Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Idolatry

This key is simple to explain, but I have found it opens lots of doors; it explains lots of things. Idolatry is the worship of something less than the Most High; of something other than God. Simple, no?

Consider then:

  • Worship is apt and proper only in respect to the Most High. To worship anything else is to order your life according to something other than the Whole and the Ultimate Truth – the true Truth. It is then to enact a lie, somehow; or, at best, an honest error. It is therefore to vitiate your own being and power. It is to enact an incoherence, and thus it is to introduce into your actual self some inconsistency, thus some conflict. It is to ruin your shot at peace, and at rest.
  • All things come of the Most High, abide in him, and return to him. Such is flux of the Tao. In him all things live, move, and have their being. As their origin and basis, he is then properly first in all their loyalties. By trying to put some other first instead, idolatry puts one at odds with the Tao; which is to say that it puts one at odds with Being per se, and thus with all other beings: with reality. That is the forecourt of Hell.
  • The reason that such trying is the forecourt of Hell is that it cannot succeed. We can pretend that x is more important than YHWH, but that is an absurd notion, and any way of life informed thereby is bound to go badly wrong (despite however successful (on any dimension, aye even including the ecclesial) its outward appearances might be, for the nonce). It is a bit more absurd than the pretense that we can breathe water. Idolatry deforms life in a way analogous to the way that the belief that we men might breathe water would tend to deform our lives.
  • Idolatry is a category error about who and what is Most High, and so about who and what is therefore worthy of worship. It might mean well, but it intends the right act – worship, which is the reasonable service and inveterate tendency of all men in virtue of their creaturity – toward the wrong object. As aiming at the wrong thing, it deflects the whole being from its proper course, and so wrongs the being.
  • In every life there is operant a first principle. Upon it, other principles, protocols, and so then acts all hang. Crucial, then, to get your first principle correct.
  • The gods of the nations are but idols (Psalm 96:5). They are symbols or depictions of angels or demons. To engage in the worship of angels, or a fortiori of demons, is to enact a category error, and is to make a grievous mistake, that cannot but have grievous consequences.

Excursus: One way to differentiate between angels and demons is that if you try to worship a demon, he will encourage you in so doing, whereas if you try to worship an angel, he will forbid, rebuke and correct you in all love (Revelation 19:10).

  • True worship is hard. Idolatry is lots easier – this being one reason we so often fall into it. So, if your religion is not a more or less constant challenge, is not difficult, why then you are most likely engaged in some form of idolatry. If your praxis makes you feel pretty good about how you have done so far, it is in all likelihood infected with some sort of Pelagian devilry. True worship – the antithesis of idolatry – involves and entails an ecstatic apprehension of the infinite gulf between the vassal and his master. An encounter with the Infinite Eternal One cannot make a person feel pretty OK with how he – an erroneous concupiscent and thus in some pertinent part diseased member of the True Body – has done. On the contrary.
  • The opposite of idolatry is humility. Philosophy – properly so called – has known this from the start. Wisdom – and victory – is filial (and, what is more, feudal) loyalty and formal subjection to the Tao.
  • Idolatry then is a sort of pride.
  • Addiction is a sort of idolatry. It is slavery. Worship of the Most High, per contra, is perfect total freedom. The sage is free. He can smoke as many pipes as he likes, without becoming an addict.
  • Concupiscence is our tendency as Fallen to idolatry; to addiction.
  • The road to Hell is paved with idolatry of the best, nicest sort. Whatever feels good in its own right, and quite apart from any tinct of theological warrant, is almost certainly ipso facto demonic. Who are the best sort of people, in merely mundane terms, are most likely hellbound.
  • This, despite the fact that basic humanity per se cannot be at odds with her Lord; so that we are more likely to find humanity per se, and more purely, in the baser and more “ignoble” sorts of men, who, as being more occupied with mere survival, have not yet succumbed to the prevalent evil and irreal and purely symbolic Cult of Moloch, but rather live their lives based in hard costly reality, of jobs and tools and problems.

Excursus: I had rather spend time with the Hells Angels than with any coterie of Social Justice Warriors from the tidy safe suburbs of Philadelphia, or her academic campi. Indeed, so have I done. The Angels all at the very least understand and submit themselves to the reality of motorcycle mechanics; which is to say, the Lógos; so that, with them, I can be sure of at least one realm of discourse within which we might all approach a happy agreement. The Angels all of course also share with me a basic, fundamental, radical cynicism about the present state of the West; while at the same time, they share with me a basic, fundamental loyalty thereto. This, all, despite their evil; which most of them, of my admittedly limited acquaintance, would readily admit, and regret – even as they forged forward into the fray insofar as they could discern it, like ancient Greeks or Vikings unable to avert their horrible, compromised, ergo tragic, and in the end heroic fates.

Excursus: On such realms of discourse respecting the mechanics of life all agreement supervenes. If there is no way for us to agree with our fellows about first principles – as I found a way to agree for a few hours, happily, with a few Hells Angels – then there is just no way for us to agree at all, and thus no way for us to proceed coordinately.

Excursus: If such as I – a wet behind the ears quondam choirboy from Indianapolis, forsooth – can find common cause with a house full of Hells Angels, then any of us might live together fruitfully, and indeed joyfully. But this, on condition only that we all agreed about First Things – which is to say, at bottom, about Death; and, then, what is really important in respect thereto. Else, not, at all.

  • Here we come back to idolatry. The Hells Angels are in a particularly good position to reckon Death; ergo, First Things. That is not to say that they all then make the right determination about First Things, and what we ought rightly to do in respect thereto. Nevertheless are they peculiarly apt – and so, vulnerable – to understand what is truly First. The Hells Angels live always *right up against the pavement.* And the pavement is not forgiving. There is joy and virtue in just that confrontation, day after day, with reality ineluctable; as I know well from my years *right up against the River.*

Excursus: Virtue is not possible except in confrontation with the real, the concrete, the difficult, the hard. In the limit, this means that virtue is not possible except in confrontation with the most real, the most concrete, the most difficult, the hardest: God; of whom all other difficulties are types and angels.

  • In the final analysis, idolatry is a mistake about what it is to live. Ultimately, ergo really, life is not about oneself or one’s notions, but rather the adventure to be found in their transcendence. It is about the fearsome encounter with another, again and again. Of all others, the Infinite is othermost and most fearsome, and so is he in whom we ought properly to repose our ultimate trust, and whom we ought to bend all our effort to find and to meet; to whom we ought properly to seek to be meet; for, to him above all things must be our bounden duty. Anything less, or other, is in the end a turn from reality. Such is all idolatry. It is to mistake, and so to put awry, what is real; so is it to ruin life.
  • Little wonder then, perhaps, that the apotheosis of idolatry as concretely enacted involved the sacrifice of the firstborn. In the sacrifice of the beloved son is the absurdity of idolatry made acutely manifest. The mistaken worship of something other than the Most High, who alone is truly worthy, is mirrored in the sacrifice of something other than the man himself. The idolatrous man thinks he might discharge his obligation by some sacrifice of something other than his entire life. So he picks out his son for the holocaust, or his first born bullock, or some doves purchased in the outer court of the Temple.

Not to demean such sacrifices, for they are indeed all costly. But, seriously: what idiocy can think a bullock – or anything – adequates to the Most High, or to what we poor fools owe him? Nothing might. The only just – albeit, nowise adequate – sacrifice to the Most High would be everything whatsoever. Indeed, such is an aspect of the Atonement: the Passion is the sacrifice of all things whatever; for, the Lógos is the nature of all things, so that his sacrifice is theirs. In the Passion, the God of Nature, who is the Nature of Nature, offers up in himself as sacrifice the Nature of the whole creation. The only adequate sacrifice to the Lógos is the Lógos. Giving himself to his Father, he gives all things.

The manifest, yawning inadequacy of any sacrifice less than that of the Only Begotten Son of the Most High is a central theme of Christianity. Noticing that inadequacy demolishes all other cults, root and branch. It renders them absurd, utterly vain repetitions. Girard got this absolutely right.

Excursus: Every cult involves sacrifice, for every cult takes at least a bit of at least some time and attention away from the rest of life.

  • All the great heresies I have so far examined are in one way or another idolatrous, inasmuch as they all err about who or what is the Most High, and so misguide first the intellect, then the will, and in the end life. Ditto for the great philosophical errors.
  • A generally useful tell: if someone says, “everything is x,” he is almost certainly engaging in idolatry. The Most High is not a member of any other species of being, and no sort of being is of his sort. Any veridical scheme of analysis must therefore reckon at least two mutually irreducible sorts of being: the Most High, and everything else.
  • If you would not choose martyry over disloyalty to Christ, you are an idolater. That puts you in company not altogether bad, for it includes Pope Saint Peter. So, on the one hand, don’t beat yourself up about it: the sin is forgivable, if it be confessed and repented. On the other, get on in earnest with the project of figuring out why it is, exactly, that you would not choose martyry over disloyalty to Christ. What is it, that is more important to you than the most important conceivable thing?
  • When we sin, we effectually take something less – ourselves, or some pleasure – to be more important than El Elyon and his moral and natural law for creatures such as we. We sin because we are idolaters.
  • The core gist of the OT is the war of YHWH – of Jesus – upon idolatry. Sc., the First Commandment of the Decalogue. Sc., the temptations in the wilderness of Sinai. It culminates in the Temptations of Jesus in the desert, which are all to idolatry: “Worship me,” says Lucifer, “and I shall …” Jesus wins the war. The strife is o’er; the battle done; the victory of life is already won.
  • Job is the book that examines the temptation of idolatry. Job is tempted to repudiate YHWH. Job is a type and angel of Christ.

One could go on. That is the way of the Philosophical Skeleton Keys: they keep on giving, without discernible limit.

34 thoughts on “Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Idolatry

  1. Is it created? Then do not worship.
    Is it the Creator? Then worship.
    Whatever you put first in your heart—career, health, material wealth, family—is the treasure/god you worship.

  2. I’m not sure that true worship is hard to do, although it may be hard to begin doing it. If we follow your account and see worship of the most high entailing acceptance of the great chain of being, then playing one’s part in that great chain is worship of a sort. I understand the risk of pantheism, but still think there is much to be said for Christian stoicism. I read Jesus as rather strongly endorsing the view that a just and righteous act is worship of a sort (how I lament the perversion of these noble words).

    I would add one thing to what you say about the folly of idolatry. I take idolatry and superstition to be the same thing and take superstition to be something that men made. In theory an idol or superstition is something that men have forgotten that they made, so they treat it as eternal and given for all time. But I believe that men never entirely forget that they made their superstitions, and from this memory of casting the idol there eventually sprouts the idea of melting it down. Everything that is made can be unmade and remade otherwise, so no idol can last. And without one fixed and permanent thing, the universe dissolves into chaos.

