Heterodoxy ipso facto Disenchants the World

When there is more than one cult competing for the credence and loyalty of the people, their chthonic cult is by that contest relevated to their conscious attention as an item for consideration that is disparate from their immediate confrontation with the world of their concrete experience. The abstraction of religion from mundane life that necessarily results has the effect of profaning that life; for, on that abstraction, it is not at all any more essentially and prerationally bound by the metaphysics, the ontology, and the deontology of the chthonic cult – or therefore by the normal and customary constraints of its praxis, mores, customs, and ukases – as from time immemorial it had been. It is on the contrary rather something quite other than and independent of what the cult supposes it to be, and about which the cult might be quite wrong. The deliverances of empirical experience are not then called into question; but their traditional cultic interpretations and settlements certainly are. So mundane life is then radically liberated from the cult that had theretofore informed it. It is cut loose; it is adrift; it is in danger. So then likewise are the men who have been set free of any masterful supervision, to make their own way in the world, each to devise his own cult as he sees fit, unconstrained by tradition or mastery or hard won knowledge.

At the first sign of heterodoxy in a culture, then, things have already begun to fall apart radically (for, the cult is the root of the culture). Heterodoxy is the outward schismatic manifestation of the fact that men are already thinking about religion abstractly. They would not be doing so if they apprehended no problems with the orthodox cult. But religion considered consciously as disparate from mere life is by nature vitiated, merely intellectual, sound and fury signifying almost nothing. Its abstraction in thought renders it then malleable; alternatives occur to the questing mind, and by virtue only of that occurrence take on life and probity. The alternatives multiply, and soon their own variations are discovered.

It follows that neither the orthodox cult nor its heterodox alternatives are any longer quite adequate to life as concretely lived. They are rendered pale thin tentative hypotheses; unreliable, inadequate, and at the last analysis no more than idle hand waving, listless, wistful. Revelation is vitiated. It is annulled.

The numinous having been reduced to a theology, concrete life is then emptied of its sacred character. Confidence is sapped. Meaninglessness, ennui, and despair then rush in to the vacuum thus created. Anomie soon follows, and social dissolution: bare ruined choirs. Politics and civil war ensue.

33 thoughts on “Heterodoxy ipso facto Disenchants the World

  1. Kristor – This is clearly argued, but for me a reductio ad absurdum; given that Christianity just-is a religion of individual, chosen knowledge, assent, belief, love.

    As a counter-example, consider the lives of the disciples as described in the Fourth Gospel. Their situation was utterly different from that you describe as the ideal, yet their lives were surely ‘enchanted’. Jesus told them that this could continue after his ascension, by means of the Holy Ghost. I think this teaching was meant to be generalisable beyond the disciples in the room at that time.

    Heterodoxy is therefore inevitable, inbuilt – and all history seems to be consistent with this interpretation. Which (by your argument) renders Christianity impossible in principle.

    I think your argument would work much better for Islam than Christianity; but there is always a need for individual discernment unless there is aboslute uniformity and universality of every aspect of religion, and a person was brought up in it, and was never conscious of anything else…

    Even if this behaviourist ‘paradise’ of unconscious, automatic obedience to a single truth were possible (which I do not believe), it would negate the absolute requirement for personal explicit choice that is (surely?) at the heart of Christianity.

    • Orthodoxy and Christianity are not incompatible. Orthodox Christianity does not at all relieve the believer of the obligation to make the personal explicit choice either for or against Christ. Indeed, the spiritual praxis of Christianity boils down to making this choice repeatedly, and – one hopes – ever more whole heartedly.

      If as you suggest Christianity were essentially heterodox, then – given that there could not in that case be any such thing as orthodoxy – every man would be *forced* to invent the religion for himself, from scratch, and from the ground up. No communion of believers in a common set of ideas could then possibly form, and the Christian religion would have no churches, nor any monastic institutions – no social institutions of any sort whatever.

      There are churches – indeed, the oldest social institution on the planet, by far, is the Church – so there can be Christian orthodoxy. Christianity does not seem to be impossible in principle.

      The experience of the Apostles is not a counterexample. On the contrary.

