Some general thoughts about authority. Not intended to be comprehensive.


Human society cannot function without authority. There must be authorities, and the people must, for the most part, respect the authority that the authorities possess.

As an attribute, “authority” means the right to be believed or obeyed. There are authorities who are rulers, and there are authorities who are experts. Real experts, that is.

The right to be believed comes from demonstrated mastery of some field of knowledge. It is defined by the truth, not the person. The right to be obeyed is less easily defined. It is defined by the society in which the authority and his subordinates is embedded. It is partly subjective, because the people will not respect a ruler who appears deficient. It is partly objective, as the rules of the society generally determine who has the right to rule.

There is currently an obvious crisis of authority. In part because the existing higher-level authorities are proving themselves to be unworthy (the higher the level, the less worthy), and in part because of the spread of philosophies which condemn or undermine authority. These are mutually reinforcing trends

But the existing authorities are not completely unworthy, and the people are not completely mistrustful. Without any authority, human society collapses and humans live like animals. Since society has not collapsed, and humans mostly do not live like animals, some authority remains.

But there is a crisis. The main cause of the crisis is the spread of a “democratic” way of thinking. Because of democracy, rulers cannot simply rule. They have to secure the explicit approval of the voters / customers / clients. To do this, they must devote themselves full-time to manipulating and intimidating the people. The people see this and respond with increased distrust, which amplifies the cycle. Continue reading

Bend the Knee to an Unjust King

A guest post from our dedicated commenter Scoot and his colleague and interlocutor Hambone:

The virtue everyone loves to hate is obedience. Obedience is easy when it is easy, but there’s a common misconception that having a bad authority exempts us from the duty of obedience. As the late great Zippy Catholic used to say, it is a fallacy of modernity to confuse the question of which authority is just with the question of whether authority in general is just. There’s a fundamental truth hiding behind this misconception that we as fallen humans are often afraid of: That all authority comes from God. Not just good authority – all authority.

If democracy has every man as a king, then the collapse of spiritual authority that snowballed out of the Reformation has every man a Pope. This endlessly fractures the Body of Christ and allows wounds and heresies to fester and spread. “Bad” Popes, Bishops and Priests have been accounted for since the beginning, like their predecessors in the Temple of Jerusalem who did not live up to their offices. How many more such rotten priests might we expect, when every man is a priest untrammelled? The same goes then for political authority: the usurpation of the royal office by the demos is just as unjust as the usurpation of the demotic or familiar offices by the tyrant.

There are three reasons we ought to humble ourselves and bend the knee to unjust men.

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On Finding the True Way to Life

Over at his Notions, our friend Bruce Charlton has commented upon the discussion here about the question, raised by our friend Francis Berger, whether the throne and altar have been superseded.

He writes:

I think the ultimate question is something like this:

Is The Christian Church (in some sense of The Church) in-charge-of human salvation – or is salvation primarily a matter for each individual.

The answer is yes.

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On the Reason & Purpose & Intent of the Orthosphere

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.

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Superstition & Subscendence: An Essay in Honor of Tom Bertonneau

Bear with me here. I hardly know where I am going with this, although I feel I have caught the spoor of something Tom would find delightful – that he would join with me joyfully in this new hunt. I’m confused because all I have is that spoor, and my spirits are in a hurry and a muddle due to his too soon death. I miss my friend of many years – of too few! I am not yet sure how to do with the world that, henceforth, shall miss him.

Tom has been a valued colleague since we first encountered each other. We corresponded often – not often enough, alas – about our hopes and worries in respect to our work, much of it coordinate here. We sometimes asked each other for editorial advice upon that work. I could rely on Tom for sound counsel. I hardly know how I shall manage without his sagacity.

But I must. I bid you all help me in that project, in which we may hope we can all together proceed for many more years to come. That would be a fitting legacy of his penetrant honest cheerful mind.

I propose that this essay be an early installment in something like a festschrift for Tom. Let us all try to limn what it was that he taught us. Perhaps we might make a book out of it. Or maybe just something on the scale of an issue of Amazing Stories, circa 1935: the sort of thing that was an important source of grist for the mill of his wits. That would please him, perhaps above all things we might do to honor him.

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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?

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Christian Focus on Sempiternity → Long Term Approach to Mundane Affairs

If there is heaven, you would be stupid to forego it by some short term evanescent and unrighteous, ergo in all likelihood maladaptive worldly foolishness. So you would be less likely to engage in short term and mere worldly foolishness (on the contrary, you’d want to be a holy fool!). With eyes always turned to the infinite prize, you would be less likely to grab at – or, a fortiori, work for, or pay for, or sacrifice for – any other, lesser good in contravention thereto.

