Article of Possible Interest: Will California Follow Atlantis?

My follow-up article to “Will Europe Follow Atlantis?” appears at The People of Shambhala website under the title “Will California Follow Atlantis?  How Likely? How Soon?”

It is accessible here: http://peopleofshambhala.com/will-california-follow-atlantis-how-likely-how-soon/

I offer an excerpt:

Poet, story-writer, painter, sculptor, farmer, handyman, correspondent of H. P. Lovecraft, and lifelong resident of Auburn, California, Clark Ashton Smith (1893 – 1961) was perhaps destined to participate in the tradition of Atlantean and Lemurian lore by the fact that his father’s given name was Timeus, no less. Where [Lewis] Spence treats the topics of Atlantis and Lemuria as tragic myth and [W. S.] Cervé as Utopian narrative, Smith treats it as a combination of Swiftian satire… and Baudelairean poetic apocalypse. Smith indeed began his authorial career as the writer of exquisite lyric poetry consciously and studiously modeled after the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, a Catholic reactionary who refused to participate in the euphoria of Progress. Smith gained a wider audience, however, when, to eke out his living during the Great Depression, he began to submit stories to Weird Tales, a “pulp” monthly specializing in lurid exploitations of horrific and supernatural themes. A great many of Smith’s stories have their setting in one or another disintegrating continent, all of which are home to a variety of baroquely corrupt civilizations. Hyperborea and Poseidonis belong in the remote past, but Smith places Zothique in the far future. All three are tropes, not only of Atlantis and Lemuria, but also of modernity, reflecting many of its aspects, and are intended by their author to show the direction in which the vaunted Progress tends.

In Smith’s versions of Atlantis and Lemuria, which reflect the autodidact small-town-dweller’s experience of Metropolitan California in San Francisco and Los Angeles, those New Babylons built atop a major earthquake fault, everyone is a lore-versed hyper-aesthete – and everyone implacably resents and hates everyone else. Smith attuned himself to see modernity as the triumph of resentment over generosity through his immersion in Baudelaire, who preceded Friedrich Nietzsche in that type of acuity. Inspecting the future, Smith, like Baudelaire, saw no “sweet loveliness,” but rather pervasive Cainite invidiousness expressing itself in magical-technical expertise, inveterate status-seeking, and cults of refined (that is to say, debased) sadomasochism. When Smith invoked the past, he did so to hold up a mirror to the present, as Spence had done in Will Europe Follow Atlantis. Just about any of Smith’s stories is therefore implicitly an answer to the question whether California will follow Atlantis, and for Smith the question is unavoidably prejudicial and self-answering. “The Empire of the Necromancers” (Weird Tales September 1932) offers itself as a case in point. In it, the “Golden State” appears allegorically in its true guise, not as the gateway to a radiant future, but as the Abendland in the moment of its Untergang.

Open Discussion

This post is the result of an animated discussion that took place between four o’clock and seven o’clock this evening (30 December) at Old City Hall in Oswego, NY.

I invite discussion of the following proposition:

The Left destroys everything it touches – including socialism.

Sunday 27 December 2015

Christmas Party 02

Genuine Multiculturalism (From Left to Right): Lazar Sokolovski (Former World-Literature Professor, University of Moscow, Poet, Essayist; Max (Lazar’s Youngest Son – Occasionally my Student -Fine Essayist in English); Eric Schmitz (SUNY Oswego’s Jazz Master); Alla (Lazar’s Wife and Max’s Mother – Artist, Photographer); Natalya (Eric’s wife, from St. Petersburg, Linguist, Artist, Educator); Yours Truly (TFB); Richard Fader (King of Oswego – My Mentor in How to be an Upstate -New-Yorker).  Not Pictured: George and Heike Koenig (George was my wife’s German Professor in the 1970s; Heike was born in Hamburg); Kestutis and Yelena Bendinskas (Kestutis, Lithuanian by birth, is Professor of Chemistry at SUNY Oswego; Yelena, his Wife, a Russian, is a talented Painter); Larry Klotzko (the Photographer – also Proprietor of the Old City Hall Tavern and Restaurant, Oswego, NY); Ana Djukovic-Cocks (Professor of German at SUNY Oswego, Serbian-born); Nicolas Cocks (Ana’s Son – Lead in every Production at SUNY Oswego during the Just-Completed Semester); Joseph Bertonneau – Geology Major, Master Clarinetist, Percussionist, Bell-Ringer, Chorister, Saint Paul’s Parish, Oswego, NY, and Clarinetist, Oswego City Band); Richard Zakin (Master Ceramist); Helen Zakin (Art Historian).  Everyone brought a dish – wonderful Russian, Serbian, and Ukrainian dishes.  There were many toasts.  We love life.  I wish that all the Orthosphereans could have been with us.

