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 shall 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 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 even 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.
This post began as a comment to an Orthosphere post of Dr. Smith, which in turn was respondent to a post of our friend Francis Berger.
Hear Hear! This was very satisfying to read.
It is this belief that has formed the basis of my writings in my space and somewhat more recently refined on my substack. There is no Homo Modernus, we are all the same Sapien. To quote Don Colacho:
and furthermore (emphasis mine):
When we feel something is wrong, and seek first to amend the Church, then we have misidentified the problem. The Bride of Christ is suffering the same way we are–because we are suffering, even. If we first turn inward and seek to expurgate error from our own lives (A task all of us ought to undertake, I don’t exempt myself but rather emphatically recognize my place as chief of sinners), then we can turn our attention to our neighbor. Then we can turn our attention to the Church. But I have a feeling if all of us undertake this effort then we will find the Church no longer in need of reform and our neighbors much more amenable and pleasant.
The Peasant perspective I promote in my writing suggests that we need to humble ourselves before our neighbors and (first and foremost) before God and seek once more to serve, and not to be served, and to seek simple acts of obedience rather than grand victories for Christ.
Kristor, you hit the nail on the head. I make no secret of my frustration with doom and gloom–I just never can find a good (or charitable) answer in response. I am grateful to you for supplying one, and fanning my fire a bit at the same time. Thank you!
Amen, amen. I quail to post at the Orthosphere, on account of mine own as yet unexpurgated sin. What have I, a sinner, to offer, that could not as sinfully defective wound all who suffered it? Still I feel duty bound to say what I in all good conscience see to be true, despite my wounded eyes. To withhold might be to cheat my fellows; and what’s the good in that?
“I do not yearn for a virgin nature, a nature without the peasant’s ennobling footprint and without the palace crowning the hill.
But a nature safe from plebeian industrialism and irreverent manipulation.”
Indeed. And our studies of ecology through the Scientific discipline. Should allow modern peasants and peasants of the future from unintentional destruction of the environment.
I read that the reckless tree cutting by Chinese Peasants in the past led to soil erosion and to mudslides and far more catastrophic floods due to the lack of anchors.
Likewise cutting down the Brazilian forest causes erosion and desertification because the trees aren’t around anymore to pump moisture from the oceans to cause rain. And destroying biodiversity.
Uncut old growth forests also have undiscovered medicines, foods and other materials that would be destroyed by environmental destruction. Better stewardship is necessary.
Consciousness and its wonders I am always trying to defend. They point, ineluctably to God. To disparage such sanctified holiness, we can leave to our detractors.
@ Richard, @ Kristor – “Francis ”[finds] the casual dismissal or downgrading of consciousness development espoused by many of the writers at sites like The Orthosphere troubling.”
I expressed myself very poorly in those lines. They are neither fair nor accurate. The Orthosphereans have written insightful pieces on human consciousness. This is particularly true of Richard, who has posted many excellent analyses of Berdyaev and other unconventional Christian thinkers and philosophers.
I like Richard’s point about consciousness pointing ineluctably to God. I share that view. I tend to regard consciousness as the manner in which we perceive, know, understand, and relate to ourselves, others, Creation, and God.
My overall point in my Altar-Civilization post is that I think we need to spend more time on the importance and development of human consciousness and personal discernment from a Christian perspective. I very much believe that God built the unfolding of human consciousness into Creation — that He wants us to know, understand, and relate to him in more “mature” (for lack of a better word) ways.
Regarding the following by Kristor:
“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.”
I have an affinity with this line of thinking. Some new thing will indeed have to arise, but this new thing won’t be a “new” Christianity. I tend to think of it rather as the further development of or fulfillment of Christianity. This does not entail adding anything “new” to Christianity or revealing some hidden, esoteric knowledge. On the contrary, I believe the “new thing that will arise” will be largely a matter of consciousness and personal discernment. I often conceptualize it as a shift in our understanding of ourselves and God that fulfills rather than discards tradition.