      Jesus and the Apostles were born into a society profoundly riven by radically divergent competing endogenous cults, that was furthermore under intense competitive pressure from hundreds of exogenous cults and cultures (there were so many foreign cults competing for attention in Galilee that it was called “Galilee of the Gentiles”). The Jewish sects reviled each other, and the authority of the Temple priesthood was challenged on every side. First century Palestine was a mess. It was a cauldron simmering with rage and hatred – assassins roamed the streets, killing their adversaries – and liable to boil over into war at any moment. And war did break out, again and again.

      The Jews of Palestine were desperate for a voice of religious authority, who could settle their bitter internecine disputes by guiding them into truth, and thus into peace. They heard it from Jesus. He reenchanted their horribly ugly painful disenchanted world. He taught them many truths.

      As he insisted, the doctrines he taught were by no means an abrogation of a single jot or tittle of the Law. On the contrary, he said that his teachings were the fulfillment and thus the full realization of the religion of Israel. In other words, God regarded the revelation to the Jews by Jesus as *entirely orthodox.* His teachings became the basis of the Magisterium that has ever since defined Christian orthodoxy.

      Now, the process by which the Magisterial definition of orthodoxy transpires is often pretty untidy. Indeed, it has many times involved acrimonious, sometimes violent disputation between men of widely different opinions. At every stage also there have been a variety of opinions within the Church, and the doctrinal conversation of the Church is ceaseless. It cannot end – i.e., we cannot finish explicating Christian doctrine, cannot get all the way to the bottom of Christianity, and expound all its truths – while the world endures; for, Jesus did so many things that, were they all to be written down, the world would not be big enough to contain all the books of them. [John 21:25]

      So, Christian orthodoxy does not rule out development of doctrine. It rules out only development of incoherent doctrine.

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  3. Nice exposition, but I see the complication in the fact, that if this happens in a space of Christian culture, which inherently values truth – and there is only one truth – it has to be revived precisely by the return to the disordered simplicity of direct experience, no?

    • Not necessarily. That there is heterodoxy all over the place does not mean that there is nowhere any orthodoxy – which is to say, literally, any right opinion, thus any knowledge of truth. It does to be sure mean that orthodoxy is harder to find; it increases the search costs faced by all believers (this is why there are so many self-described “seekers” these days – just as there were in the First Century). Direct personal revelation can certainly help a seeker discern the right doctrine, but it is not strictly necessary. Careful thought can help, too. So can intuition – hunches – and conscience – qualms and scruples. Even the body is a help. If something feels wrong to your gut, it is almost certainly wrong in fact.

      • Interesting. So to get this straight – you understand orthodoxy to be something you find in a book, not something that you develop by the means you described later?

        Because my point is that when the situation gets bad enough, you can circumvent the heterodox situation by going back to the obvious basics and figuring out an expression in action for them. This unites the sphere and voila (your assembly experience may vary).

        In any case, I believe that an important and often underestimated quality of “orthodoxy” (as I understand the term) is that it is actionable. I think the overestimated part is in our expectations that there will be good answers for bad questions.

        Secondly, it seems to me that you take the acquisition and the dissemination of the right opinion to be the goal, but this seems questionable, with the fragmentation of the media world and all…

        Thank you Kristor, your pieces are viciously intelligent and I enjoy them quite a bit.

      • Sorry for doubleposting, but I have now read your reply to Bruce Charleton and I have a better idea about what you mean and I must say that I am impressed. I think my objections are still quite relevant, but I fully concur on your broader point.

        This happened to me before with you! I have to remember that you keep the real treasures for the comment section 🙂

      • Thanks, Oldřich; and, you are welcome. Responding to comments is actually my favorite part of blogging, because it forces me to think things through more carefully – especially so, given the great intelligence and erudition of the Orthospherean commentariat. In the process, I often learn quite new things – discover unsuspected implications of what I had written in the original post, or in other comments. Much can be learned just from the process of clarifying concepts and terms more and more carefully, and so drawing distinctions between different but closely related concepts and terms. The one that comes to mind is the distinction between image and likeness. Good stuff.