The West’s Cultural Continuity

My article on “The West’s Cultural Continuity” appears at The Gates of Vienna, here:

http://gatesofvienna.net/2015/12/the-wests-cultural-continuity/#more-38162

The article discusses the work of Henri Pirenne, Sylvain Gouguenheim, and Emmett Scott.

I offer an excerpt:

In addition to passing remarks, Gouguenheim devotes a separate chapter to the classicizing tendencies of the Syriac and Arab Christians, as distinct from their linguistic cousins and brethren in the Islamic faith. As part of Byzantium, of which their main region of Cappadocia was a province, Syriac Christians played a central role in constituting the Eastern theological discourse during the medieval centuries, continuing to do so even after they had fallen under the sway of the Caliphs, thereby assisting in the westward transmission of Attic and Alexandrian lore. Gouguenheim writes: “Insofar as one speaks of ‘Arabic-Muslim culture’ in the Seventh through the Tenth Centuries, one commits an anachronism… because the culture was at that time barely Muslim and was Arab only by displaced appellation.” Truly, “Syriac is closer to Hebrew than to Arabic,” and the elites of the Nestorian and Monophysite dispensations could generally boast bilingualism in their own tongue and the Koine of the Empire. The jolly idea of Muslim competence in classical learning, as Gouguenheim argues, rests on a misunderstanding: what Islam knew of Greco-Roman wisdom, which it possessed at no time extensively, it knew largely thanks to Syriac scholars. “The Syriac [Christians] were in effect the essential intermediaries of the transmission into Arabic of the philosophical texts of the ancient Greeks,” who generously gave far more than the reluctant takers took. Obtuse westerners betray their lack of discrimination and their poverty of real knowledge in failing to differentiate between Syriac culture and the Arabic-Muslim culture that, by means of the Jihad, conquered and cruelly stamped out Nestorian (and Coptic and Byzantine) society.

Unlike their Muslim beneficiaries, however, the Syriac Christians could assimilate the full range of Greek logic and speculation. The Johannine Logos stemmed from the Greek Logos and the Christianity of the Patres — whether Greek, Latin, or Syriac — therefore comported itself as a rational theology. Already in Late Antiquity, Cappadocians and Syrians stood out as the chief developers of Neo-Platonism; emperors both Pagan and Christian sought counsel from the professors of Antioch’s renowned Daphnaeum. In a chapter on “Islam and Greek Knowledge,” Gouguenheim notes that for Muslims, on the other hand, the Logos constituted an inassimilable scandal, subversive of the absolute submission to Allah’s commands, as articulated in the Koran, that the name Islam denotes. Islam kept of Greek thought “in general [only] that which could not come in contradiction with Koranic teaching.” Furthermore, “Greece — and so too Rome — represented a world radically foreign to Islam, for reasons religious, but also political”; and, unlike the Latinate and Frankish peoples, “Muslims did not interest themselves in the languages of those whom they had conquered” because “Arabic was the sacred language par excellence, and that of revelation.”

Will Europe Follow Atlantis?

Two of three parts of my essay on “Lewis Spence, True Myth, and Modernity” have appeared at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website. Part I is “The Atlantis Myth – Its Pedigree.” Part II is “Will Europe Follow Atlantis?” Part III, “The Table Round of Atlantean Eccentrics,” will appear next Saturday.  The essay explores Scotsman Lewis Spence’s lifelong meditation on the meaning and probability of Plato’s Atlantis Myth.

