeed subject to power relations – every creature is – but they have no sense that their predicaments are anywise inapt, or unjust. A living tradition is to the people whom it governs as the water is to the fish: the unnoticed medium and proscenium of their acts. To a man living within a living tradition, it is simply inconceivable that he might possibly live in some untraditional way; or, if it is conceivable, it is abhorrent.

      No traditions, no possibility of deeply meaningful, coherent social action.

      Howsoever ameliorated by the unprincipled importation of traditional notions, libertarianism is in its essential insistence on the primordial primacy of individual liberty at odds with tradition, and with the authoritative imposition upon which tradition supervenes.

      So at last is it at odds with itself.

      It just doesn’t work to temper pure libertarianism with a shot of tradition. Not even twelve shots will do. It has to go the other way round. Tradition is the forecondition of liberty. First, you need a tradition, authoritatively imposed – which is only to say, some social order or other – then, within the constraints of that tradition, you can have some liberty. The habit and custom of liberty after all *just is* a parochial cultural tradition – of the Aryans, as a matter of fact – or it is nothing at all, but a passing phase in an endless chaotic war.

  6. A conservative believes in traditional personal liberties. He believes he is free in those matters men have always been free in, when their society was a just and free society. A leftist believes men should be free in matters where they have never been free (such as to say they are not men), and that they should not be free in matters where they always were (such as to feel pity for a man who says he is not a man).

    Leftism made libertarians look like our allies, but they are not; for as you say, libertarianism is premised on nominalism, and nominalism is nihilism with a limp wrist.

    Good post!

    • Thanks, JM. It seems to me that libertarians have of late been forking into two camps. One is that of the ideological purists. They are anarchists, mostly. The other recognizes that the liberties they treasure – those of the traditional Englishman – are, and must be, constrained by the tradition upon which they supervene, and depend: by custom, culture, and their formalization in the common law. It recognizes, i.e., that the liberty proper to men such as themselves is founded upon transcendental principles; that it is not, and cannot be, founded upon nominalism. Some of them even begin to dare to contemplate that among those transcendental principles is royal monarchy – itself, of course, also constrained by custom, culture, and common law.

  7. This is a fabulous post. Fr Amorth’s characterization of Satanism is indistinguishable from Satanists’ characterization of Satanism. For example, in Aleister Crowley’s famous formulation “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” The differences in outlook between Justice Kennedy, The Founding Masons, and Aleister Crowley are pretty small. Crowley and Kennedy are just the further logical development of America-the-idea.

    • I had not thought of Crowley’s famous summary, but of course it fits immaculately.

      Compare Augustine’s summation of the Law: “*Love God,* and do what thou then wilt.” You can see that Crowley’s summation is heretical. Like all heresy, it begins with a truth, and then takes off from it at a damnable tangent. It takes Augustine’s complete summation and lops off the first, basic, crucial bit, upon which all ordered action – i.e., all good action – depends.

      It is I must say rather hair-raising to reflect that nominalism in all its recondite, earnest and well-meaning instantiations is more or less a project of Hell; that the cheerful professor down the hall is an unwitting minion of damnation.

      • Yes. I’m not sure heresy is even a strong enough word. “Do what you will after conforming your will to God’s” is barely even related to “Do what you will.” The meaning is almost completely inverted.

        It’s worth adding that the modern mind is apt to read “love God” as “have warm, sloppy, emotional feelings for your sky boyfriend.” Our Lord Himself, with Augustine doubtless following, says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

      • Exactly. Keeping his commandments is the way we love Christ. It isn’t a matter of emotion at all, but of praxis. To love is to will – and, so, to do – the good. So if we are confused about how to love God, all we need do is refer to his commandments, and then get on with keeping them.

        If we do, Jesus goes on to say, then he will pray his father to give us another Comforter: the Holy Spirit of Truth – of the Logos – that he might bide with us forever (John 14:15-17). I.e., that the mind will be in us that is also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), so that we discern the Truth by him, as he does. Seeing all things by and in him, and so as he does, we will want what he does. Then only shall we live our true lives. This is what is meant by the statement that our life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3); for, Christ *just is* our life (Colossians 3:4).

  8. Pingback: This Week In Reaction (2018/03/18) - Social Matter


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