    • By saying that true worship is hard, I meant that it is hard to avoid falling into the error of preferring something creaturely to God; hard, i.e., to avoid falling into sin. I can worship pretty truly when I am actually in Church helping with the Mass, but it often seems as though the instant I leave the church I start putting merely worldly things ahead of God in my deliberations about what to do next. I ought to be thinking, “What do you want me to do next, God?” Instead, I’m generally thinking something like, “When I get home, I’ll have a beer and write something for the Orthosphere.” Maybe that is just what God would have told me he wanted me to do, understand – there’s nothing wrong with beer or writing here, in themselves. The problem though is that I arrived at beer + Orthosphere without first checking in with God.

      There is a danger in the other direction, too: checking in with God about everything can metastasize into scrupulosity.

      So, true worship is rather a trip up the edge of a razor.

      … without one fixed and permanent thing, the universe dissolves into chaos.

      And there’s the difficulty at the root of all sorts of atheism – including the pagan sort of polytheism that has forgotten its ancient knowledge of the Most High God.

  3. Pingback: Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Stack of Worlds & the Literal Fall; &c. – The Orthosphere

  4. I’ve no desire to start another long argument; it seems pointless, we have exactly the same level of access to the authentic nature of things, and if we draw different conclusions about it, so be it.

    But my own feeling is that worship of anything is kind of wrong, it’s automatically idolatry and can’t be anything else. I base this on the line in the Tao te Ching: “The name that can be named is not the eternal Name”. If you can name it, it is not eternal, and to worship anything you must name it.

    I don’t actually want to condemn worship; rather I will deny your basic distinction between idolatry and worship of the actual Most High. Since we don’t have access to the most high, all of our worship is thus directed at idols. We may hope that they are at least reflections of something ultimate, rather than ends in themselves.

    I suspect you are misusing the Tao, particularly in this line:

    Wisdom – and victory – is filial (and, what is more, feudal) loyalty and formal subjection to the Tao.

    It is difficult to make definite statements about the Tao, but I can pretty much promise you that it is not a king, it does not demand loyalty or subjection. It is a way to be followed, not a power to be obeyed. Conflating the Tao with an authority seems to me to be a gigantic metaphysical category error. There’s a reason it is beloved of anarchists.

    Again, I’ve no expectation of changing your mind, but I thank you for the opportunity to articulate my own thoughts. And I see we’ve already gone over this ground, seven years ago! https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/the-god-of-the-naturalist-philosophers/ Amazing.

    • Yeah, that was a pretty good discussion. I appreciate all the work you’ve put into our many long conversations.

      I don’t think it’s quite true that to worship something you must name it. The Hebrew names of God are all ways of evading naming God, instead picking out aspects of his relationship to creatures: Most High, Lord, One Who Causes to Be, and so forth. Meanwhile God calls himself “I AM that I AM” – at least, that’s the most popular way of expressing the most popular theory about what the phrase that he calls himself actually means. Nobody seems to know for sure. Nobody but the High Priest could say the Name, so nobody else knew how it sounded, exactly.

      That they could not name him did not stop the Hebrews from worshipping YHWH.

      “God” is no different, really. The term denotes the Ultimate, which in virtue of ultimacy cannot by any lesser thing be comprehended.

      This by the way is the reason that the darkness cannot comprehend the light (John 1:5).

      Anyway, I actually agree with you about the Tao. If you can comprehend it, it isn’t the Tao, it isn’t the Ultimate, it isn’t God, it therefore isn’t rightly worthy of your worship, and in worshipping it you are engaging in idolatry: a category error.

      Only the Tao is Ultimate, so only the Tao is worthy of being treated as the Ultimate. Which is what is meant by “worship.”

      If we have no access to the Most High, or to the Tao, then there is no way we can know that we don’t have that access. Indeed, if we have no access to the Tao, then we can’t even suspect it is out there; the notion of the Tao cannot occur to us, it is absolutely unthinkable. In that case there is no way we can know anything about it, such as that it is eternal or that it is the Way of all things, that it is like water, etc. Nor is there any way we can tell whether we are in harmony with it.

      I can pretty much promise you that [the Tao] is not a king, it does not demand loyalty or subjection. It is a way to be followed, not a power to be obeyed. Conflating the Tao with an authority seems to me to be a gigantic metaphysical category error.

      The Tao – the Lógos – has something like the sort of authority that gravity has. But then, to be more careful: gravity is the authority of mass: of factual being; so, of reality. Every time you step back from the edge of a precipice, you effectually pledge your fealty to the mass of your planet, acknowledge her “lordship” over your life, and agree with her, accepting her guidance about how to live.

      So with the Tao. It is the Ultimate Real, the Ultimate Fact, the Ultimate Mass.

      The authority of kings is a wan image of the authority of the Lógos. As the Ultimate Reality – the Ultimate Being – the Tao has total, perfect authority.

      • The Tao – the Lógos – has something like the sort of authority that gravity has. But then, to be more careful: gravity is the authority of mass: of factual being; so, of reality.

        Gravity does not have authority, for any meaningful definition of authority. You may be confused by the metaphorical use of “law” to describe physical laws such as Newton’s. But those are completely different things from human laws (or god’s laws, for that matter). The laws of gravity has no agency behind it, and they can’t be disobeyed. They are just a completely different thing from laws against murder (eg), which are regularly violated. They are descriptive rather than prescriptive.

        Nor does the Tao, in my view, but there I will admit it’s more a matter of preferred metaphor than absolute truth. If you want to equate the Tao with the Most High Authority, be my guest. If you conceive of ultimate being as having the character of a cop or a king or a general or a boss, you do you.

      • I’m not confused about the differences between natural and moral laws, or by the metaphor in which they are likened to each other. In fact, if you just read the very passage you quote, you’ll see that in it *I was invoking that very metaphor.* I went on to write:

        The authority of kings is a wan image of the authority of the Lógos.

        This, likewise, was an invocation of that same metaphor.

        The law of gravity has no agency behind it …

        That’s the $64 question. If natural law does have agency behind it, then it does have something like authority – the authority of its author. You think natural law has no agency behind it, so naturally you take it to be a dumb, brute fact.

        We differ in the same way about the Tao or Lógos – which is just the Way of the Ten Thousand Things, so that natural law is in it subsumed. You think the Tao is only a dumb, brute fact; I think he is a person – a fact, to be sure, but an intelligent fact, who acts.

        Dumb, brute, stupid facts do not, I agree, exert any authority. If the Tao is like that, we may therefore rightly ignore it, and the wisdom and the moral doctrines of Taoism – along with those of all other religions that apprehend an order to things that ought not to be gainsayed (i.e., of all religions, period full stop) – are vain nonsense. In that case, your respect for Taoism – which I think is warranted – is without foundation. That makes it more like your preference for one national cuisine over some other than a reasoned or reasonable choice; you can’t think it true any more than you could think Italian food true.

        The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things.

        Tao Te Ching 42.1

        This is a succinct, exact paraphrase of high Hebrew and Christian Trinitarian doctrine. Translating, overlooking the filioque controversy, [and adding a clarification]:

        The Suprapersonal Godhead produced El Elyon; El Elyon begat the Lógos; the Holy Spirit proceeded from El Elyon and the Logos; [all these Three are the Suprapersonal Godhead, and are each other (i.e., they are consubstantial)]. Together, the Trinity produced the Ten Thousand Things.

        The Taoist One, Two and Three are the Three Pure Ones: Yuanshi Tianzun, Lingbao Tianzun, and Daode Tianzun:

        In religious Taoism, the theory of how Tao produces One, Two, and Three is also explained. In Tao produces One – Wuji produces Taiji, it represents the Great Tao, embodied by Hundun Wuji Yuanshi Tianwang (混沌無極元始天王, “Heavenly King of the Chaotic Never-ending Primordial Beginning”) at a time of pre-Creation when the Universe was still null and the cosmos was in disorder; manifesting into the first of the Taoist Trinity, Yuanshi Tianzun. Yuanshi Tianzun oversees the earliest phase of Creation of the Universe, and is henceforth known as Daobao (道寶) “Treasure of the Tao.” In One produces Two – Taiji produces Yin Yang, Yuanshi Tianzun manifests into Lingbao Tianzun who separated the Yang from the Yin, the clear from the murky, and classified the elements into their rightful groups. Therefore, he is also known as Jingbao (經寶) “Treasure of the Law/Scripture.” While Jing in popular understanding means “scriptures,” in this context it also mean “passing through” [the phase of Creation] and the Laws of Nature of how things are meant to be. In the final phase of Creation, Daode Tianzun is manifested from Lingbao Tianzun to bring civilization and preach the Law to all living beings. Therefore, He is also known as Shibao (師寶) “Treasure of the Master.”

        Each of the Three Pure Ones represents both a deity and a heaven. Yuanshi Tianzun rules the first heaven, Yu-Qing, which is found in the Jade Mountain. The entrance to this heaven is named the Golden Door. “He is the source of all truth, as the sun is the source of all light.” Lingbao Tianzun rules over the heaven of Shang-Qing. Daode Tianzun rules over the heaven of Tai-Qing. The Three Pure Ones are often depicted as throned elders.

        The Three Pure Ones are *persons.* The parallels with the Christian doctrine of Creation are uncanny.

    • This sounds like the Groucho Marx answer: I wouldn’t worship any God that would tell me his name. I personally take a much broader view of worship and believe that everyone worships something. Even the nihilist worships Nothing. From what I can tell of you, you worship (regard as supremely worthy) the skeptical stance. You would not have been an Orthosphere regular for seven years if it were not some sort of sacrifice or religious duty. Every value system hangs from a skyhook and everyone in that value system worships that skyhook, even if only by participating in the value system. Idolatry is not so much the worship of false gods as it is worship of some contingent form of worship.

      • If I had a church Groucho would be one of its saints, so yeah. And “worshiping the skeptical stance” is not that far off-base. I wouldn’t call it worship exactly, but skepticism is certainly central.

        But is it THE central thing, the one single skyhook from which all my values descend? Mmm, no. Skepticism is a tool, not a value in itself.

        I don’t actually think I have such a skyhook, and that is kind of the whole point. Here in the postmodern world, we must learn to live without foundations and without skyhooks. And without nihilism, which as you point out is founded on the worship of the something of Nothing.

        As to what makes me keep coming back here, I can’t really quite say. It’s not a duty, and not a sacrifice of anything except time that could be spent on more fruitful pursuits. I can’t say exactly why I enjoy it, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t keep doing it.

      • A.morphous has chosen a fitting nom de plume.

        It makes a queer sort of sense that he reckons no fundamental principle. When skepticism is your go to tool, the hammer you find yourself always holding, so that to you everything looks like a nail, it is only natural to think that you are free of all principle; for, along with everything else you doubt, you must in logic be skeptical of the notion that you yourself operate under any principle. You must even doubt that there are in fact any suitable candidates for such a principle anywhere to be found; or, so, that it is apt to look for any such. Indeed, if you are a thorough and consistent skeptic, then – even if you think neither consistency nor skepticism are for you fundamental principles – you are skeptical at last even of the very notion of skepticism.