        … you understand orthodoxy to be something you find in a book, not something that you develop by the means you described later? … Because … when the situation gets bad enough, you can [go] back to the obvious basics and [figure them out].

        I understand orthodoxy to be something you *can* find in books, *and* that you develop by the means I described later. You need those other means when you are poking around in books looking for orthodoxy, because in order to get anything at all out of a book, you must interpret the terms and concepts used by the author. And it is terrifically easy to err in so doing; easy then to think you are on the right track, when in fact you have gone badly astray, and are far down the wrong primrose path. All seems sunny, but the path leads over a cliff, or to an impassable brick wall.

        All this is so a fortiori for ancient books translated into modern English, or Latin.

        All men are priests, certainly. And, even more certainly, all priests are sinners; so that there are lots of rotten priests, who are very bad at the job. Reading scripture without the guidance of a holy erudite Master is therefore extremely dangerous.

        This is one reason the Magisterium is so helpful. The Magisterium has already made almost all the beginner’s mistakes – and the sophomore’s mistakes, and the clever silly doctor’s mistakes, and the mystic’s mistakes – of textual, philosophical, and theological interpretation, and corrected them. Over the millennia, the more or less rotten priests partaking the Magisterial discourse – many of them saints – have detected and corrected each other’s errors and oversights, and have then submitted their work to the continuous criticism of their successors in the Tradition. The Magisterium is therefore a wonderfully valuable time saver for researchers. In using this immense and therefore somewhat intimidating resource, Denziger is a good place to start. It’s like an index to the whole shooting match. The Catholic Encyclopedia is also invaluable.

        When I started out, I generally tried to figure things out for myself, based on what I was reading. Nowadays, whenever I feel puzzled about x, I first go look it up and see what the saints, doctors and theologians of the Church have written about it. I often find that I had not understood what x was in the first place, so that I was asking the wrong questions. Discovering the truth about x, one often experiences an exhilarating rush of comprehension even as things fall satisfactorily into their proper and comprehensible order; vast new landscapes then open themselves to the eye of the intellect, and then all sorts of interesting new questions and ideas present themselves. Not only that, but often I find that the truth about x has far more sublime and fantastic implications than I had ever suspected were even possible. Viz., once you understand Incarnation more or less properly – which takes a deal of metaphysics – then Transubstantiation makes a lot more sense – becomes straightforward, completely unproblematic, almost inevitable – and then the hair rises all over your body as you realize *you’ve been eating God.* The world spins upside down and is suddenly also quite still. It’s terrific.

        It’s also really fun to find your first or second hunch about the solution to a puzzle (it’s pretty much impossible to discover that you are puzzled about x unless you are already working with a hunch about x) right there in the teachings of a 4th Century Doctor, or in the 4 A’s: Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas.

        … it seems to me that you take the acquisition and the dissemination of the right opinion to be the goal …

        Well, I would certainly rather hold to right opinions than wrong. Wrong opinions lead to wrong acts, whereas right opinions offer at least the possibility of right action. So, right opinion is the proximal goal, that serves the ultimate goal: right action; which is to say, righteousness; which is to say, the proper fear of the Lord.

      • Thanks Kristor. I certainly have a tendency to moan about the intellectual life, but then I remember a moment like the one you have described, when a heap of unruly facts folds itself in a flash of light of understanding into a neat and elegant structure and I am content.

        There is one significant thing to understand about the Holy Communion, if my understanding here is valid.

        You talk about truth, mystical experiences and such, but those are in principle open to anyone who is willing to wander the deserts. The sacraments are different. I understand that realizing the truth of the transubstantiation, as it is happening to you, is overwhelming, but I find it just an overwhelming that this is a realized plan, imagined an implemented by a man that used to walk around us, I find the vision most powerful when I can kind of glimpse the mystery, the dual reality, that while the cracker becomes God, it is also still a cracker, a cracker that will save your life, even though you haven’t spent ten years in a cave, cracker that performs this duty for two millennia.

        That is quite respectable

        I have a sense that people value what is rare to them and do not sufficiently appreciate their real excellence. Only makes sense.

