Pray to the Saints in Purgatory for the Spirit of America; for her life as lived in us her children.
CS Lewis is a genius and a prophet: That Hideous Strength continues its uncanny prediction of our present predicaments. Last time around, our adversaries nominated Fairy Hardcastle for the Presidency. This time, they propose Deputy Director Wither:
… Mark noticed that the door was not quite shut. He ventured to push it open a little further and saw [Deputy Director Wither] sitting inside with his back to the door. “Excuse me, Sir,” said Mark. “Might I speak to you for a few minutes?” There was no answer. “Excuse me, Sir,” said Mark in a louder voice, but the figure neither spoke nor moved. With some hesitation, Mark went into the room and walked around to the other side of the desk; but when he turned to look at Wither he caught his breath, for he thought he was looking into the face of a corpse. A moment later he recognised his mistake. In the stillness of the room he could hear the man breathing. He was not even asleep, for his eyes were open. He was not unconscious, for his eyes rested momentarily on Mark and then looked away. “I beg your pardon, Sir,” began Mark and then stopped. The Deputy Director was not listening. He was so far from listening that Mark felt an insane doubt whether he was there at all, whether the soul of the Deputy Director were not floating far away, spreading and dissipating itself like a gas through formless and lightless worlds, waste lands and lumber rooms of the universe. What looked out of those pale watery eyes was, in a sense, infinity – the shapeless and the interminable. … It was impossible to speak to a face like that. Yet it seemed impossible also to get out of the room, for the man had seen him. Mark was afraid; it was so unlike any experience he had ever had before.
When at last Mr. Wither spoke, his eyes were not fixed on Mark, but on some remote point beyond him, beyond the window, perhaps in the sky.
“I know who it is,” said Wither. “Your name is Studdock. What do you mean by coming here? You had better have stayed outside. Go away.”
… the mode of consciousness [the Deputy Director] experienced at most hours of day or night had long ceased to be exactly like what other men call waking. He had learned to withdraw most of his consciousness from the task of living, to conduct business, even, with only a quarter of his mind. Colours, tastes, smells and tactual sensations no doubt bombarded his physical senses in the normal manner: they did not now reach his ego. The manner and outward attitude to men which he had adopted half a century ago were now an organisation which functioned almost independently like a gramophone and to which he could hand over his whole routine of interviews and committees.
Hearing about That Hideous Strength is spooky. Reading the book is, yet again, dreadful. God send us Merlinus Ambrosianus, and for that matter Arthur. God send us the oyéresu.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6: 11-17
NB: that we wrestle at bottom against principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in the High Places – against demons – does not mean that we do not wrestle also with their corporeal slaves and instruments, such as Wither or Hardcastle. We do. Paul’s point is not that the flesh and blood do not matter, but rather that they are not the crux of the issue. Nevertheless is it ever the case that when push comes to shove for beings corporeal such as we, the adversary is generally known first to us bodily. If we cannot defeat his bodily incorporations, we have no chance whatever against the motivating spirits thereof; to fight one is to fight the other.
Act then outwardly, in the political realms, to be sure, as much as is in your poor power. But, do not omit to pray, and to fast. Therein lies your greatest power; for, when we struggle to live ourselves lives that are holy and good, we struggle with the very same demons who threaten our outward and social world. Defeat them in yourself even once, and you defeat and weaken them at the root of all their outward action, to the benefit of all people.
To defeat the Enemy in and with and by your heart is to have done all.
To war, then. Deus vult.
They found Lucretia sitting in her chamber, melancholy and dejected: on the arrival of her friends, she burst into tears, and on her husband’s asking, “Is all well?” “Far from it,” said she, “for how can it be well with a woman who has lost her chastity? Collatinus, the impression of another man is in your bed; yet my person only has been violated, my mind is guiltless, as my death will testify. But give me your right hands and pledge your honour, that the adulterer shall not escape unpunished. He is Sextus Tarquinius, who, under the appearance of a guest, disguising an enemy, obtained here, last night, by armed violence, a triumph deadly to me, and to himself also, if ye be men.” They all pledged their honour, one after another, and endeavoured to comfort her distracted mind, acquitting her of blame, as under the compulsion of force, and charging it on the violent perpetrator of the crime, told her, that “the mind alone was capable of sinning, not the body, and that where there was no such intention, there could be no guilt.” “It is your concern,” said she, “to consider what is due to him; as to me, though I acquit myself of the guilt, I cannot dispense with the penalty, nor shall any woman ever plead the example of Lucretia, for surviving her chastity.” Thus saying, she plunged into her heart a knife, which she had concealed under her garment, and falling forward on the wound, dropped lifeless. The husband and father shrieked aloud.