        Skepticism is one of those perspectives that ends up devouring itself, when carried through to its logical absurd implication. Which means that a careful, thorough skeptic cannot but cast a jaundiced eye at last even on comprehensive skepticism. Realizing the limitation upon skepticism inherent in it, he will rather cast about for some suitably comprehensive and powerful fundamental organizing principle for his thought, and so for his life, and thus his quotidian acts, that does not refute itself in practice or in logic.

        I doubt that a.morphous is in fact completely unprincipled, despite what he might think (I do not at all doubt his honesty, and never have (he subjects himself to too much adversity around here, to be doing so dishonestly)). For, nothing is completely amorphous: complete formlessness is complete nonbeing.

        To every life, there is a fundamental spring; for, as a matter of mere logic, of the formal specification of things that are definitely themselves and not something else, the form of every real hangs upon some First Axiom. Perhaps it is the axiom of axioms.

        Excursus: Christians: the axiom of axioms, upon whom hang all Reason and all Intelligibility, all order, knowledge, understanding and wisdom, who is himself Wisdom and all wisdom, is the One called King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made … who is called by various sages the Tao or the Lógos, dharma, the Word, Memra, the Way, the Truth, the Light, upon whom hang all the Law and the Prophets, He Who Causes to Be, He Who Is, who calls himself I AM. Taking some other principle as your axiom of axioms is idolatry.

        So, no man can serve two masters; and every man must serve one.

        Who pretends he has no master is in fact serving a master he does not apprehend as such, and who has therefore untrammeled influence upon him, to shape all his ways. Such a man lives informed by the order of that master, witless of his true circumstances; he is like a fish who does not realize he is wet.

        It may be that a.morphous has some intimation of his unconscious – albeit, nowise unintentional – servitude (for, to choose to serve nothing *just is* the non serviam that terminates at utter impotence). That might account for the dot in his nom de plume. He’d like to be amorphous, but that’s not quite achievable for a definite and actual entity. So, he is a.morphous.

        A.morphous, I’m glad you find it fun to poke around here with us Christians. It indicates to me that something in you might find our atmosphere – the Orthosphere – somehow salubrious. Perhaps that enjoyment you feel being here is something worth following up on; a spoor that leads … who knows where? Perhaps somewhere dangerous, even revolutionary. Scary stuff, the potential of a world turned upside down, a whole paradigm overturned. But, disciplined, courageous, skeptical minds, who doubt the conclusions they have already reached, and are sure that they have lots more to learn, would want to find out.

        PS: Don’t get me wrong: skepticism is a *very* useful tool. I’ve just used it in the foregoing.

      • Indeed, if you are a thorough and consistent skeptic, then – even if you think neither consistency nor skepticism are for you fundamental principles – you are skeptical at last even of the very notion of skepticism.

        Dude. Is this supposed to be news? The reflexiveness of a skeptical stance has been like a cliche in human thought since Nietzsche at least. Tell me something I don’t know.

        Realizing the limitation upon skepticism inherent in it, he will rather cast about for some suitably comprehensive and powerful fundamental organizing principle for his thought, and so for his life, and thus his quotidian acts, that does not refute itself in practice or in logic.

        Actually not. I’m here to tell you that I don’t, and you don’t have to either. You can live perfectly well – happily, even – without “a comprehensive and powerful fundamental organizing principle”. In fact, that’s the only way to live, because the comprehensive and powerful principles are false.

        For, nothing is completely amorphous: complete formlessness is complete nonbeing.

        Well yeah. I don’t believe in complete formlessness, I disbelieve in eternalism. Big difference.

        Allow me to preach some Buddhism at you (with the caveat that I’m in no way qualified to do so): people tend to fall into one of two paired errors, eternalism and nihilism. Eternalism is the idea that everything has a fixed, clear, definite, unchanging, and permanent essence. Nihilism is the contrary idea that nothing has any essence or meaning at all. The truth is a middle way (Madhyamaka) between these two errors; and it’s both difficult to grasp and also obvious common sense. Things are not wholly illusory nor are they eternal; they are transitory, conditioned, they arise, they disappear. This most emphatically holds for our precious selves.

        You and your fellows strike me as almost caricatures of the eternalist position and you articulate it well. The usual argument for eternalism is that the only conceivable alternative is nihilism, which would be terrible and unacceptable; all I can do is suggest that those might not be the only alternatives. Also it’s not just me being weird or instrangient; there is a long religious and philosophical tradition behind this view.

        Who pretends he has no master is in fact serving a master he does not apprehend as such, and who has therefore untrammeled influence upon him, to shape all his ways.

        Such a weird point of view. Freedom – the absence of servitude – doesn’t seem to be even conceivable.

      • You can live perfectly well – happily, even – without “a comprehensive and powerful fundamental organizing principle”. In fact, that’s the only way to live, because the comprehensive and powerful principles are false.

        So saying, you have specified your comprehensive and powerful fundamental organizing principle.

        Things are not wholly illusory nor are they eternal; they are transitory, conditioned, they arise, they disappear. This most emphatically holds for our precious selves.

        Dude. Is this supposed to be news? The transitory character of things has been like a cliche in human thought since 40,000 BC at least. Tell me something I don’t know.

        From the very beginning, change has been one of the central topics of philosophy. On the one extreme are the eternalists, the Parmenideans and Eleatics who deny the possibility or reality of change. On the other extreme are the nihilists, the Democritean atomists.

        In the middle are Plato, Aristotle, Israel, and all their heirs. Including me. And you, apparently. Who have noticed that if there is going to be such a thing as a change from one state of affairs to another, then, hello, there must first be one definite state of affairs, and then another. Things must, in other words, all be formed definitely and completely if they are to be things in the first place, so as then to differ, so as then to be capable of changing from one thing to another.

        Freedom – the absence of servitude – doesn’t seem to be even conceivable.

        Freedom – the perfect fullness of the power to act – is to be found only in perfect agreement with the real. If the real is your master, then are you free. Otherwise, you are a slave to some illusion, and your acts all more or less defective, and your life somehow at least a bit impoverished.

      • If the real is your master, then are you free.

        If the real is your master, you have defined yourself as something other than the real.

        If, OTOH, you are real, mastery and servitude are unnecessary redundancies.

      • If the real is your master, you have defined yourself as something other than the real.

        No. Observe:

        • If a Briton is your master, you have defined yourself as something other than a Briton.
        • If a nobleman is your lord, you have defined yourself as something other than a nobleman.
        • If you are your own master, you have defined yourself as something other than you.

        I think you are confusing service and fealty with oppression; a confusion endemic among moderns, who have usually been educated by witless Marxists (who think themselves free thinkers) into a Marxian perspective on social relations, that reduces all of them (absurdly) to oppressive relations of power (thus excising both love and virtue from their analytical toolkit). Service to an evil master can of course be oppressive, and tends to vitiate the servant. So, you want to be sure you are not serving the Lord of the Flies, or any of his vassals – human or demonic – whether witly or not (most of his slaves do not understand themselves as such, but think him nonexistent, and themselves utterly free). Thus the injunction against the horrid waste of idolatry.

        But service to a good master is likely to be beneficial, and indeed, as such, therefore tending to increase the ontological efficacy – the power, the scope of action, the degree of freedom – of the servant. This is why all good men want to attach themselves to leaders who are themselves good. Who serves a truly noble lord partakes that nobility, and is thereby himself a bit ennobled.

        We see this all the time with sports. When members of Raider Nation, the exploits of the Raiders somehow redound to us, we feel – not wholly without reason, perhaps; for, were there no Raiders fans, the Raiders could not operate, so that the feats of the Raiders are indeed creditable to their fans, at least a bit. The same thing happens with fans of rock bands, movie stars, and political campaigns and ideologies.

        Consider: as an aspiring artist, to whom would you rather pledge your service as an apprentice: Michelangelo, or yourself? Which of those two masters is most likely to enlarge your freedom, all things considered?

      • You (of course) miss my point. We already have the real within us, because we are part of it, and have no need to treat it as a master or ourselves as servants.

        I’ll partly agree with you; there are relationships that are those of mastery that are not necessarily oppressive. The word “master” has been ruined, not by Marxists, but by the institution of chattel slavery, and basically can’t be used in polite society any more. “Teacher” is a perfectly acceptable substitute for the kinds of master that are not oppressive. I have no interest in Michelangelo, or anybody, being my master, although of course I would be honored to have him as a teacher.

        This is why all good men want to attach themselves to leaders who are themselves good.

        I will never understand this kind of abject need to submit to authority, to desperately search for leaders so one can avoid autonomy.

        And I especially cannot understand it coming from the political right, a faction which has attached itself to a leader who is the very opposite of good and who are falling over themselves to submit to whatever vile forces he incarnates.

      • You (of course) miss my point. We already have the real within us, because we are part of it, and have no need to treat it as a master or ourselves as servants.

        No, I did get your point. It just doesn’t make sense, that’s all. *Of course* we have the real in us, and are real, no matter what we do. Thus the act of pledging fealty, or not, has no effect on the ontological status of the agent. He is real, whatever he does. Which means that you were wrong in writing:

        If the real is your master, you have defined yourself as something other than the real.

        That’s just nonsense. It is impossible for a real to define itself as irreal without contradiction. So, in taking reality – Truth – as authoritative, men are not defining themselves as irreal. To say so is flashy rhetoric, that a moment’s reflection shows to be vacuous.

        It is however manifestly, obviously possible freely to pledge fealty to a master who is not worthy of that pledge – who is not *really* masterful, or noble, or virtuous. To do so is to pledge fealty to a false notion. Insofarforth, it is to freely misguide your acts, and so your life.

        I will never understand this kind of abject need to submit to authority, to desperately search for leaders so one can avoid autonomy.

        What makes you think that loyalty is an avoidance of autonomy? The pledge of fealty is a free act of love and respect. It can be revoked, freely. Indeed, to be maintained from one day to the next, it must be freely reiterated, on an almost constant basis. Every day, I decide to remain faithful to my wife, e.g. It’s my duty to do so, but nevertheless I am free to shirk that duty, and to disregard my love for her.

        Our ontological autonomy simply *cannot* be alienated from us, while we yet live.

        While of course I get your abhorrence of unjust authority – of, i.e., unreal authority – I don’t quite understand your objection to authority per se. Obviously you revere Lao Tse, I think rightly. You take him as a sage, and thus a masterful authority. Which he really is, in mere fact. In so doing, do you feel you are debasing yourself, or somehow running away from autonomy? This makes no sense to me. On the contrary: it seems clear to me that to run toward Lao Tse, and to put oneself in subjection to his wisdom, so as to be ordered thereby more aptly to the real, is to run toward increase of freedom. Where is your difficulty?