The intention toward sempiternal life in Heaven, then, tends to social health here below.

This is why it is so important to social health to take religion seriously.

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An Exchange with My Master Lawrence Auster About the Fall & Our Predicament

Back in 2011, a little more than a year before he died, my dear friend and master Lawrence wrote to me privily, and I responded likewise. Looking for something else altogether in my Journal of that year, I came across our exchange. I now share it with you, confident of his evangelical approval thereof, as an apologetic exercise of potential benefit to readers who might have known us, both – or, who have never heard of either of us. Lawrence wrote:

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Girard on Anthropogenesis

Sacer 10 St. Stephen (1604) Annibale Carracci (1550 - 1609)

 Annibale Carracci (1550 – 1609): Lapidation of St. Stephen (1604)

In the two classic pre-Christian canons of Western myth – the Greek and the Norse – anthropogenesis is brought about by natural processes under the observation of the gods.  Man is earthborn in both canons, although indirectly in the Norse, and can therefore lay claim to a mother, either Gaia or Erda.  In both myths fatherhood remains in the shadows.  The gods who observe and interact with the earliest men conform to a model thoroughly anthropomorphic.  The presence of fully human gods suggests that man existed before he existed and that man needed instruction from man in order to recognize himself and learn how to adapt himself to the cosmic environment.  In the Hellenic and Scandinavian myths humanity enters into a world of violence.  Neither Zeus nor Odin has as yet organized the world under the concept of law.  The Greek and Norse canons share a word: Titan, an item of vocabulary that carries the inner meaning of brutal criminality.  This word occurs in Old West Norse as Jotun and in Anglo-Saxon as Eotan.  The giants, that is to say the Titans and Jotuns, war perpetually with the younger generation of gods.  Peace requires the Olympians or the Aesir to suppress the giants by main force; and even then peace reprieves the universe only temporarily.  Eruptions of chaos can occur anytime and anywhere.  The Christian anthropogenesis, which is in fact the Hebrew anthropogenesis, differs minimally from its Pagan and Heathen counterparts, but it differs nevertheless in subtle ways, which make a difference.  The Biblical God draws man forth from the clay, for example, by an intentional act; and God deliberately shapes man to resemble his Creator.  The Hebrew God is less anthropomorphic than the Olympians or the Aesir, even aniconic, but his immediate precursors in Near Eastern myth, such as the Canaanite Baal and the Babylonian Ea, testify that he stems from a man-like version of deity, fit for a standing image.  The physiognomic resemblance between Creator and creature is thereby explained.

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Eliade on the Sacred and the Profane

Bird 10 Willmann, Michael (1630 - 1706) - Creation of the World (1668)

Michael Willman (1626 – 1679): Creation of the World (1668)

The Romanian born anthropologist Mircea Eliade (1907 – 1986) led a hectic life in his thirties.  Embroiling himself in politics on the right, he became a target even so of right-wing ire on the accusation that his novella Domnișoara Christina (1936) partook in pornography and obscenity, but the very next year he enthusiastically espoused the Iron Guard’s program that Romania should reconcile itself with its Byzantine, and therefore Christian, origins.  No one in the 2020s knows anything about the Iron Guard except, when hearing it mentioned, to categorize it automatically with “fascism.”  Eliade left Romania after the Communist takeover in 1945, migrated to France, and taught in Paris; he migrated to the United States in 1956 and lectured at the University of Chicago and elsewhere on the topic that obsessed him in the second half of his life – the meaning and function of religion, especially of the sacred.  That Eliade had a stake in Romanian Orthodoxy is not contradicted by his opposition to “spiritualism.”  In his twenties, Eliade read the French writer René Guénon (1886 – 1951), and came under his spell.  Guénon also opposed “spiritualism,” by which he indicated the various theosophical banalities descending out of the Nineteenth Century, including Theosophy itself.  Guénon wrote a hefty volume on the fraudulence of Helena Blavatsky’s mystical posturing and the quasi-criminal undertakings of her dubious followers.  Elsewhere Guénon consistently emphasized the radical difference between his own Traditionalism and the somber but hollow tenets of Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine (1888).  Theosophy belonged to pseudo-initiation and counter-initiation, Guénon argued.  These Guénonian attitudes became Eliade’s own; they inform his work.  With Guénon and Julius Evola (1898 – 1974), Eliade constitutes the stable core of what might be called Twentieth Century skeptical esotericism.

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