Part I is here: http://peopleofshambhala.com/will-europe-follow-atlantis-part-i-true-myth/

Part II is here: http://peopleofshambhala.com/will-europe-follow-atlantis-part-ii-lewis-spence-and-the-occult-war/

Part III is here: http://peopleofshambhala.com/will-europe-follow-atlantis-part-iii-the-modern-west/

I offer an extract:

Spence resembles William Blake, William Butler Yeats, perhaps even Arnold Toynbee, a bit staid in style but hardly so in content, in his visionary proclivity to see local events in the largest possible context, as participating in the cycles of a Platonic Great Year, or something like it; and as boasting always and everywhere a metaphysical-eternal as well as a physical-temporal meaning. So too Spence resembles Joseph de Maistre on the French Revolution, who grasped the Jacobin uprising as an ultimately self-punishing recrudescence of idolatry and human sacrifice, as both insufferable profanation and sanguine atonement all at once. Spence, who referred to himself as a ‘British traditionalist,’ prefigures later Traditionalist figures like John Michell (1933 – 2009) and Geoffrey Ashe (born 1923), whose thought goes perpendicular to anything established. Michell’s View over Atlantis (1969) and Ashe’s Camelot and the Vision of Albion (1975) follow in the eccentric path first trail-blazed by Spence. Their eccentricity – and Spence’s – likens itself to the fortuitous topography of the Nile Delta according to the Egyptian priests in Plato’s Timaeus, sheltering the adytum of insight-in-eccentricity from the deluge of opinion in conformity. The discussion must return to this topic of eccentricity, closely related as it is to the opposition of myth and poetry to economics, and to the much-underrated value of eccentric people and their views under a conformist regime; but for the time being let Spence’s marvelous tome be to the fore.

PS. I would like to thank the thoughtful and charitable party who sent me the set of beer-mug coasters.  Any other gift that I might receive during the Christmas Season will pale, I fear, next to them.

Evola Brand

The Apocalypse of Modernity: Evolution and Conversion and Battling to the End by René Girard

Girard 03 G in Interview

Rene Girard in an Interview

History, and increasingly the mere daily record of events, are together apocalyptic, laying bare human nature for what it is primordially before the agonizing laboratory of the millennia creates the Christian society that its beneficiaries, swiftly taking it for granted, petulantly reject so that they might go “forward” into a liberated horizon beyond the one defined by the Gospel. “Progress” names that particular folly. A blood-drenched folly it is, beginning with the religious wars of the Seventeenth Century and reaching fullness with the mobilization of the whole society fomented by the Jacobins and institutionalized by their superman-successor, Napoleon Bonaparte. From the guillotine henceforth, modernity blurts itself sanguinely in the Commune, Leninism, Stalinism, Hitlerism, and resurgent Islam (Jihad), which continues belatedly the sparagmatic trend of the late and unlamented Twentieth Century. Yet despite the academy’s authoritative three-decades-long declaration of Dionysiac “Postmodernism,” despite the polysyllables of doctrine-inebriated intellectuals, Modernity in its lynch-mob vehemence has not succeeded in realizing its rainbow utopia. No fulfillment of the destructive quest heaves in prospect. Modernity spirals dizzyingly to its destined abyss, dragging with it those who know full well its madness but who find themselves sucked along with the lunatics into the maelstrom.

The contemporary West resembles nothing so much as an archaic society in the full panic of social breakdown, searching desperately for the scapegoats whose immolation will induce the gods to intervene. So perverse has Modernity become that people eagerly seek victim-status although of course they can only do so by indicting other people as their persecutors. The old gesture of designating the victim has therefore been turned inside out and the nomenclature along with it. Objects of collective passion, those who are about to die at the hands of the mob, are now called victimizer, not victims.

No one can fully understand the contemporary situation without first understanding archaic religiosity, and archaic religiosity only reveals its meaning in contrast with the higher, scriptural religiosity, which at one time informed the civilized condition. In the same degree as the contemporary West spurns the spiritual maturity of Judaism and Christianity, its situation reverts to archaic patterns. Thus, in the sacrosanct name of “Progress” – wretched regress. And in tandem with that regress travels the obliteration both of consciousness and conscience, as the individuated man dissolves into the moral crudity of the Caliban-collective. No one has understood archaic religiosity – no one understands the modern age as a case of accelerating sacrificial panic – with greater clarity and penetration than René Girard (1923 – 2015), who remained intellectually active until his death earlier this month. Two late books by Girard, Evolution and Conversion (2008) and Battling to the End (2010), demand attention from those who sense that the liberal-secular order ever more excruciatingly confronts and denies the revelation of its own nullity.