        When I was younger, I decided to stay firmly in the point of view of “net value”, instead of seeking personal profit. I chose to study librarian science. If you eschew prestige and profit and just want to live to serve and understand in some nice shady dusty study then librarianism should be a pretty safe choice, right? I was wrong.

        I have dropped out after a year and chose instead a dead end, night shift job – about four hours to read on each shift (preparing paperwork for truckers). I read freely, following my leading principle – to pay attention to the what is nice and meaningful.

        I stayed for ten years, until I felt like I hit a space of diminishing returns and at the same time, felt something stirring in the world that we had two or three years ago.

        I feel like I have to explain this, because we live in a different worlds and the thing that has to be understood about the secular world is that it is toast. It failed. It will get back on its feet in due time though, learn from its mistakes and then we are truly done.

        I mentioned a perspective, where you consider the net value of your actions (I always though that the “net” is referring to the effect something has on the net of relationships, but apparently the source is the Latin nitere (to shine) and nitidus (elegant, trim)).

        Let’s just call this a moral outlook. The problem with secular world is that it celebrates such a stance and encourages it, so it can parasite on people, that adopt it, feeling moral superiority for “support”. Heroism calls for emulation. In a culture of “Who, me?”, the heroes are just going to leave, even if they get liked on FB.

        This is a very wide spread pattern nowadays – selfish people demanding that your virtue in a certain role has to be unconditional, otherwise you are not really a virtuous person. Which is not exactly how this works.

        In a personal conversation, you can actually move a person into the moral point of view, the net value thing I mentioned earlier, if you loosen him up a bit and gain his trust. This is how we are with close friends and family. Well – most of us. The difference between the private man and the public man is often staggering. Then you will see, what people really believe, the reality that has to be taken into account.

        It takes a conscious effort of will to stay in the moral perspective, feels a bit like those optical illusion where you can choose to see either the vase, or the two faces in profile. There is every encouragement to leave this space – the hippie will keep reassuring that the good stuff is happening anyway because the stars are aligned in a certain way, the manager will reassure that the good things are never coming, so you might as well get some, while the getting is good, the beauracracies make credible promises that they will take a good care of you, if you just let them in, just a little…

        And here you are, with the act of communion. On the very border, in the extreme case, solutions to political problems will be personal and vice versa, because the transition is not in the world, but in man’s soul and there are only two states – either the opposites oppress each other, or help each other.

        I am not a Christian now and I think that all the talk about the sins of Christian believers and priests, all the talk about misuse of power and also all the discussion about the fundamental problems, like that thing with evil, or how people are confused about trinitarian ideas, or the ideas of transubstantiation, or about metaphysics in general is just a smokescreen, a waste of effort and a deterrent.

        The real problem of Christianity is that it is in a state of discord, just like the rest of the culture, isn’t in control of the narrative and that from its basic stance it has to be, because the moral outlook is not something that you choose, a preference. Christianity cannot prosper as a choice, it has to be the soil from which the rest grows, it can handle all kinds of misuse, but I just don’t think it is even intelligible in a space of pluralism. In the world, where people have “standards”. It just is not very comfortable, if practiced right. It has no chance on the marketplace of ideas. It has to be brought forward by a small, determined and organized minority.

        Doctrine is instrumental. It is in the first place a measure to manage expectations and aspirations. How it is or is not followed has little effect on anything.

        The problem of Christian culture nowadays is that it either settles in the space determined for it by the secular culture, or lashes against the chains and both are a sign of weakness. The thing to do, of course, is to practice what is preached, accomplish great works and focus on keeping your integrity in the conflicts. Then laugh at the fumbling of your “enemies”, just as you laugh at your own sin.
        The world has changed. I have some friends of the esoteric kind, the shamans, heyokas, pranic healers and so and these are among the most treasured acquaintances of mine. They all know that the old world has ended. That more freedom now just means more bondage, that any effort to liberate is an effort spent to subjugate.

        They are also pretty open to truth and have silly immense admiration for anyone who can hold a job, or keep a family together. It is incredibly sweet. You should make an effort to step into this space.