        We Orthosphereans are not of the political Right, despite the fact that the modern world wants to see us that way, because it cannot imagine any other way to parse opinions about social order. We try to address politics from an ancient and traditional perspective orthogonal to the dimension established – as we think, both falsely and tendentiously – by the French Revolutionaries, that runs from Left to Right.

      • On the contrary: it seems clear to me that to run toward Lao Tse, and to put oneself in subjection to his wisdom,

        Once again you are conflating very different things. I may run toward Lao Tse, but I do not put myself in “subjection” to him and his wisdom (and I suspect he would be horrified at the idea, or maybe just amused).

        I’ve made this same point several times and I’m bored with repeating myself. I think you are either unwilling or unable to understand what I’m saying. You can’t even imagine a world without subjugation, which is sad, but not my problem.

        We Orthosphereans are not of the political Right,

        Oh come on. Your site has a quote from de Maistre at its head; that is as Right as it is possible to get. You are obsessed with authority and submission, that is also as Right as it gets.

        I thought at least you were willing to own your bad ideas.

      • I may run toward Lao Tse, but I do not put myself in “subjection” to him and his wisdom (and I suspect he would be horrified at the idea, or maybe just amused).

        Whatever. If you reckon him as an authority, why then you reckon him as an authority, regardless of your amusement (or his). If you reckon him as authoritative, ipso facto you subject yourself – rightly, in my reckoning – to his authority, and so order yourself accordingly. I cannot think that you, or he, would object to such an account of your relations. If he thus objected, then why the hell did he trouble himself to set down the Tao te Ching in the first place? If you thus object, then why the hell do you refer to him in the first place, as authoritative?

        Your site has a quote from de Maistre at its head; that is as Right as it is possible to get. You are obsessed with authority and submission, that is also as Right as it gets.

        I thought at least you were willing to own your bad ideas.

        Oh please. We own our convictions, to be sure. It is just that we do not construe them as first Right – for, that is your own Party’s way of construing things, which we reject, root and branch – but as rather merely commonsensical, natural, and obvious to anyone who is awake. They ended up at the Right end of the specious spectrum originating in the French Revolution only in virtue of the fact that it sought to overturn the whole tradition of the West, and indeed of man – of reality. The Jacobins were by no means the first to make the attempt; it goes back at least to Mazdak, and indeed to Babel; indeed, to Eden.

        The Left is in no position to cavil about oppression. Oppression is the stock in trade of the Left; is the only way it knows to do anything at all. To wit, the Terror, the Napoleonic Secret Police, the NKVD, the Gulag, the Holodomor, the Cultural Revolution, Cambodia … the list could go on long and long, as you know goddamn well. The butcher’s bill of the Left runs to hundreds of millions. So, don’t you dare preach to me about submission to authority being some sort of unique hallmark of the Right. If you were consistent about this, you would admit that the Left is by leagues and leagues the far more egregious of the two ends of the present (tendentious and specious) political spectrum, when it comes to oppression and subjection to unjust authority. Even the horrid fascist “right wing” *Nazis* at the far “Right” end of that spectrum were *socialists.*

        Own it, dude; or else, know that you have been utterly pwned; by *yourself.*

        For, please understand: everybody here knows the history perfectly well. Nobody here can be fooled for a moment by any obfuscations on your part. We all know perfectly goddamn well who has been killing all these millions of ordinary people over the last few centuries, who were just trying to live their lives in peace, the way that their ancestors had always done. Namely, your Party, under abject servile subjection to its principal Head.

        Own it.

        Yours is the Party that has ever sought to overturn the tradition of the West, and of man. Go ahead then: own it. You and your Party seek to put all mankind under the subjection of the authority of your Party. Right? Right? What could be the point of all your efforts, otherwise?

        Don’t try to witness, falsely, to the contrary. Everyone here knows all about the project of your Party. Nobody here might ever be fooled by your protestations of innocence – even though they be honest.

        I do not at all mean to impugn your own personal honesty in your convictions – I feel sure that you intend the good for all men, for how otherwise might you sleep at night? – but rather only to notice them for what they are.

        So: never, ever dare to preach to us again about the evil of subjection to “authority.” Specious “authority” is all your sort have. There is nothing more to your Party, than that. Because why? Because for your sort, all society consists of more or less oppressive and coerced – and, because they can perdure only as coerced (and not as relaxed, as simply natural), therefore unjust – relations of power (never mind for now that your moral nominalism prevents you from any reliable notion of justice). So, you cannot coherently think of any power your own sort might ever enjoy as anything other than oppressive and coerced – as unjust. No doubt this is why your sort is ever so defensive.

        You hate oppressive and coerced relations of power. But, why? No answer is possible, on your terms; for, if everything boils down to power relations, then, hello, everything boils down to nothing more than power relations, period full stop. There is then *absolutely* nothing more to be said. So, get on with it and destroy whom you would. Oppression and power relations are *everything.*

        But – for reasons (can you specify them?) – oppression and power relations are wrong (meanwhile, in the real world, oppression and unjust power are wrong only on Christianity). So, you won’t be able to rest until all social relations, each of which involves disparities of power, are utterly destroyed.

        That this will destroy their own project too seems to have been overlooked by your … authorities. No society, no social justice. Justice, after all, supervenes love.

        The thing you miss is love. That, and admiration of true virtue.

        Do you not see that any society founded upon fundamentally false and thus unjust relations of power, such as Marx (rightly) abhors, could not at all long perdure in competition with other societies that were founded upon fundamentally *true* and thus *just* relations of power? Any society that ran as Marx saw all of them running prior to the dictatorship of the proletariat and then the chiliastic withering away of state power would, as founded upon injustice – i.e., upon an inapt correlation to reality – be *bound to fail.* The *only* sorts of societies that might then have outlasted the scythe of natural selection, through hundreds of millennia, so as to survive to 1840 and so present their problematic to such as Marx, would be those that were pretty much truly and properly ordered to reality, ergo just – or, at least, en route to justice: to an apt and altogether righteous orientation to what is real. As in the nature of things every society must ever be, if it is to live, and so last.

        Given the ages of prehistory opened to 19th century man by the Darwinian paradigm, how could Marx have supposed that 19th century civilization was anything other than a just and apt and advantageous adaptation? As indeed it has proven to be, over the last 200 years or so.

        I never understood this lacuna in Marx. It looks to me like a barn door, open. It looks to me like immanentizing the eschaton. It looks to me like Pelagianism. It looks to me like a fundamental category error. So much for Marx.

        As to your first points re Lao Tse: subjection is not subjugation. Duh. This is obvious, no? Here’s the thing, a.morphous: to put yourself in subjection to x is not to lose yourself to x. Get this, OK? When I pledge my allegiance to this or that lord, I do not at all lose myself. On the contrary; if the lord to whom I have pledged my allegiance be truly noble (on any construction of “noble”), then by my allegiance to him have I allied his nobility to my own, and thereby magnified both of them.

        This seems obvious to me. Don’t you get it?

        On a basic presupposition of the natural disloyalty of each man to every other, any loyalty must then appear as foolish, imprudent, perverse, and indeed evil, as being nothing more than an outwork of unjust power relations. But, absent any such loyalties, what then of society?

      • If you are not subjugated (yoked and harnessed), why are you pulling the same old wagon of hippy horse-shit you were pulling when you had more hair? You’re a cynical libertine leftist with a soft spot for Buddhism. That’s your business, but it is not astonishingly original, and it is probably not brave where you live (I seem to recall intimations of San Francisco, but that may be wrong). We are all in some sense “subjugated” because we are all cultured. We have come, by choice, accident, or inherent inclination, to emulate certain heroes and respect certain authorities. This is why we all look like stereotypes to those who haul a different wagon of horse-shit.

      • Oh dear, I suppose it’s my fault this has devolved into a left vs right war, which is boring and pointless. Apologies, I was actually trying to avoid that.

        It’s even more pointless, though, if you won’t even acknowledge being on the right. If I understand your position, you despise the left, but refuse to identify yourself with the right for some reason, instead you are of the party of simple natural common sense. Have it your way, but that makes argument or discussion impossible.

        You hate oppressive and coerced relations of power. But, why? No answer is possible, on your terms; for, if everything boils down to power relations, then, hello, everything boils down to nothing more than power relations,

        Where did I ever say that “everything boils down to power relations”? That is a trite sentiment. I am certainly interested in power, and the relationship of power to truth, but so are you, I think. A lot of your writing is about that relationship.

        The thing you miss is love. That, and admiration of true virtue.

        Now you’re just trying to hurt my feelings.

        Do you not see that any society founded upon fundamentally false and thus unjust relations of power, such as Marx (rightly) abhors, could not at all long perdure in competition with other societies that were founded upon fundamentally *true* and thus *just* relations of power?

        Societies don’t perdure because they are particularly true or just. They perdure because they are stable, and they are stable to the extent to which their members accept their arrangements as just or, more commonly as simply inevitable.

        The *only* sorts of societies that might then have outlasted the scythe of natural selection, through hundreds of millennia, so as to survive to 1840 and so present their problematic to such as Marx, would be those that were pretty much truly and properly ordered to reality, ergo just

        What a strange notion. The societies of 1840 were not the same as those of hundreds of millenia earlier, and they were not the endpoint of some evolutionary winnowing, just one point in history (applying natural selection concepts to cultural evolution is highly questionable, but that’s a side issue). Evolution never stops. The Tyrannosaurus was a highly evolved solution to a particular biological context, and dominated for some millions of years, but it is no more, and Christian monarchies despite their power and glory also belong to the past, and for similar reasons – conditions changed out from under them.

        how could Marx have supposed that 19th century civilization was anything other than a just and apt and advantageous adaptation? As indeed it has proven to be, over the last 200 years or so….I never understood this lacuna in Marx

        I am very confused by this. The starting point for Marx was the manifest instability of 19th century civilization, which was undergoing a massive tectonic change due to the rise of industrialism and capitalism. I thought this was a point where reactionaries and Marx would agree – the famous line from the Communist Manifesto about how under modernity “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned”. I thought reactionaries and Marx acknowledged the same problem, although their proposals for dealing with it are of course very different.

        But what you write seems to assume that civilization was what it has always been for millenia or more, and Marx came along and upset it just out of spite or something?

        Either you radically misunderstand Marx, or I am radically misunderstanding you (possibly both!)

      • Where did I ever say that “everything boils down to power relations”?

        OK, fair enough. You are not a pomo then. That’s a relief.

        If I understand your position, you despise the left, but refuse to identify yourself with the right for some reason, instead you are of the party of simple natural common sense. Have it your way, but that makes argument or discussion impossible.

        I dunno, sure seems like you have had a fair bit of success with argument and discussion around here.

