Preparing for the Aftermath: My Answer to Francis Berger

Francis Berger has just posted a useful critique of what he takes to be the Orthosphere program for religious and civilizational renovation.  The critique is irenic and I encourage you to not only to read it, but also to mull it over in your meditations.  I’ve copied my own comment below.

This Orthospherian is not offended by critique, especially by a critique as courteous and thoughtful as this one.  I have more than once told Kristor that Orthosphere is really a misnomer since disobedient complaint is the great theme of the site.  I wasn’t present at the creation of the Orthosphere, so I don’t know why they chose the Maistre quote (or Guido Reni painting) for the banner, but I would guess it was to brandish the sword of anti-modern (Maistre) pugnacity (St. Michael).  To my mind anti-modernism means radicalism, not put-back-the-clockism, although I have personally tried to practice what might be called antiquarian radicalism.  That is to say scouring the past for sticks of dynamite that explode contemporary cant.

I agree with what you say about spiritual evolution and the need to put our wine in new wineskins.  I am fully aware of all the horrible mischief that has been done under the pretext of liturgical reform, and I have no concrete liturgical reforms to propose, but I am painfully conscious of being a sheep that is not being fed.  I stopped attending mass because it was a numbing combination of liberal browbeating and kitsch.  For twenty years I excused the kitsch by telling myself that it apparently spoke to other people; but I finally decided that I needed a Church that once in a while spoke to me.

I read the Maistre quote as saying that every civilization has its altar, the only question being the nature of the sacrifice that is offered on that altar.  The public sacrifice of the old Christian civilization was, of course, a reenactment of the one sufficient sacrifice, and this is why Christian altars were not covered in blood.  There are altars in post-Christian civilization, but they are again bloody altars, like those of long ago.

I agree with what you say about resurrection rather than restoration.  The only way to new life is through death.  This is true for us as individuals, and it also true for civilizations, churches, and the race of Man at large.  A tired man can temporarily revive himself with stimulants like coffee, tobacco, and alcohol, and by these means he can prolong his day into the small hours; but what a tired man really needs to do is lay down and sleep.  This means that we can only postpone the death of a moribund civilization and church, and that the better course is to let them go to sleep.  Rather than propping them up with the equivalents of coffee, tobacco, and alcohol, we should be plan for how we and our offspring will survive the aftermath without degenerating into heathens and barbarians.

13 thoughts on “Preparing for the Aftermath: My Answer to Francis Berger

  1. My basic thesis is that Christianity needs a Christendom. Otherwise the Church does not occupy the same psychic space for the modern Christian, who therefore no longer has the experience of the Church qua Church (h/t Bruce Charlton). As a consequence, Christianity is easily driven from the institutions and the public square.

    The Christian hierarchs–the successors to the Apostles–have enthusiastically abased themselves before the Novus Ordo Seclorum, which is understandable. The NOS has nukes and lots of loyal, pensioned bureaucrats to crush any serious resistance. In the struggle between Church and State, the State has prevailed against Her–there is no milder way to put this.

    (By the way, I wish I could avoid the other painful conclusion: the United States of America, the NOS, has become an agent of chaos and evil. Maybe it always was.)

    The response of individual Christians seems to be some variant of either political/social libertarianism or hunkering down with Rod Dreher on M. Night Shyamalan’s Village. I admire but ultimately am skeptical of the first approach. Hold-out traditionalist RCC parishes and American Orthodox are putting up a valiant fight, but they’re not reproducing themselves in their pews (I expect to hear from people saying their parish is full of children. My response, show me the numbers and trendlines; no great Traditionalist revival is coming). And again, despite the exquisite liturgics and rigorous praxis, the Church is simply not the Church qua Church in the modern world. And you’re still paying your tax dollars to Moloch, who isn’t going anywhere until somebody or somebodies kill him. And I’ll leave it at that.

    Maybe the Village-approach (i.e., Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option) is on the right track. The Amish and the Hasidim have their little Zions and are reproducing themselves in their pews. I have little experience of either though, so I don’t know. I think that thesis is in its highly experimental if not wholly theoretical phase. I think the actual Amish and Hasidic communities have problems with brain drain and some growing social dysfunction. A smart, conservative woman I know is familiar with the Amish, and she says there is no way in hell she would live like that.