        People do not have to be explained everything. People realize that in the upper reaches of the hierarchy, there is little but selfishness and determined will to pretend it is still 1995. But it isn’t. No one genuinely believes the Correct truth of the Current year. It is just a heap of excuses, the best ideology that can be cobbled together on the premise, that men are in essence selfish economical actors.

        There is little trust in the secular word, and so efficient organizing is impossible and where it is possible, it is often unbearable. You might think that the great gift of Orthosphere is the truth it bears and to a certain extent I think you might be right, but the real promise of Christianity body is that it could maintain communities where saying the truth and not being afraid is the rule, rather than the opposite.

        Look – if there is one thing that certainly is true about Christianity, it is at least a good excuse to be a good person, right?

        I get warm fuzzy feelings when you talk about the Magisterium. I think the veneration is well placed, but it should be accompanied by an awareness that it is our turn now. Let’s make all the cool new mistakes, of which there is plenty.

        Here is what you, as Orthosphere, could implement in a week or two, a plan with potentially revolutionary consequences that would be at the same time quite entertaining.

        You select a day and a time for a regular event, make a roster. This roster is divided into fields, each field signifies a 25 min long section. Into this field you write your name and certain conditions, the roster is opened to public and I write my name to your field, since I like the conditions you have stated. On the agreed time, we connect through videochat. After that, there is a five minute pause and another round. There should be a way how to provide anonymity, for those who would want that.

        There are two poles on which this make sense – on the very personal level, I would enjoy this and I should practice my spoken English anyway, which simply doesn’t exist at this point – and the culture at large perspective – people able to speak in an easy and focused manner on video have a disproportional impact on our culture and If you were able to draw a bunch of young men in their twenties into an arrangement like this, I would expect one of them getting good enough to eventually speak the future into existence, ten years forth or so.

        This is an example, if you have your own ideas, certainly follow your best judgement, but take into consideration that I can enjoy your articles, which I do quite a bit, because I already know that these things are true. This is a huge hurdle to pass – reaching an audience that doesn’t yet agree with you, but is open to your ideas. I think that getting discouraged is not a reasonable option. After all, that there IS a plan and the plan IS being implemented and we want to be a part of that.

        Remember the wise words of that old alien, Kristor – Try, or try not; there is no do.

  4. 1- First and foremost, acknowledgement where due: I had to make liberal use of the online dictionary while reading this, but not so liberal that I couldn’t get what you were saying. (“Chthonic” will be added to my lexicon!) You here at Orthosphere are expanding my mind greatly. Thank you.

    2- The image that came to mind on reading this is a shell game played within an overton window. At first, there are two, maybe three cups, but one is glowing brilliantly with the radiance of Truth. It makes it easy to pick the right one. As time progresses, more and more cups are put within the window, creating a false equivalency, making it harder to see through them all to pick the one that is glowing brilliantly with the radiance of Truth. People falsely believe that they should not pick any until each have been duly considered.

    3- The phenomenon you describe is true in many if not all cases. Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame and persuasion blogging) described the problem in a different context as ‘confusopoly’. He had an experiment where he defined the features and parameters of a specific vehicle he wanted to buy. He went to the dealer and asked for the specific thing he wanted. In successive iterations, they were able to meet more and more of his demands, and where they failed, offered ‘next best alternatives’ but at no point did they offer the specific thing he was asking for. “Crowding the field” with options makes it impossible to get what you want unless you already know. This creates the problem for Christianity in that people are not passively receiving any information about it, because the noise-level is so high they tune it all out. Conversions happen when people go looking for it.

    4- “Bare, ruined choirs”. From the recent news from the Methodists, wherein they voted on the morality of homosexuality, one disapproving observer remarked: “I am so disgusted, I would leave if I didn’t love my Handbell group.” I laughed when I heard that, but you hit the nail on the head. For all their music there is no worship. That observer worships the handbells, apparently they are able to override her conscience as it pertains to mortal sin.

    • Thanks, Scoot. Glad to oblige. English is a titanic cultural inheritance. It behooves all traditionalists and reactionaries to master her, more and more, so as to preserve and defend our Mother Tongue from the constant assaults against her. If we lose English, we are in big trouble.