        When I say we are not of the right, I mean we are not classical liberals. Nor was Maistre. Like him, we are reactionaries. The spectrum of liberalism that runs from Left to Right thinks reaction is of the right, but that’s only because liberals are stuck in the liberal paradigm, and can’t see outside it – so, can’t see that reaction is orthogonal to liberalism per se, whether of the Left or the Right sort.

        This is nothing new; it’s been in our About page since we got started:

        Socio-politically, we can be called “traditionalist conservatives” or “Christian reactionaries.” Since we agree that Modernity – the fundamental principle of contemporary Western Civilization – is radically defective, we are branded “far-right.” In truth, we affirm what was regarded as self-evident by the vast majority of mankind until well into the Twentieth Century: Religion is true, authority is valid and good, man and woman differ in essential ways, and so on. If affirming reality puts us at the rightmost end of the political spectrum, as the world construes politics, then so be it.

        Over at his blog, commenter Scoot does a great job of sketching the differences:

        The left/right divide is a feature of liberalism. This means classical liberalism. The appellation “classical” signifies that this is not liberalism as the political buzzword we hear on the news – it is the older political theory that emerged from the French Revolution. “Liberalism” then refers to freedom. Classical liberalism then is the idea that Freedom is the chiefest virtue of a people. Liberal government is one which tries to balance the necessarily implicit restrictions on freedom that come with governing with the priority of maximizing the freedom of the people subject to that government. Left and Right are ways of categorizing how this balance ought to be struck. Left-Liberals tend to maximize the authority of the state, while Right-Liberals tend to maximize the authority of the individual. This might seem counter intuitive because the narrative seems opposite from what we see on the news cycle but every left-liberal regime has led to a consolidation of power in the apparatus of government, and every right-liberal regime has tried to slow or reverse this consolidation.

        The typical political ideology chart has “political freedom” crossed with “economic freedom,” which serve as proxies for this dichotomy. Political freedom represents the authority of the government; economic freedom represents the authority of the individual. The combinations of these two axes give us everything contained in the umbrella of Classical Liberalism.

        The Orthosphere are traditionalist reactionaries, if I had to apply an ideological label to them. Traditionalist insofar as tradition informs our shared virtues. Reactionaries, insofar as it is a reaction for the affluence and excess of our modern day and age.

        The commenter hears “traditionalist” and thinks “rightist” because that is the meme–rightists are, to paraphrase Obama’s description, “gun-clinging bible thumpers.” So tradition just makes the meme-ridden political edgelords think of the bible, and the connection is made.

        As traditionalist reactionaries, the Orthosphere doesn’t really have skin in the game of American politics. Those who vote, vote in conformity with their conscience, but not because the Orthosphere has a stated policy position on how to vote on certain issues. Orthosphere generally doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of specific issues except where it crosses into the confines of Traditionalist reactionary thought. And this is the crux of the confusion which the commenter seems to have.

        Left versus Right politics is like a bunch of hyenas fighting over a water-buffalo carcass. Everyone wants to control the carcass but at the end of the day it’s just a rotting dead piece of flesh. The Orthosphere isn’t interested in fighting over that carcass, and that’s why the Orthosphere doesn’t fit neatly into the left/right dichotomy. Orthosphere seems to me to be chiefly concerned with what happens when there’s no more meat on the bone, what then? What comes next? Or, what would be better now? The Orthosphere is not interested with taking power – I can’t speak with personal knowledge but I can say it is unlikely that any contributor or like-minded commenter wants a political revolution with Orthospherean ideals.
        Honestly, the Orthosphere is not really the stuff of political revolutions anyway. It helps us cope with whatever the political winds happen to be, and prioritize our citizenship in heaven.

        This is on target. The orthosphere – this site and others in dialogue with it – is not interested in the present political fight between the liberal Left and the liberal Right, other than as entertainment, and as an evil we must somehow endure, and against which our heirs must someday somehow prevail, by surviving its demise, with all the horrors that is likely to entail. With our old friend Zippy (RIP), we notice, rather, that the entire spectrum of liberal policy paradigms is incoherent – inasmuch as it is founded upon the contradiction of deploying government coercion to enforce one or another sort of liberty – so that *it cannot possibly succeed in its project of ensuring freedom,* but *must eventually devolve into totalitarian tyranny.* “Well,” we say, “as Polybius knew, that’s never going to work; how might it be better to order society, in a way that is more likely to work?” And we look back to premodern societies, that in many cases perdured for millennia, as a library of alternatives; as case studies, experiments that succeeded, more or less (albeit nowhere perfectly, of course). There we find certain things everywhere in common: monarchy, a hierarchy of nobles founded upon freeholders with lordly authority over their own households, state religion or integralism of some sort, traditional morality, and so forth. So we kick that stuff around. Not to undo the Enlightenment and restore Medieval civilization – although that might be fun – but to think about the right way to order whatever it is that is going to follow the eventual collapse of the liberal world order.

        Commenter NLR then had this to say, which I think goes to the heart of your difficulty in understanding the radical dichotomy between reaction and the entire spectrum of liberalism – indeed, between modernity as a whole and the civilization which it superseded:

        I think what it really comes down to is that for many people the past is truly unimaginable. If they think about it, it’s just “modern people in togas.” They can only conceive of traditional societies as being imposed upon people by an authoritarian government. But in reality, people just thought differently and that is the more fundamental reason why society was organized in a different manner.

        I wrote a post where I elaborate on this more.

        Yes! Exactly! I recommend NLR’s post – and Bonald’s, which it links. Scoot answered:

        I think “people thought differently” can be replaced with “people saw the world accurately.” Having an accurate understanding of the power dynamic between yourself and institutions around you is a key to having peace with the world. In your article, you quote Bonald on rejecting the enlightenment – really, just advocacy to see the world accurately.

        Seeing the world accurately won’t make the world better, but it will make you and [me] feel better and we will also have the upper hand because we can see the train wreck coming.

        I commented:

        Great stuff, gentlemen. Scoot, if being a reactionary helps us feel better and improves our chances in the coming wreck, it *does* make the world better. But not by some grand scheme of interference in private lives; rather, by each of us tending his own garden.

        When everyone tends his own garden well, and keeps plucking at the beam in his own eye, and leaving his neighbours alone, our hunch is that a fit and proper and healthy social order will then naturally and organically ensue – and that it will end up manifesting many features of traditional premodern societies.

        Societies don’t perdure because they are particularly true or just. They perdure because they are stable, and they are stable to the extent to which their members accept their arrangements as just or, more commonly as simply inevitable.

        There is much in what you here say. I would not so much dispute it, as to point out that societies are more likely to be stable if they are true and just. A society that is ordered according to principles that are false to fact is bound therefore to be ordered unjustly, at least to some degree – taking justice to be the organization of acts that is proper to the facts – and, so, somehow relatively impoverished, as compared to the prosperity ontologically possible to it, given its circumstances. Societies ordered in better orientation to the facts are likely to outdo those ordered in worse. Better, and more stable, then, ceteris paribus, to get your society as true and as just as possible. This is all just game theory, when you boil it down. Societies compete like genetic algorithms. The posts where I discuss the Gedanken Policy Test have more on this, if you are interested.

        Evolution never stops. The Tyrannosaurus was a highly evolved solution to a particular biological context, and dominated for some millions of years, but it is no more, and Christian monarchies despite their power and glory also belong to the past, and for similar reasons – conditions changed out from under them.

        The same thing is happening, we think, to the modern liberal order. Christianity seems to be something of a Golden Key to successful social order – secular (which is to say, profane) liberalism succeeded so well in the Anglosphere only because that sphere was coasting along on Christian values that any purely profane political order cannot alone maintain – if only because a purely profane political order must remain indifferent to the growth of creeds antithetical to Christianity, and thus to the virtues that make Christian societies so relatively successful – and humane. So we are fairly confident that, after the Collapse™, we are likely to see some sort of integralist Christian polity arise.

        The starting point for Marx was the manifest instability of 19th century civilization, which was undergoing a massive tectonic change due to the rise of industrialism and capitalism. I thought this was a point where reactionaries and Marx would agree – the famous line from the Communist Manifesto about how under modernity “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.” I thought reactionaries and Marx acknowledged the same problem, although their proposals for dealing with it are of course very different.

        But what you write seems to assume that civilization was what it has always been for millennia or more, and Marx came along and upset it just out of spite or something?

        Either you radically misunderstand Marx, or I am radically misunderstanding you (possibly both!).

        Hah! I think it very likely, indeed, that I understand Marx poorly. You are I think correct that Marx and Maistre (and de Tocqueville, Burke, et alii (not to mention Nietzsche) all saw the huge problems inherent in the end of the High Medieval order that culminated in the Renaissance, and of the ancien régime, in all its aspects. But in 1840, vast swathes of that ancien régime were still operative, and indeed massively powerful. Viz., the Austro-Hungarian, British and Russian monarchies. Thus society in 1840 – even in France, indeed even in America – was still operating as basically Christian, and as aristocratic – albeit that the criteria of aristocratic virtue were changing rapidly (the aristocracy even in the Old World was always porous at the bottom for rising common men of talent – was always something of a meritocracy). This old order was not altogether swept away even by WWI. So, it remained in many respects a highly evolved and extremely successful way of being social.

        Capitalism might have evolved back toward a more traditional social order – after all, society has always been somewhat capitalist, ever since we discovered specialization of labor and trade, so there is no reason that a monarchist, aristocratic integralism might not accommodate – and, what is more, domesticate – a capitalist economic order. There is nothing in capitalism per se that rules out any of the basic organs of traditional society. That this did not happen is due in some part to the influence of Marx.

        Sorry for the great length of this comment. I blame the coffee.

    • When I say we are not of the right, I mean we are not classical liberals.

      Even on the internet, “right” does not mean “classical liberal”. It means the party of tradition and authority, of rank and privilege, generally opposed to democracy or to the demotic in general, and to change in general, usually ethnocentric and nationalistic as opposed to globalist and cosmopolitan. The right is not “orthogonal” to liberalism, it is opposed to it. And again, I thought this was acknowledged common sense around here, I confess to be surprised to see this cowardly running away from your professed values.

      Also, I find your usage very confusing because it’s common for so-called classical liberals (who often label themselves, wrongly as libertarians) to claim (also wrongly) that __they__ are the ones who have transcended the tired left/right spectrum through their orthogonal devotion to capitalism and individualism. That’s mostly horseshit, but at least it makes a degree of sense; claiming that reactionary traditionalists are not of the right makes no sense at all.

      The orthosphere – this site and others in dialogue with it – is not interested in the present political fight between the liberal Left and the liberal Right,

      Well that is fair enough, I can’t tell you what to be interested in.