    For me therefore, the question is how to get a Christendom (and, I repeat, the hierarchs have made clear that they are not in the Christendom-establishing business). I think this requires a geographic redoubt, but it at least must be a psychic and social space and way of living for us to pursue theosis and save civilization, because the alternative is an areligious, mundane society which ends up going insane. And for the reasons I’ve stated, being pious family men and women in a few holdout parishes is not going to cut it, nor is LARPing on an Amish movie set.

    I think the problem is universal. Pious Muslims, Buddhists, the whole world, are struggling with the rollback of transcendence.

    • This is what the Mormons tried to do when they escaped to their isolated oasis beside the Great Salt Lake. But the world refused to leave them alone. Anyone who tries to preserve real diversity will nowadays find globohomo bombs falling on them in short order. If they try to isolate themselves in their own institutions, those institutions will be infiltrated under the cover of inclusion and diversity, or destroyed by lawsuits and negative publicity. To keep children in a minority sect, those children must be taught that everyone outside the sect is a filthy sub-human. This is part of the old Jewish survival strategy, but Christians are probably constitutionally incapable of it. I hope we will see a mutation of orthodox Christianity that can survive in the environment of the Aftermath. I agree with Berger that we need a Christian liturgy that speaks to the postmodern soul, but would add that we need a Christian community that can survive in a the post-Christian world.

      • “To keep children in a minority sect, those children must be taught that everyone outside the sect is a filthy sub-human. This is part of the old Jewish survival strategy, but Christians are probably constitutionally incapable of it.”

        Maybe we were like that in the beginning. Pagans were not sub-human, but they were condemned to eternal punishment so it was better not to associate too deeply with them.

        But Emperor Constantine changed that. And Christianity has changed to be the official religion. When then bourgeois revolutions established liberalism as the official religion, it was only a question of time that Christianity faded in the West.

        This topic is depressing. Short of collapse, I don’t see any solution.

      • It may be impossible for any subgroup to maintain its boundaries once it admits liberal principle. On liberal principles, there is no moral difference between the people inside and outside the group. Nothing is binding. Everything is choice.

  2. I don’t know, I am certainly not as learned as the rest, but a few of those things seemed to throw up “pious peasant” red flags (i.e., something that would strike a pious peasant of the middle ages as off, but can’t quite articulate). Things like a new revelation, fulfillment and completion of revelation, revelation of man to God, no judgment, doing away with authority, etc. I realize he is quoting someone else, but does so favorably. Sounds suspiciously close to non serviam or Ye shall be as God. Hope he hasn’t ingested a strange apple. Maybe it’s just a question of further detail on what is meant by those things.

    • No doubt there are dangers aplenty, but a Church designed for pious peasants must die when there are no more peasants to be pious. Things that impressed and made sense to a medieval peasant do not impress and make sense to us. The modernists were not altogether wrong about this.

      • I think the solution in worship is to give more freedom to local communities to worship the way they see fit. There should be an offer of Latin masses, Novus Ordo masses, Byzantine rite, etc. New forms of worships could be accepted if they are respectful enough.

        With the time, the most attractive forms of worship would be identified because they are the more popular ones. This is the real way to identify forms of worship that appeal to us.

        The wrong way is for some people with religious power to single-handedly decide what is the most attractive form of worship and then impose it to the masses. I have copied a comment from “R Tyria” below about this. There is a documentary

        Then the people don’t find attractive the new Mass designed to be attractive and vote with their feet.

        There is a documentary called “Mass of the Ages” (episode 2) where it is explained how Annibale Bugnini single-handedly created the Novus Ordo mass. I don’t include the link so my comment gets through the moderation.

        I hope this comment gets through the moderation. If I write these things, it is because I think they are important. I never want to offend anybody but it is tiring to write long texts, spend lots of time, and not getting any comment through moderation.


        R Tyria comment in a Youtube comment. I have added blank lines.

        I lived during the implementation of V2, and not just in one diocese, or one parish, but in many places and different States. The new Mass was still an infant when I was born.

        The Council was foisted on the “People of God” with iron clubs and spiked boots. Anyone who questioned the Council, or even just expressed affection for what came before was shamed, brutally brow beaten into silence or driven from the Church. There was no mercy, no tolerance, no patience, no understanding, no compassion.

        We were thrown out of parishes and schools for having the audacity to believe in the Real Presence, or the perpetual virginity of Mary. “We don’t believe those things anymore,” we were told and thrown out.

        The Mass was regularly abused – not just said badly, but diverged so much from our missals that sometimes we couldn’t even follow along. Often the priest would be so “creative” we wondered if the Sacrament was even valid.