Francis, thanks for this irenic and agreeable comment. We are of one mind, it seems. We are, what is more, at one with the mind of Christ in his admonition, so ably echoed by Scoot just supra, and by all the saints, doctors and theologians of the Church down through the centuries: to focus first and foremost upon our own holiness (Matthew 7:5). To the extent we succeed at that, the troubles of the Church – aye, and of the City – will melt away like hoarfrost on a sunny morning of early spring. And unless we are working on our holiness, hard, nothing else we might do to fix outward things can go quite right.
NB however that to focus first and foremost on our own holiness does not allow us to fail in our duty to the City and to the Church. Holiness involves both courage and righteousness, and so may call us to some battle. We may not rightly allow ourselves to fall under the spell of the despair that doomed Denethor, and almost killed Gondor. We must be Theoden, awaking from his weakness to lead his people into war.
Thanks, Kristor. I’m glad someone has finally been willing to question the Romantic Christian assertion that human consciousness is evolving to some higher level. I admit that I find the suggestion irritating and impious, an emotional reaction I would have to put aside if there were evidence for it, but is there? People today may indeed not be able to appreciate the sacramental and communal aspects of religion, but that is best explained as a mere deficit of sensibility, of imaginations impoverished by miseducation and lack of stimulation, not an advance but a regression of consciousness.
As a practical matter, I agree with the Romantic Christians that Christians today are without spiritual guidance, that the Churches have abandoned us in this respect, and that communal worship cannot provide the same benefits when the pastor and most of the congregation are openly on the side of the enemy. We are all forced to consciously take our religion into our own hands. Any Christianity to survive in this era will have to be voluntary, private, and most likely idiosyncratic. We all agree on what surviving Christianity is going to look like, if it is to exist at all. Where I disagree is that I don’t see this as in any way an improvement on what came before. Private, idiosyncratic Christianity will be impoverished Christianity. The average Romantic Christian, because he has endured in spite of a hostile culture, probably will be a more impressive figure than the average default Christian of the Christendom centuries, but that does not mean that he will be as well-developed as the enthusiastic Christians of those centuries or even as well-developed a Christian as he might have been had he lived in those centuries. He will be missing out on the humility and connection to other generations that would have come from submission to a living tradition, and that is no small loss. We should make the best of a bad situation by cultivating the virtues and graces available to us, but we needn’t imagine that those of which we are deprived are not real and important.
Thanks, Bonald. The thing is that if post-modern Christianity – which is to say, traditional orthodox Christianity – is to play *any role at all* in the public square of a renewed West, it can do so only by means of an ecclesial hierarchy – an organic integrally whole entity, the Church – under whose terms the *entire culture* is ordered; or, at the very least, profoundly influenced and so informed.
So, this individual Romantic Christian and that individual traditionalist Christian mystic here and there, each pursuing his own (altogether good) spiritual quest, are not going to cut it.
Thus if there is no renewal of the Church as she has been known since AD 30, then shall there be no renewal of the West. Howsoever small it be, the Remnant must be a communion if it is to be anything at all.
Thus the “new thing” I adduced must be in some way a renascence of the old thing. To the extent that it is indeed the True Church, it must needs be also the Old Church, back again in new wineskins, kicking ass and taking names.
Pingback: On Finding the True Way to Life – The Orthosphere
Although I generally dislike the Old Testament, I take from it the valuable lesson that consciousness is subject to profound regression and corruption. Every age has its Jezebel and her retinue of false prophets and priests. Thus I understand “evolution of consciousness” as analogous to Darwinian evolution–as adaptive change in response to a change in the environment. This adaptive change can be conservative or progressive. When conservative it seeks to conserve eternal truths in unfavorable circumstance. When progressive it seeks simply to adapt consciousness to circumstances–by seeing how sensible it would be to take the mark of the beast, for instance.
Pingback: The Advent of Christian Mysticism | Σ Frame