      I however am interested in the fight between the right and the left; it tends to get people murdered, and it is tearing the country apart right now, as the procedural consensus that held the factions together seems to be melting into air, as Marx would have said. That’s why I’m here, to get a better understanding of the thought of the right. If you aren’t of the right, but instead off in some orthogonal make-believe land, then you aren’t very interesting to me.

      Politics is about the real world, or it is mere fantasizing. Nothing wrong with that I guess, certainly the left has its share of utopian dreamers. And everyone can have their own dream, no need for them to be in conflict. But there’s only one real world, and we are both part of it, and thus engaged, in a sort of marginal and ineffectual way, in its politics.

      inasmuch as it is founded upon the contradiction of deploying government coercion to enforce one or another sort of liberty

      You say this like it’s some kind of revelation, but the somewhat paradoxical nature of the liberal state and the need to use coercion to protect freedom is well-known and a topic of discussion in any introductory political philosophy course. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

      There we find certain things everywhere in common: monarchy, a hierarchy of nobles founded upon freeholders with lordly authority

      The idea that this is some kind of human universal is astonishingly ignorant. The idea that it is somehow desirable is laughable; aristocracies are basically gangsters running a protection racket.

      Capitalism might have evolved back toward a more traditional social order…That this did not happen is due in some part to the influence of Marx.

      It’s perfectly plausible that the history of the development of industrial capitalism had gone differently; and instead of the bourgeoise and proletariat displacing the traditional classes and class relationships of feudalism, maybe the latter slowly evolved into the former, preserving vassal relationships between factory owners and employees. Certainly there’s a lot of leftover paternalism in the employer/employee relationship, although that is slowly getting squeezed out over time.

      I’m not sure it matters, because the only thing that matters is the actual world we inhabit, not alternative ones that might have been better. Here in the actual world, monarchies and empires were swept away by a series of radical changes driven by massive technological and economic upheavals. It’s pretty ahistorical to hang all those changes on Marx, who was only one person in the membership of a large and broad movement, which was also driven by the forementioned massive social changes.

      • Even on the internet, “right” does not mean “classical liberal.”

        So much the worse for the internet. We cannot help it that what you describe as “the right” as it is commonly understood – namely, “the party of tradition and authority, of rank and privilege, generally opposed to democracy or to the demotic in general, and to change in general, usually ethnocentric and nationalistic as opposed to globalist and cosmopolitan,” and so forth (a very nice summary, by the way) – is actually reactionary, rather than classically liberal; that, i.e., it is radically distinct from the American political “right” of the present day, that runs the gamut from Bob Dole to Donald Trump. All we can do around here is use terms properly, and accurately, and hope that the usage – and the understanding of the terms, and of the social options they denote – spread more than they otherwise might.

        While the liberal Left and Right both manifest aspects of reaction – inasmuch, e.g., as they each like authority when it is deployed in certain ways or toward certain ends, while otherwise deploring it – they *cannot see that this is so.* Your incomprehension of the distinction between reaction and the presently operative political spectrum in the West is a case in point.

        Here’s the key thing: reaction has lots more in common with the conservative, classical liberals than it does with leftists. That’s why both right and left construe us as right. But their differences are far more profound than their likenesses. The same holds true for reaction vis-à-vis libertarianism. With libertarians and classical liberals, reaction thinks people should be left as much as possible to their own devices. But that’s about it. Nevertheless, that thought by itself suffices to set classical liberals, libertarians and reactionaries together, adamantly, against the wild inanities of the Left.

        You know, this brings to mind a thought. Perhaps what we need here is a reversal of figure and ground. I’ve been saying (since about 2009) that reaction is orthogonal to the plane of liberal notions. But maybe it is Leftism that is orthogonal to all the other notions; that is, i.e., purely nuts. Worth considering. Maybe we need to overturn the categories. Grist for a future post, I hope.

        … again, I thought this was acknowledged common sense around here, I confess to be surprised to see this cowardly running away from your professed values.

        Like I said, it’s been clearly enunciated in our About page since we got started in 2012. If you find it surprising, you have not been reading very carefully. And, to suggest that we are the least bit shy about our traditionalist, reactionary Christian notions – whether for cowardly reasons, or any other – is just, sorry, truly nuts. The *entire site* is devoted to their forthright propagation, forsooth, and always has been. It’s our stock in trade. Dude: what have you been smoking?

        That’s why I’m here, to get a better understanding of the thought of the right. If you aren’t of the right, but instead off in some orthogonal make-believe land, then you aren’t very interesting to me.

        The world thinks reaction is of the right. It is wrong about that, but that is not our problem. If you are interested in reactionary thought, you have come to the right (!) place. Otherwise, not.

        Regardless, if you find the discourse here interesting and edifying, then it is worth your time no matter what label you slap on it. Try to climb out of the urge to label, and just grapple with the ideas. Try your hardest to do that on the basis of an operating supposition that – like all moderns, including all of us – you might have been misled from infancy about the basic axioms of political theory.

        … the somewhat paradoxical nature of the liberal state and the need to use coercion to protect freedom is well-known and a topic of discussion in any introductory political philosophy course.

        Despite the manifest incoherence that founds their liberalism, which they all learnt about at school in their first few lessons in political science, the elite agents of the liberal Establishment keep flogging away at it. It’s insane, really. Why is it, do you think, that they are such fools? Do they keep at it because they are the nomenklatura, and feel that they therefore deserve to be able to oppress the deplorables (and, so, do not understand that oppression as such, but rather as the enlightened government which they are entitled to administer, or some such goddamn thing)? Or is it because they are just stupid, insipid, and diseducated by diseducated teachers?

        … we find certain things everywhere in common: monarchy, a hierarchy of nobles founded upon freeholders with lordly authority …

        The idea that this is some kind of human universal is astonishingly ignorant. The idea that it is somehow desirable is laughable; aristocracies are basically gangsters running a protection racket.

        You’ll have to show your work in respect to that first statement. Societies might not call their monarchs “monarchs,” but that does not mean they don’t have monarchs. Likewise, they might not call their oligarchs “oligarchs,” but that does not mean they don’t have oligarchs. It might, however – especially when they do not understand their oligarchs as such – make it more likely that their oligarchs are not aristoi, but rather evil warlords and tyrants, such as the sort who prevail in Leftist societies.

        As for your second sentence just above, it again manifests the inability of the modern, influenced as he cannot but have been by a Marxian – or, at the very least, a liberal – perspective upon things, that has been inculcated in him from his very first day in kindergarten, to apprehend any social relations of dominance as anything but evil. Marx, and most Marxists, are atheists (or effectually so), and thus radical moral nominalists; so it is impossible to see what they can possibly mean by “evil,” or why they would object to it (especially given the unsurpassed genocidal record of the Left; atheism tends to genocide, if history is any guide). But, never mind that for the time being.

        You cannot conceive, it seems, of what it would be like to have a lord who is good; to have a relation of subjection to a dominant person of authority that you actually *liked* – that, you could feel, did you good. Have you ever had a good boss? Or a good father, or a good professor? Or even just a colleague or friend, whom you admired? That’s a hint of what it would be like.

        Excursus: Here’s the thing: hierarchic relations of dominance could not have survived the scythe of natural selection, so that they were manifest in *every society whatsoever* (NB, not just of humans, but of *all* the social animals) if they did not mostly work for most people most of the time, so that peoples who employed them ended up prospering more than those that did not.

        So far as we now know, multicellular plants are societies that do not manifest hierarchic relations of dominance. It will be interesting to see what biology discovers about that over the next few centuries, as the signals between plant cells are parsed. Inasmuch as they have regnant molecules of DNA, plant cells themselves are hierarchically ordered.

        It is a fantasy of the moderns that the mere existence and operation of a hierarchy entails the oppression of the lower levels thereof. In reality, no hierarchy can long endure in which the higher levels oppress the lower.

        This is readily seen by recourse to stupid action movies in which the evil overlord kills a loyal vassal who has made a mistake, while all the other such minions – armed to the teeth – look on. Could there be a better way to set up his own deletion by underlings, who see the lay of the land? No. We have all heard of fragging. So, that sort of abuse of subjects happens only with *incredibly stupid* overlords – bosses, dukes, corporals, husbands, fathers, mothers, you name it. There are such, to be sure. They are notorious, when they become known; but only, and precisely, *because they are so extraordinary.*

        Abuses of power are noticed precisely because they are extraordinary. They are extraordinary because *they don’t work.* So, most bosses are trying – and, no doubt, failing here or there – to be *good* bosses. And that is what makes truly evil bosses so extraordinary, and so horrible. Or fathers, lords, sergeants, teaching assistants, on and on.

        The good master is the norm. That is why we abhor the bad master. Indeed, it is why we notice him in the first place. The fact of the bad masters is no reason to reject mastery per se. Mastery is just a fact. There is no rejecting it; some men are better than others, along some dimension or other of excellence; and this is as given as the law of gravity. Dominance being ineluctable, there is then only the healing and perfecting of it. An endless task, to be sure. But if progress in it could not be made, then would it be incorrigibly defective, and so worthy of deletion. So then would it have been deleted, long since, so that there would be in nature no hierarchies, anywhere.

        Have you had any good hierarchical relations, or were they all poisoned by abuse and resentment? If the latter, then remember: it is unwarranted, and so foolish, to jettison the institution of fatherhood – or of lordship, of any sort – on account of the fact that there are some bad fathers or lords. If lordship or fatherhood were bad eo ipso, they would no longer be around to criticize. They are everywhere; they must then be mostly good.

        From my own experience, I can say that there are few things more wonderful than the approval of a superior whom one respects. I hope you have enjoyed that experience. If not, how sorry I am for you.

        Here in the actual world, monarchies and empires were swept away by a series of radical changes driven by massive technological and economic upheavals.

        Not for the first time, or the second, or even the third. This is just the way history works. That has been common knowledge since Plato’s day. Civilizations are swept away when they succumb to democracy. Everyone knows this when they think about it for half a moment: a democracy (no matter how limited the franchise) is bound to tend to choose less wisely than are the wisest. QED.

        Marx was an afterthought, and an outworking. Nevertheless, it would be jejune to think that he had not a massive influence upon what came after him. I doubt you are so foolish as to suggest otherwise.

        Everything under the sun is after all an outworking and an afterthought. They are not therefore of no matter. Everything conspires together. So, every voice is heard. Including the voice of the Evil One.

      • I have the feeling that we are entirely talking past each other. It would be frustrating if I actually cared; but for some reason I don’t.

        We cannot help it that what you describe as “the right” as it is commonly understood – namely, “the party of tradition and authority…) – is actually reactionary, rather than classically liberal; that, i.e., it is radically distinct from the American political “right” of the present day, that runs the gamut from Bob Dole to Donald Trump.

        The American political right is not classically liberal in the slightest (although it sometimes pretends to be). Bob Dole is like 100 years old, was a consummate DC statist, and his type has no more power within the party (see Liz Cheney). Donald Trump is a conman with probably no actual beliefs, but his following, which has completely taken over the Republican party, is built around racism, idiot nationalism, and outright fascism.