What Lucretia knew is that there is no self hovering aloof from the body; we are our bodies, and to violate the body is to violate the person, mental guilt or not. Such is the unique horror of rape. Continue reading
What is happening right now, globally, in re the Chinese Flu, is an inflection point in human history. This is so, no matter what the facts might actually turn out to be – the facts medical, epidemiological,, financial, economical, political, cultural, you name it – which now all appear to all of us so obscure, and (we cannot but think) intentionally obfuscated and obscured, by those in the higher reaches of the global culture interested in this or that outcome, for their own purposes, rather than for the sake of the good, the true, the beautiful. It does not really matter what those facts might turn out to be. Ex post, they shall, certainly, tell. But, for the moment, being mostly unknown, they simply cannot; almost every datum is now somewhat masked by countervalent noise of some sort. So, we proceed all of us on the basis of what we know. And what we know extends not much further than our own households, and beyond that our familiar networks, intimately connected via the web despite their geographic dispersion.
The present global corona virus lock down, however well-meant or effective or warranted it may be, is unquestionably the greatest assault on human society since WWII. It’s nothing near as bad as that titanic war, of course, but it’s bad. It attacks man on all fronts: biological, financial, economic, social, psychological, cultural – and, of course, and at root, and so most importantly, spiritual.
Almost no one is going to be able to worship in Church today, or what is far worse, the day after tomorrow. The churches will be almost completely empty this Easter.
This means that the lock down is a gigantic tactical victory for the Enemy. The whole Church is in abeyance, for a time; and this is massively hard on morale in our ranks. It means then that this Lent, and especially this Triduum, is bound to be a time of unusually intense demonic oppression. At this time, more than at any other in recent memory, our Enemy is likely to press his attack with utmost vigor. And indeed, priests and deacons all over the world have reported a huge surge in demonic activity, ranging from spiritual lassitude, dryness, heaviness or despair, to possession.
A client wrote me over the weekend, asking if I thought recent news of apparent flattening of the curve of new infections of Chinese Flu in Italy, Spain and, perhaps, even New York City, portended incipient prevalence over the virus. I responded:
As an investment advisor, I’ve been pretty tied up the last couple of weeks, for obvious reasons – although I will say that the reaction of our clientele so far to the corona virus crisis – or, is it a ‘crisis’? – seems to be, “Well, these things happen from time to time, best to just hunker down and wait; after all, that worked well the last 23 times this sort of thing happened.” Which is true. Now more even than usual, any investment decisions we might make in view of the present crisis are in the nature of things obsolete by the time they occur to us. And when the market plunges, pretty much the best thing looking forward is to own the market – because reversion to the mean. But their reaction is heartening, too, as a testament to their sanguine equanimity – which is to say, to their wisdom.
What is more, we are tied into a network of roughly 100 advisory firms such as my own, and that reaction seems to be pretty normal among all their clients, in their thousands upon thousands. Which is doubly heartening.
As employment has boomed in the US of late, more and more workers who had long ago given up looking for work have again entered the labor market, and found work. This growth in the supply of American workers has prevented wages and inflation from rising much, despite the greatly increased demand of the private sector for labor of all kinds. It’s been great. But with downward pressure of all sorts on immigration of all sorts, there is now serious worry that the former “reserve army of the unemployed” is approaching depletion, and that the supply of new labor is drying up; that the labor market is going to heat up enough to ignite significant demand led inflation, laying the groundwork for a recession.
I’m in the investment business, so I was particularly alive to the market correction of last week in belated response to news about the corona virus.
Res ipsa loquitur, no?
While we’re at it, there is a strong epidemiological case for sexual modesty and chastity, for parochialism, for patriotism, and for cultural conservatism in respect to morals and customs. What is more, the humanely small scale of Schumacher and Christopher Alexander, Moldbug’s Patchwork or localism or Catholic subsidiarity, and the traditionalism of William Morris, of Chesterton, of Carlyle, and of de Maistre and Bonald all make great epidemiological sense. Wendell Berry, Edward Abbey, Tolstoy, the Wrath of GNON, and of course we here at the Orthosphere; all echo the same notion:
Stay small, stay local, stay close to home, stay close to nature, and within the span of your own hands. Small steps, not great revolutionary saltations.