      Crowding the field with options is a stratagem of the Enemy. He wants us confused by noise, and skeptical of any authority, and thus skeptical that there is any such thing as authority. People end up like Pilate, honestly asking, “what is truth?” This, even when Truth himself is standing right in front of them, looking them in the eye. Our confusion makes it lots easier to tempt us.

      You are right about those bare ruined handbells. No matter how hard you work to make your vain repetitions beautiful, they’ll still be vain, and tend to damnation.

      “Bare ruined choirs” is of course from Shakespeare’s Sonnet LXXIII:

      That time of year thou mayst in me behold
      When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
      Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
      Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

      Shakespeare is likening the bare trees of autumn to the roofless choirs of the monasteries ruined only a few years earlier by Henry VIII. The piers of Gothic churches and their vaulted ceilings were in turn intended to mimic in stone the trees and canopy of a mature forest: the sacred grove of Eden. This carried forward a tradition that went back to the Temple in Jerusalem, which was decorated with representations of plants and animals.

      The sweet birds of the sonnet are of course the monks and novices who had in those same choirs for centuries sung services at all the major and minor hours of every day and every night.

      Birds, those happy quiristers of light, are symbols of angels; so likewise, obviously, are church choristers; so then are monks, who bend their whole lives toward the Day when they shall don their angelic Resurrection Bodies and sing with the angels in that throne room in heaven, of which all earthly churches are types, the glorious service of which all earthly liturgies are echoes and participations.

      In the Sonnet, the avian angels have all abandoned the denuded sacred grove; the world is grown old and decrepit; winter and night and death loom all close at hand; still do we nobly love the remnants of those noble beauties that we shall soon lose.

  5. It seems that a person can cope with heterodoxy in another person with whom they do not identify, just as they can cope with heterodoxy in their dog or cat. Belief begins thinning into opinion when someone who seems in all other respects like me, is in the case of religious creed unlike me. I wonder if this may not explain why religious disagreement within families is especially painful. The much celebrated religious diversity of India required a rigid caste system to prevent the thinning you describe. Alternatively, a democratic society can cope with diverse beliefs only by reducing them to subjective states that are equal at a functional level. Toqueville noted this in the 1830s. It is the fact of diverse opinion mixed with the doctrine of equality that creates the problem you describe here. Take away the doctrine of equality, and I can dismiss a man who thinks differently as a member of a different species.

    Cults that survive as a minority view the majority with some degree of contempt. The Jew’s unflattering concept of the Goy is paradigmatic. The Jew’s cult was not thinned by the presence of all those Goys because Jews looked upon Goys as sub-human morons barely distinguishable from animals.

    This is an acute weakness in contemporary Christianity, and may well prove fatal as Christians become a small minority. Heterodoxy especially thins the belief of men and women who maintain that all men and women are children of God, since they cannot explain the heterodox as sub-human morons barely distinguishable from animals. I don’t think Christianity should (or can) go quite that far, but it will not survive if it continues to look upon heathens and infidels as equals. I mean it will not survive in the minds of the Christians themselves.

    • JM: “Heterodoxy especially thins the belief of men and women
      who maintain that all men and women are children of God…”

      On just who are the children of God,
      the Prologue to John (1:12-13) is clear:

      “But those that took him in,
      to those he gave power
      to become children of God,
      to those believing in his name;

      which (not from blood
      nor from will of flesh
      nor from will of man
      but) from God they were begotten”.
      [my translation].

      So, not all are children of God; but not being so,
      the lave need not therefore be ‘sub-human morons’.

      • Yes. Everyone is imago dei, but there is a difference between being in the image of God and being in his likeness. The Children of God are more like him than those who, having rejected his teachings, are intentionally *not* like him.

        What’s needed is a recovery of the social and spiritual importance of commensal communion with the Children of God – which is to way, with the Body of God himself – and thus of an existential horror at the possibility of excommunication. But for that to happen, we’ll also need to recover credence in two critical notions: sin, and damnation.