        I guess I can’t blame you for wanting to be distinct from all that, but you’re going to have to find something other than a difference of opinion about classical liberalism, which is a big nada politically.

        As for your second sentence just above, it again manifests the inability of the modern, influenced as he cannot but have been by a Marxian … to apprehend any social relations of dominance as anything but evil.

        I didn’t use the word “evil”, which is not a “Marxian” concept.

        Let me try again: the function of a feudal aristocracy is functionally identical to that of a Mafia gang. They provide protection to a population, and in return forcibly extract a share of the material production of that population. Whether they are evil or good, or classy or vulgar, is really beside the point. Don Corleone had more class than Tony Soprano, but they both played the same socioeconomic role; that’s what “Marxians” pay attention to.

        Now, it is also true that the aristocracy, since they are the segment of the population that has time and surplus value on their hands, also plays some positive roles, including supporting learning, the arts, and religion. These are worthy activities, and their practitioners are generally smart enough to know where their bread and butter comes from, so apply their skills to glorifying the aristocracy.

        Since I’m not an idiot, I know that you can’t simply apply 21st century concepts to understanding how someone in the 12century (eg) thinks. That’s one reason I am not talking about “evil” or “good” or “like” or “dislike”, but instead talking about the actual power relations (swear to god I am not a Marxist (or “Marxian”) but trying to explain the facts of life to you is gonna turn me into one).

        So what does, say, a French peasant of the 12 century think of this feudal superiors? Honestly I have no idea. He’s dirt poor, he spends almost every waking hour on grueling manual labor, he has little leisure, and what minuscule education he might have was delivered by propagandists for the powers that be. He’s never travelled outside his locality. So what does he think about his lords? Does he envision a better world? I really couldn’t say. Probably he takes social arrangements as just another inevitable part of the world that he has to deal with, like the weather.

        However, I can feel pretty confident of one thing – when the lord comes around to seize a portion of the peasant’s crop for taxes, or rape his daughters, or conscript his sons, he’d probably rather that wan’t happening. Doesn’t take a lot of education or experience to feel that.

        And indeed, there were a number of peasant revolts, Wikipedia has a handy list. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_peasant_revolts Most of these were failures of course, but we can presume for every actual revolt there were thousands dreams of throwing off the shackles of the social order.

        You cannot conceive, it seems, of what it would be like to have a lord who is good; to have a relation of subjection to a dominant person of authority that you actually *liked*

        I have liked certain authority figures; but in all cases they were not dominant and there was no subjection. Eg teachers, of whom I have had many great and good ones. They didn’t teach by subjecting their students to domination, but by setting examples and sharing what they knew.

        There are perfectly good models for authority that do not involve domination and subjection; this is a good chunk of what the Tao Te Ching is about, after all.

        All streams flow to the sea
        because it is lower than they are.
        Humility gives it its power.
        If you want to govern the people,
        you must place yourself below them.
        If you want to lead the people,
        you must learn how to follow them.

        The Master is above the people,
        and no one feels oppressed.
        She goes ahead of the people,
        and no one feels manipulated.

      • I have the feeling that we are entirely talking past each other. It would be frustrating if I actually cared; but for some reason I don’t.

        So because you don’t care at all, you post an 800 word comment. OK.

        Donald Trump is a conman with probably no actual beliefs, but his following, which has completely taken over the Republican party, is built around racism, idiot nationalism, and outright fascism.

        You here betray your ignorance. Dude, you’ve been watching too much CNN. You’ve bought the Party Line, like an ignorant apparatchik, a useful idiot. Trump’s support is classic civic nationalist in character. Not, i.e., anything we here would recognize as reactionary (whatever it is, the Orthosphere is *not* civic nationalist). For what it is worth, it is also earnestly anti-racist, and anti-fascist; it is at bottom pro-American (if you have a problem with that, in particular, then, well, what have you to do, after all, with intra-American politics; what are you, then, but a fifth column exogenous enemy of America, and of all her peoples, howsoever construed?)(in which case, why should any American pay attention to you, other than to fight you?). What is more, it is throughout generous and welcomes any who would accept its principles, whatever their race. This is *obvious* to anyone willing to just look for a moment at a video of a Trump rally. Nobody at such rallies would want to eject the blacks or Latinos there present. On the contrary, they all celebrate and welcome them, without a trace of discomfort or effort – with, indeed, great happiness, which is then reciprocated. Which, I must add, is really rather gorgeous. It is a beautiful thing, when people of disparate races can agree. Only a moral dummkopf would suggest otherwise.

        I didn’t use the word “evil,” which is not a “Marxian” concept.

        Being atheist, Marxism cannot cognize evil. So, yeah, Marxism is not able to comprehend evil, so that evil is not a Marxian concept. That is why Marxist regimes are so often so horrifically evil, and so often murder so many millions. But, if evil is then not a Marxian category, on what basis might Marxists object to this or that social order? They do thus object. They take oppression to be “worse” than its absence. Implicitly, then, they deploy the idea of evil. No absolute evil, then no “better” and no “worse.” No better or worse, then no reason to disrupt things so as to achieve the dictatorship of the proletariat, as opposed to some other dictatorship. There being no such category as evil, no sort of dictatorship might be bad.

        The whole thing is nuts. Marxists are insane. I say that without equivocation: Marxism is just insane. Anyone who buys into it is nuts.

        I grant that Marxists might not *think* that evil is a Marxian concept. But, in practice it is not possible to reason about the differential virtues of this or that social order in the utter absence of an absolute and prevenient moral order, according to which some sorts of acts are *absolutely* worse than others – as, e.g., oppression.

        Let me try again: the function of a feudal aristocracy is functionally identical to that of a Mafia gang. They provide protection to a population, and in return forcibly extract a share of the material production of that population. Whether they are evil or good, or classy or vulgar, is really beside the point. Don Corleone had more class than Tony Soprano, but they both played the same socioeconomic role; that’s what “Marxians” pay attention to.

        No argument there. But here’s the thing: if the gangsters *really do care* about their subjects, and act in their best interests (which, of course – as with all properly ordered social relations, which must be symbioses if they are long to perdure – redounds at last to their own), then *what exactly is the problem?*

        If my lord *really is looking out for my interests,* in part because he is a noble and therefore generous man, and in part because if I do well then in the long run so shall he, and vice versa, so that I am just as interested in his welfare as he is in mine, then … what the hell is the problem?

        So what does, say, a French peasant of the 12th century think of this feudal superiors? Honestly I have no idea. He’s dirt poor, he spends almost every waking hour on grueling manual labor, he has little leisure, and what minuscule education he might have was delivered by propagandists for the powers that be. He’s never travelled outside his locality. So what does he think about his lords? Does he envision a better world? I really couldn’t say. Probably he takes social arrangements as just another inevitable part of the world that he has to deal with, like the weather.

        Your notion of medieval peasant life is badly out of date. It was a lot nicer than you suppose. It was a lot more leisurely. There were something like 180 holy days every year. Vacation days. On many such days, there were major festivals – which is to say, feasting – which were largely funded and furnished by the local esquire. Sure, you still had to feed the pigs and wash the dishes on those days, but you were in them excused from labor qua vassal.

        I doubt you have so many free days each year. I sure don’t. We moderns are the wage slaves. Our forebears, most of them, the peasants, were freemen. And here’s the thing that moderns forget in their assessments of feudalism: the freemen could pledge their fealty to the lord of their choice: Sir Basil to the west, or Sir Cecil to the east. This, at least, if their own fief stood at the margin of those two realms. It is always at the margins that societies enact their adjustments to reality. So, both Cecil and Basil had to be careful of the yeomen near the boundaries of their realms, lest those boundaries suffer a sudden adjustment at the hands of said yeomen. Any such adjustment might as the margins moved across the landscape portend another like adjustment. Cecil and Basil had both therefore to watch their tenants and vassals, to be sure they were doing OK, and happy withal. The system was stable because it worked in the interest of everyone. In no other way might it have lasted, or even come into being in the first place, circa 4,000 BC.

        Same for “dirt poor.” To be dirt poor is just to be a peasant, who is poor – or, NB, rich – in virtue of the land under his governance. Land in Europe is amazingly verdant and productive. Ditto for the Nile Valley, and the Fertile Crescent. To be dirt poor can be to be life rich. Only an elitist fool, alienate from the Land and convinced of his own elite superiority, could think otherwise. There are few lives more noble or more consequential than that of the peasant farmer. And every squire in the manor immediately supersidiary in the hierarchy to such freemen knew this well, for each of them himself maintained, qua farmer, his own lands. It is a poor and stupid lord who never dirties his own hands. Such there have of course been, always. They do not long outlast the others, who are not quite so nice.

        In all that you say, you take the predicament of the modern wage slave to be to him like the weather. Your language betrays you. You think the predicament of the medieval peasant was like that of an accounting clerk in Megacorp. That is a massive and foolish anachronism.

        However, I can feel pretty confident of one thing – when the lord comes around to seize a portion of the peasant’s crop for taxes, or rape his daughters, or conscript his sons, he’d probably rather that wasn’t happening. Doesn’t take a lot of education or experience to feel that.

        Nobody likes taxes, to be sure. And the levy for military service was no nicer in medieval days than it is today (notice, please, that taxes and the military levy are still with us). But any lord who raped the daughters of his subjects was as likely as not to discover an arrow suddenly in his back, or a dagger in his nids, on some fine summer’s eve. Or to find his son by the side of the road, throat slit.

        Can’t you see that *it just doesn’t pay* to abuse your subjects? This is *so obvious.* I’m shocked that you can think that such stupidity can ever have been normal. As a principle of social order, evil *just does not work.*

        Don’t you get that? Don’t you see how it is incredibly stupid of the evil villain in the Bond movie to kill the underling who has erred? Don’t you see how that incredibly stupid act would soon lead to his own deletion, at the hands of his other lethal minions?

        Honestly, this is so obvious.

        Think, man. Think game theoretically. It helps so much, I promise you.

        A word now about military hierarchy, which is ubiquitous in human society. It perdures – indeed, it can happen in the first place – only insofar as the officers care about their men. This, even in the dire circumstance that they must send those men, whom they care about as brothers, into certain death for the sake of their mutual prince – of their nation and people, i.e., who are in that prince signified and embodied. If when thus sent unto death for the sake of their prince and so of their people those men did not go, there would be no military hierarchy.

        There would be then no nation. If this is not immediately obvious to you, then, well, you are just an historical fool.

        In practice, of course, the officers always went over the top with their men. Indeed, they *led* their men over the top, and died with them. Have you indeed seen no movies about WWI?