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Voegelin on Gnosticism – A Revisitation

Gnosis 02

Eric Voegelin’s critique of modernity claims that Liberalism, the creed of the Enlightenment, is “Gnostic.” Voegelin (1901-1985) drew the term “Gnosticism” from its scholarly application in theological discussion to a strain of Late Antique religiosity. The term “Gnostic” refers to that array of sects and cults, the adherents of which saw themselves, as forming a saintly elect among the perishing masses on account of their possessing, as their souls, sparks of divinity that had become trapped in the world of matter. The ancient Gnostics abhorred the world of matter and claimed to sojourn in it only as exiles from a realm of pure light, which was the “real” world despite appearances. Voegelin labeled Gnosticism an anticosmic rebellion, a rebellion against reality, emphasizing the tendency of Gnostics to construct what – borrowing from novelists Robert Musil and Heimito von Doderer – he called a second reality built on principles contrary to those governing what morally and intellectually adjusted people understand to be the actual or first reality. Gnosticism for Voegelin constitutes a social pathology for the reason that the upholders of the second reality, once having invested their emotion in it, make it a fetish and regard criticism of it as lèse majesté. Organized Gnosticism tends to become a censorious war, a jihad, to protect the second reality from examination and, more aggressively, to coerce assent to the second reality’s existence.

It belongs to Voegelin’s critique of modernity as the re-emergence of Gnosticism that its object – the social pathology of the political religions – corresponds to an attitude (namely, rebuke) rather than to some specific doctrine that has persisted since antiquity. Voegelin never meant to argue that let us say the Valentinian speculation or Manichaeism as such could be identified with Marxism, National Socialism, Leninism, Feminism, Multiculturalism, or any other particular ismatic discourse. Yet, as Voegelin saw it, the ancient and the modern rebellions stubbornly resembled one another in their basic dispositions. When, therefore, in his posthumous In Search of Order (1987), Voegelin alludes to the characteristic modern “divinization of men,” he takes as his exemplar of the genus “the Feuerbach-Marx divinization of man,” whose purpose consists in “explaining divine reality as a human projection that, if returned to man, will produce full humanity.” That normative consciousness is false, that religion is false, that institutions are false and tyrannical, and that only an elite recognizes the situation: These motifs structure both ancient Gnostic speculation and modern ideological discourse – both of which envision their fulfillment in the abolition, one way or another, of existing reality.

Voegelin distinguishes the ancient and modern rebellions in this way: “At the extreme of the revolt in consciousness, ‘reality’ and the ‘Beyond’ become two separate entities, two ‘things’ to be magically manipulated by suffering man for the purpose of either abolishing ‘reality’ altogether and escaping into the ‘Beyond,’ or of forcing the order of the ‘Beyond’ into ‘reality.’ The first of the magic alternatives is preferred by the gnostics of antiquity, the second one by the modern gnostic thinkers.”

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Rene Girard 1923 – 2015

Girard

I have just learned of the death of Rene Girard.  In a healthy society, Girard would have been recognized as a thinker of the first order – and in a spiritually revived society, he will receive that attribution.  My first “scholarly publication” was an interview with M. Girard prefaced by an introduction to his work in 1986.  Girard treated even my stupid questions as serious.  The experience was in many ways life-changing for me.  Other people report the same.  I did not know Girard well, but I knew him now and again over the years and found him invariably to be friendly, ordinary, magnificently clear-sighted, and helpful.  He will be sorely missed, not only by his family and close friends,but also by his many students and readers.  I offer below an essay from 2008 on “The Gist of Rene Girard.”

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Showing my Face

Bertonneau comme Frenchman II

As I have made it a principle to use my real name in my posts, I thought it would complement the principle to show my actual face – just to prove, as it were, that I have a face and that I exist. The photograph also serves to illustrate my “take” on the mind-body problem – or rather its solution!.  I am, of course, raising a “Salut!” to my Gallic ancestors (it being All Hallows Eve) and to my friends at The Orthosphere.