        And then there was the Communion Indult. I lived through that, I will not forget. Priests flatly refused to give Communion on the tongue (“We don’t do it that way anymore. This is more sanitary.”) First Communicants were not taught to receive on the tongue, we were threatened and shamed into receiving in the hand (“your grandparents are coming a long way to see you and if you do not put your hand out Father will not give you Communion. You wouldn’t want that, would you? Of course not, it would embarrass your whole family.”)

        For wanting the same Faith as our grandparents we were ridiculed. For defending the teachings the Church has always taught we were labeled reactionaries – we had a bad attitude, we were ungrateful, spiteful, mean spirited, schismatic.

        There are multiple reason so many have left, and the refusal to give up sin is only one of them. If your clergy heap spiritual and verbal abuse on you why should you stay? Because God is prisoner in the tabernacle? That has kept me in my pew, but not most.

        This is the true legacy of that Council. It wasn’t implemented badly, it was designed to be used a certain way by anyone with the inclination to do so – and no one stopped them.

  3. It is obvious that we can’t go back. We must go forward. The project of the Orthosphere is to limn a cult, a culture, and a society that can work properly for humans after modernism – including the modernist “Church” – has crashed, by dint of exploration of the traditional societies that worked.

    Creating a new Christianity that is not the old time religion can’t work. That has already been tried. We are now living in the midst of the results of that experiment. So, one thing we can be pretty sure of is that a properly flourishing Western civilization will have to be founded upon and ordered by – and, in the last analysis, governed by – traditional, orthodox Christianity. Thus one of the main subsidiary projects of the Orthosphere is the explanation of and apology for orthodox Christian doctrine. To the extent that moderns find Christianity incredible or repugnant, it is usually because they misunderstand Christianity. One of our jobs is to do what we can to dispel their confusion.

    Freedom and creativity, on the one hand, and order and hierarchy on the other, are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are interdependent. Order is a forecondition of all coherent action – action that is not chaotic. And vice versa: what is not creatively enacted (NB: “creatively enacted” is redundant, for all action is creative) in the first place can’t be either ordered or chaotic.

    It is the same with love and obedience. All love is loyalty to some other. Likewise, participation is possible only to parts, and in virtue of a whole.

    Likewise also with throne and altar on the one hand, and the priesthood of all believers on the other. Without the former, there is no religion, no cult, that numbers more than one adherent, and so there is cultic and therefore cultural chaos. Which is more or less what we are devolving toward right now, fast. On the other hand, without the latter, there is no life in the ecclesial organism, which, as John the Evangelist was one of the first to see, is nourished by food provided by the contemplatives, each of whom, living as such men do at the bleeding edge of human life in its communion with the Eternal One, is almost by definition a spiritual free lancer.

    The contemplative is like the hunter who brings his game back to the camp and hands it over to his Lord to be the matter of the communal sacrifice and the meat of the whole community: he brings back the food from the wilderness, and submits to hierarchical authority.

    All of these desiderata have been present in and expressed by the Church from the beginning, and throughout the many periods of desuetude into which she has fallen, and always more or less, here or there, suffers, and endures. There’s no other way to obtain an organization of sinful humans; such organizations are bound to run off the rails now and then, sometimes quite badly.

    As is happening right now. The Church hierarchy is actively suppressing the Church. That can’t continue, so it won’t. Some new thing will arise, which in retrospect will turn out to have been implicit in the Church ab initio. It will, i.e., turn out to be the True Church.

    Our job here is not to make that happen by doing this or that, but rather to try to figure out how things will have to work if they are indeed to work; to explain why that is, and how.

    So long as there is society, there is always an altar, and there is always a throne. It’s no good trying to do without throne and altar, for they’ll just keep coming back in disguise, thus distorted and insofarforth debased, and so wicked.

    As for the evolution of consciousness, Francis ”[finds] the casual dismissal or downgrading of consciousness development espoused by many of the writers at sites like The Orthosphere troubling.” I confess I do not recall any writer at the Orthosphere ever dismissing or downgrading the evolution of consciousness, or even discussing it. I vaguely recall a discussion of Wolfgang Smith’s excoriation of Teilhard in a comment thread, but I’d have a hard time verifying my recollection.