        Without that military hierarchy, there can be no military order to begin with; i.e., no military, at all, but rather only a muddle of competing warlords and shifting alliances. That is a state of social order – if so it may be called – that precedes – that does not quite reach – civilization. It is, rather, mere civil war; a procedure that seeks by the destruction of all the alternatives to find the stable solution, which alone can found civilization.

        And indeed, there were a number of peasant revolts, Wikipedia has a handy list. Most of these were failures of course, but we can presume for every actual revolt there were thousands [of] dreams of throwing off the shackles of the social order.

        Sure. And there have been lots of revolts against abusive fathers. Rightly so! Shall we then get rid of fatherhood? Shall we, i.e., get rid of the species? Don’t be stupid. Of course not.

        Honestly, a.morphous; if you want to suggest that we here advocate injustice in social relations, well then, too bad for you. We don’t, and we shan’t. If lords be evil, they shall soon, and rightly, meet their comeuppances, to cheers from our quarters. This, whatever they call themselves, as respecting their political convictions, and no matter what the social order of their day. Ill redounds to the ill. It cannot be otherwise.

        The Trumpkins whom you now so deplore, let me remind you, are *exactly* those peasants who now revolt against the abuses of the Establishment Deep State Leftists of your own Party. The Trumpkins of today *are* the peasants in revolt. Do not for a moment imagine that it is otherwise. Your own Party is the ruling Establishment. It is in the business of farming those peasants, who now revolt against it. Accordingly, the Establishment propagandists at CNN et alii impugn them as terrorists.

        Don’t you see this? Don’t you see that the Trumpkin peasants are revolting against your own Central Party Narrative?

        Dude, you are right now what in your fevered imagination you think Marie Antoinette was. It’s a sad thing. You are not even as alpha as she was. Sad.

        The Master is above the people, and no one feels oppressed.

        Exactly. The Tao te Ching is an admirable guide to reactionary political philosophy. The people are happy and prosperous under the reign of a just king, who does not interfere with their lives. They feel themselves free. It’s all about subsidiarity. So simple. Nuff said.

      • So because you don’t care at all, you post an 800 word comment. OK.

        Let me be more precise: the point of argument is supposed to be changing your opponent’s mind, or perhaps arriving at a mutually-agreed-upon truth. I have no hope of that (and you shouldn’t either) but somehow, I don’t care. Whatever is driving this conversation, it’s not that. We could go on for another seven years and I doubt either of us would have budged an inch.

        I had a long and detailed reply to you queued up, but the death of your colleague has made me pause. Life is short, we must take care of how we make use of our limited time on this earth. More true for me than for you, with your expectations of eternity.

      • Thanks for that, a.morphous. Spoken like a gentleman. I know Tom would have appreciated it. Does.

        For what it’s worth, once a day or four have passed and you think it not indecent to post your reply, I would be interested in it (and so would Tom, I feel sure, if only because it could be counted upon to provoke a reply from me).

        To me, the great value of our exchanges – for which I thank you, honestly – is twofold.

        First, I learn from responding to you. Teaching is the best way to fathom the subject at hand, and so forth. You prompt me to explain myself more fully. In so doing, I discover new things. I hope you likewise profit from our discussions.

        Second, we have an audience of readers. We may not ever agree, but our controversies edify them, and, so, we may hope, enable them to see more clearly the truth that we two muddle toward.

        The one thing I can count on from you is honesty. And, old friend, that is an invaluable quality in an adversary.

        May we two at the last, when our own times are both come, welcome each other in Valhalla, and there continue our controversies.

        Bearing in mind that, as having arrived at Valhalla, many of my own arguments contra yours will have been vindicated … ! Not to worry. We’ll have more.

  5. A sidebar, Kristor:

    Consider: as an aspiring artist, to whom would you rather pledge your service as an apprentice: Michelangelo, or yourself? Which of those two masters is most likely to enlarge your freedom, all things considered?

    This is an interesting twist on the “master/servant” dynamic–and reminded me that an archaic use of the word master was to refer to a teacher–I think “maestro” means teacher in Spanish even. From there, Maestro, as in an orchestra:

    The best harmony of an orchestra is achieved when all the members serve the same maestro, and are likewise equally committed to performing well their tasks in his service. The members of an orchestra are not obliged at the crack of a whip to play their instruments, but freely choose to do so out of a love of the maestro or a love of the harmonious music. The achievements of the orchestra belong to the maestro first, and in turn to the members of the band. When the performance is done the maestro takes his bow and presents the band, and each of the members says to the other “good job on your performance”.

    The orchestra preserves
    *Individual achievement
    *Free will
    *Harmony between persons

    When a person disobeys the maestro they ruin the quality of the music of everybody. When an idolater brings sheet music they wrote themselves, it might seem well and good to them but it does not conform to the will of the maestro. They might chafe at this and view it as oppression, but only the maestro gets to choose the music being played, and all we can do is choose to participate harmoniously or not.

    And that’s why everyone needs (and has, like it or not) a fundamental principle : We are all in the orchestra together, there is no question about it. To mutilate a Zippy quote for my own use: Playing the music is voluntary, it is also mandatory. There is no other band, there is no other kind of music.

    • That’s a great analogy, thanks, Scoot. The orchestra and choir are microcosms of … well, of the cosmos. Kosmos is from kosmein: “to dispose, prepare,” but especially “to order and arrange troops (for battle), to set (an army) in array;” also “to establish (a government or regime);” “to deck, adorn, equip, dress …” Thus the notion of the music of the spheres. Hebrew Sabaoth – usually translated to English as ‘hosts (of angels)’ – means the same thing; the stars – that is to say, the angels – arrayed in order of battle. The stars like jewels adorn the breast of the firmament.

      “Chorus” is from khoros: “round dance; dancing-place; band of dancers; company of persons in a play, under a leader …” So the notion connects up with recent posts about the stack of worlds, in which I compared a subsidiary world to a play in our own.

      The crucial importance to social cohesion and survival of good coordination of individual acts is the reason that eccentrics, heretics, and odd ducks are generally held in suspicion, and are often selected for ostracism or banishment – or death. The technical term for someone who insists upon going his own way, without reference to the prevalent social principles – who, that is to say, abjures all subjection – is “idiot.”

      • Keeping my sidebars in my sidebar area:

        Your notion of medieval peasant life is badly out of date. It was a lot nicer than you suppose. It was a lot more leisurely. There were something like 180 holy days every year. Vacation days. On many such days, there were major festivals – which is to say, feasting – which were largely funded and furnished by the local esquire.

        For something like 300 or 400 years there was the Peace of God and the Truce of God:

        It confirmed permanent peace for all churches and their grounds, the monks, clerks and chattels; all women, pilgrims, merchants and their servants, cattle and horses; and men at work in the fields. For all others peace was required throughout Advent, the season of Lent, and from the beginning of the Rogation days until eight days after Pentecost.[24] This prohibition was subsequently extended to specific days of the week, viz., Thursday, in memory of the Ascension, Friday, the day of the Passion, and Saturday, the day of the Resurrection (council 1041). By the middle of the twelfth century the number of proscribed days was extended until there was left some eighty days for fighting.

        I am reading the biography of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain (who was no lover of religion), and his description of St. Joan’s peasant life–which he rightly points out comes to us under oath–was a pleasant and loving one. Her attitude, and that of her peers, towards her sovereign was kindly and loving like a daughter or son to a father, as well. Great emphasis is put on the Coronation of Charles at Rheims because a King without a Coronation cannot be a king, and the peasants will not support him if the liturgies are not followed. Likewise, the King understood this respect for his people and would neither plunder nor rape the people he relied upon to support him.

        Contrast this with Brutus, who overthrew the would-be king Julius Caesar, who in the ensuing civil war against Octavian and Antony promised his troops that if they stayed with him through the fighting they could plunder and loot 2 cities on their way from Greece to Rome (2 roman cities–he bought loyalty of his soldiers through brutality to his countrymen). Luckily this did not come to fruition, as Brutus and Cassius were destroyed at the Battles of Philippi.

        Caesar, for his part, left in his will something like 3 months wages for every adult male citizen in Rome, which had a material effect on reducing poverty and increasing the standard of living.

        So, whatever we think about kings, we have to at least acknowledge that SOME of them were good, and that those who overthrew kings were not universally noble and virtuous. History shows us that the world after the french revolution (the beginning of the end of Monarchies) has been more brutal, not less, than even the popular meme portrayal of feudalism.

      • For the past two or three centuries, every educated person has known that from the fall of Rome until about the 15th century Europe was submerged in the “Dark Ages” – centuries of ignorance, superstition and misery – from which it was suddenly, almost miraculously rescued, first by the Renaissance and then by the Enlightenment. But it didn’t happen that way. Instead, during the so-called Dark Ages, European technology and science overtook and surpassed the rest of the world!

        The idea that Europe fell into the Dark Ages is a hoax originated by antireligious, and bitterly anti-Catholic, 18th century intellectuals who were determined to assert the cultural superiority of their own time and who boosted their claim by denigrating previous centuries as – in the words of Voltaire – a time when “barbarism, superstition, [and] ignorance covered the face of the world.” Views such as these were repeated so often and so unanimously that, until very recently, even dictionaries and encyclopedias accepted the Dark Ages as an historical fact. Some writers even seemed to suggest that people living in, say, the 9th century described their own time as one of backwardness and superstition.

        Fortunately, in the past few years these views have been so completely discredited that even some dictionaries and encyclopedias have begun to refer to the notion of [the] Dark Ages as mythical. Unfortunately, the myth has so deeply penetrated our culture that even most scholars continue to take it for granted that – in the words of Edward Gibbon – after Rome fell came the “triumph of barbarism and religion.” …

        Rodney Stark: The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, & Western Success, p. 35 ff.

        It is evident from a photo of the crowd gathered for a royal wedding that the relation between lords and their subjects is suffused with resentment:

  6. Pingback: CCXLII – Orthosphere and the Political Right – Times-Dispatch of Vichy Earth

  7. @JMSmith:

    You’re a cynical libertine leftist with a soft spot for Buddhism. That’s your business, but it is not astonishingly original, and it is probably not brave where you live

    No, not particularly original nor brave, but I don’t think I ever claimed to be. In fact my current beliefs are pretty boring, even to me – except here, where I have to defend them against their enemies. It breathes new life into a formerly stale worldview.

    We are all in some sense “subjugated” because we are all cultured. We have come, by choice, accident, or inherent inclination, to emulate certain heroes and respect certain authorities.

    We are certainly enculturated, I wouldn’t call it subjugation though. Which might be quibbling with words but I think it gets to the heart of our disagreement. Culture is not something alien to which we are subjugated, it is constitutive of who we are, it speaks through us and vice versa.

    In other words, nobody forced hippie horseshit onto me, I come by it naturally, follow it willingly, and am glad to be part of it. If you, on the other hand, feel subjugated by your culture, well, that's sad, but the whole point of hippie horseshit is that one does not have to be.

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