        The metastasis of cults in the modern West obscures our cultural vision of what is absolutely right and what is absolutely wrong. It blinds us to sin. That leads in turn to universalism and moral relativism. On either of those doctrines, it’s silly to think that anyone actually goes to Hell. This has the perverse and entirely logical result that people don’t worry too much about sin, and so you get a lot of sinning. The arms race to the degenerate bottom gets going, and before you know it you are at the valorization of paederasty. Which is right where ancient pagan culture was when Jesus came along.

        When sin is rediscovered, so is disgust. Flagrant and unrepentant sinners are then subject to social reprobation, to ostracism, discrimination, and persecution; and their lives go very badly indeed. They are abhorred, shunned.

        But when lots of cults are around, there is no authoritative basis for any discrimination whatever. Everything gets muddled; everyone equally confused, and equally misled, and so in their acts equally errant, and in their characters equally degenerate. That’s the equality you get: the equality which is the terminus ad quem of the arms race to the degenerate bottom.

      • To be sure. But a creedal minority will not survive if it doesn’t rather strongly assert its superiority. Humility is a luxury for the people in charge.

      • Yes. I should have been more clear in stating that, implicit in the rediscovery of sin, and in the renewal of disgust thereat, is the tremendous superiority of virtue. The virtuous can be ever so humble – and, generally speaking, they are – and still recognize, and proclaim, that as virtue is far better than vice, so are the virtuous far better than the vicious.

      • JM: “…a creedal minority will not survive
        if it doesn’t rather strongly assert its superiority.”

        Superiority? No. For what means superiority? And to whom?
        Truth? Yes. Historically and theologically these can be argued.

      • I think you misunderstand me Kristor.
        If you assert the ‘superiority’ of your faith,
        you are making a relational claim regarding other faiths
        and submitting yours to similar comparisons by others.
        If (however) you assert the truth of your faith,
        the only comparison you make is with reality.
        Either it is true, or it is not.

      • OK; I see what you mean, and I’m good with that. There is literally no comparison between truth and falsehood. That’s like comparing something with nothing: there’s nothing in nothing to compare to; nothing is incomparable.

  6. “So then likewise are the men who have been set free of any masterful supervision, to make their own way in the world, each to devise his own cult as he sees fit, unconstrained by tradition or mastery or hard won knowledge.”

    Permit me, Kristor, to observe a paradox. One would think that, in the culturally degenerate situation that you describe, atomization would produce as many private cults as there were private and dissociated people. As you know – this does not happen. Cut off from Tradition, the private cults become indistinguishable from one another, equally bereft of content, insipid, structured only by a few mantras, and expressing, finally, the narcissism, and nothing but the narcissism, of the cultist. There is no actual multiplicity in multiculturalism. There is no actual variety in diversity, as practiced. On the contrary, these agendas exhibit an absolute intolerance of difference.

    • “There is no actual multiplicity in multiculturalism. There is no actual variety in diversity, as practiced. On the contrary, these agendas exhibit an absolute intolerance of difference.”

      Have you been to Denmark? Or Sweden?
      Or read: “The New Totalitarians” by Roland Huntford?
      You describe the Socialist paradise so acutely.

      • Through the 1970s, my beloved Sweden although it was a conformist nation par excellence, was conformist in a decent and livable way; Sweden was a lovely country for tourism or study, its people friendly and its cities functional and efficient. Moreover, Sweden was, in its way, conservative: It publicly celebrated its history, its cultural achievements, and its independence. Regional differences also counted. Skåne was different from Jämtland and Dalarna from Värmland. Nowadays the only thing that the Swedish establishment validates is foreign immigration. Believe it or not, the archaeological policy of the Swedish government, when discoveries of ancient artifacts occur, is to melt them down, if they are metal, or discard them, if they are wood or stone. This is why even the Danes, who have milder versions of the same PC agenda, occasionally threaten to close their end of the Øresund Bridge.

        My first degree — long story — was in Scandinavian and Germanic Languages.

    • Let’s face it, most people are lousy theologians. The religions they devise for themselves consist therefore mostly of trite trivialities that elicit nice feelings. Their thoughts do not cohere. So they can’t think. Confronted with a coherent body of thought, of almost any sort, they feel horribly threatened, and recoil, or even attack.