    That said, I have a hard time believing that man is spiritually more competent today than he was in the Axial Age, or in AD 30. It seems to me that if consciousness has evolved, it has in so doing not so much gained new powers – although I do not at all discount that possibility – as changed emphases, from one age to the next. That can be significant, to be sure. But it looks to me more like an accidental than an essential change; not, i.e., a change in the nature of man as such, or in our inherent capacities. Man qua homo sapiens seems to have been capax dei from the start, as far back as Lascaux, and indeed even to the grave goods of the Neanderthalenses. The Idea of the Holy seems to be characteristically human.

    Thus I am wary of the perennial claims of New Agers – i.e., Sophists – for the last few thousands of years that we are on the verge of a phase change in what it means to be human (so that they can get what they happen to want from society); Age of Aquarius, and all that. It seems to me rather that we have been for at least 700 years now – possibly 7,000, or more – involved in the long, drawn out, grinding, painful process of cultural devolution identified in the Axial Age as Kali Yuga. It seems to me much more realistic to suppose that man is Originally Sinful, period full stop; and that we are therefore, being for the most part and to begin with profane and unrepentant in our sinfulness, and indeed rejoicing thereat (like Prodigal Sons still enjoying the plenteous feed supplied to their sties (which, let it be noted, was to fatten them for slaughter)), and thus deeply unholy and unrighteous altogether, bound as a species to a regress that began with Paradise and ends at the eschaton. With Tolkien, I say: “I am a Christian, and indeed a Catholic; so I cannot but view history as a long defeat.”

    Does that mean we should not do what we can to ameliorate our predicaments? By no means! For that, too, would be sinful, inasmuch as it would cheat reality of such goods as can be realized given the capacities of this or that era. That the Rohirrim are not so exalted as the Numenoreans once were does not mean they are no good at all, and so not worth fighting to preserve, and indeed to prosper. So, if we can undo some of the damage done since the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, or for that matter the New Deal and Vatican II, we should, by all means, even though our success at that would not at all change the eventual outcome, in the general catastrophe that awaits this world.

    That we will all someday die and be eaten by worms does not entail that there is no reason to mop up the spilt milk of a sunny Sunday morning, or wipe the baby’s bottom at 3 AM of a Thursday.

    Excursus: What is the ultimate reason that it makes sense to mop up that spilt milk and wipe that dear little poopy bottom? The Resurrection of all our bodies. No such Resurrection → no reason.

    NB then that we – those of us, anyway, who are the least bit sane – deeply *want* to mop up the spilt milk, and wipe that poopy bottom, whether we are Christian or not. To do so is a basic human instinct, and impulse; an essential bit of what it is to be human.

    The lesson? We are built from our very beginnings, as a species and as instances thereof, for the Resurrection.

    So cool.

    So is it that another of the subsidiary projects of the Orthosphere is the elucidation of the incoherence implicit in the toxic ideological stew we have variously called modernism, liberalism, and the cult of Moloch. That incoherence, being chthonic to moderns, is extremely hard for them to apprehend, much less understand. Until they do, they’ll keep aping it. So, we must try to help them first see, and then understand.

    It’s all a big job. But somebody’s got to do it; might as well be us.

    I shall post this comment as a new essay. It says a lot of important stuff, that deserves I think to be shown by us at the outmost level of this site.

  4. Pingback: On the Reason & Purpose & Intent of the Orthosphere – The Orthosphere

  5. I would have to disagree that wherever an altar exists, there one finds civilization. Rather, wherever an altar, there blood must be shed. The sacrificial nature of the altar requires blood.
    Even the brutal, bestial Incas thought themselves holier for disemboweling the weak, whom they’d conquered and killed, and eating them. When one takes the wafer, held to be the body and the blood of Christ, and not merely a symbol, is this not the shedding of blood (figuratively) upon the altar? And many uncivilized barbaric acts have proceeded from speakers who have cloaked themselves with the vestments and badges of altars.
    But I am not a Catholic, nor a Christian, and have come late in life to these ideas, and only through reading. Perhaps I’m much mistaken in these notions, and if I am, please, learned gentlemen, correct and guide me.
    I’ve taken quite a fancy to the fiction of John Galsworthy. I strayed a bit into his essays, such as Castles in Spain (1920), in which he attempts an answer to the question — whither “Progress?” where mundane existence makes a man into a drone, etc.
    “Beauty, alone, in the largest sense of the word — the yearning for it, the contemplation of it, has civilised mankind.”
    I agree. Where Beauty — the transcendent ideal — has been discovered and expressed in form perceptible to human awareness, that is where civilization has been found.

  6. Pingback: On Finding the True Way to Life – The Orthosphere

  7. Pingback: The Advent of Christian Mysticism | Σ Frame


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