      Modernity abhors coherence, because coherence entails evaluation and discrimination. And that increases the hazard of finding oneself ostracized. Coherence reads as hate. It is *dangerous.*

  7. My reading of this was focussed on disenchantment.

    …mundane life…is not at all any more…bound by … the chthonic cult… It is on the contrary rather something quite other than and independent of what the cult supposes it to be…

    “Chthonic” I find too limiting here. It suggests only one level of the three-tier universe so ridiculed by the textual criticism and theology of the early 20th century especially. When the empirical world was suspended between heaven and hell, and when the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man on the altar contested with the angels of the underworld for the souls of each of us, the world was both enchanted and infused with eternal meaning. It could not be perceived or experienced except from within the concurrently perceived and experienced spiritual realities.

    Remaining open to this mode of experience, while almost impossible for modernity, can never have been easy.

    “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    This is one of the reasons that Lourdes and especially Fatima are so enchanting.

    • Absolutely.

      I used ‘chthonic’ because, by the time heterodoxy began to get out of control in the West, orthodox Christianity had become chthonic for Westerners: it was the cult of their native soil. And that chthonic cult did indeed, as you say, stipulate a much richer metaphysics than moderns can comprehend and remain modern. Once you do comprehend the high Medieval synthesis, the modern world seems by comparison flat, dull, and stupid.

      • “I used ‘chthonic’ because…orthodox Christianity had become
        chthonic for Westerners: it was the cult of their native soil.”

        The chthonic cult of the west (and much else) is the cult of Fate.
        It can be traced from the Iliad, by way of Beowulf, the Nibelungs
        and the Eddas to everyday proverbs such as the old Scots saw:
        “Whit’s fur ye’ll nae gang by ye.”

        Christianity overlaid this cult, to be sure, but it never went away.
        Lately, however, it has been reviving as this poem illustrates:

        THE DARKLING THRUSH
        By Thomas Hardy

        “I leant upon a coppice gate
        When Frost was spectre-grey,
        And Winter’s dregs made desolate
        The weakening eye of day.
        The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
        Like strings of broken lyres,
        And all mankind that haunted nigh
        Had sought their household fires.

        The land’s sharp features seemed to be
        The Century’s corpse outleant,
        His crypt the cloudy canopy,
        The wind his death-lament.
        The ancient pulse of germ and birth
        Was shrunken hard and dry,
        And every spirit upon earth
        Seemed fervourless as I.

        At once a voice arose among
        The bleak twigs overhead
        In a full-hearted evensong
        Of joy illimited;
        An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
        In blast-beruffled plume,
        Had chosen thus to fling his soul
        Upon the growing gloom.

        So little cause for carolings
        Of such ecstatic sound
        Was written on terrestrial things
        Afar or nigh around,
        That I could think there trembled through
        His happy good-night air
        Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
        And I was unaware.”

        The thrush’s song represents Christian hope,
        still being given voice as the age darkend.

      • Christianity did not, it is true, do away with the cult of fate. Rather, she baptized it: transcended, subsumed, and corrected it – and, so, fulfilled it. Fate is Providence. The cult of fate is like all others a derivate of the Original Religion, which – as Saint Augustine points out – has always been practiced, and is in these latter days called Christianity. On Augustine, Christianity is the chthonic cult of the whole planet. Thus since Paul preached on Mars Hill it has been quite common among Christian missionaries to treat other religions as protoevangelioi, more or less.

      • “since Paul preached on Mars Hill it has been quite common among Christian missionaries to treat other religions as protoevangelioi, more or less.”

        The cult of Quetzalcoatl, perhaps;
        but not that, methinks, of Huitzilipochtli…

      • No kidding, right? Other religions are protoevangelioi, more or less; some a *lot* less. Perhaps the only things the worship of Huitzilopochtli or Moloch got right were the bits about the propriety of worship as such, of the reality of the supernatural, and of sacrificing something precious.

        Huitzilopochtli looks to me like Tash the Inexorable:

  8. Pingback: Cantandum In Ezkhaton 04/07/19 | Liberae Sunt Nostrae Cogitatiores

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