Society is Companionship

The modern notion that monarchy is inherently tyrannical and exploitative is an artifact of a fundamentally deficient concept of human society. That concept – the modern concept – treats society as basically loveless, a collation of antagonists engaged in a zero sum game; so it eventually finds, as we have lately seen it do, that all human relations are more or less exploitative – the wife and husband of each other, the mother and father of the child, and so forth. Such is the conclusion of the latter day apotheosis of modernist dialectical materialism in postmodernism: all human relations are about power, and nothing else.

Notice that this doctrine is self-fulfilling. If on the basis of the conviction that human relations are all essentially exploitative you then proceed to exploit your fellows, you are likely sooner or later to discover that they have all reciprocated.

Postmodern social theory boils down then to an assertion that, as composed of mutually inimical agents bound only to exploit each other as much as possible, society is essentially sociopathic. And behaving as if this were so leads to actual sociopathy.

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A Basic Guide to Liberalism and Conservatism, Part I

We could use a catechism of liberalism and conservatism (i.e., anti-liberalism.) Young people won’t know about reality unless someone teaches them. They may sense it, but they won’t know it unless someone teaches them.

Update 12/13/16: In response to useful criticism, I have added text to clarify my position. For the time being, additions are highlighted in bold.

 Part I:  Introduction

Liberalism begins with the deliberate violation of the laws of God, the laws of nature, and human tradition. If this blasphemy excites you, you’re prone to become a liberal. If you’re a normal person, it disgusts you, and you will not become a liberal unless it disguises itself as something good.

Everybody knows something’s wrong with the world. This series is written from the standpoint of traditional Christianity, and as Christians, we know that the ultimate malady is sin. But sin manifests itself in countless ways. We need a more tangible and organized explanation.

A big part of the current problem is liberalism. It’s everywhere, it’s dominant, and it’s perverted. So we all need to defend ourselves against it.

That word “liberalism” is the usual name for the way of thinking that now rules Western civilization, America included. It’s more than just fashionable opinion; liberalism is an organized system. Its ideas are mostly consistent with one another, so they work together like a well-trained sports team. And there are countless organizations which teach liberalism and enforce its morality. Liberalism rules the West, so the people mostly believe it. And even if they don’t believe it, they usually go along with it. Continue reading

Social Order is Prior to Liberty

Liberty is a subsidiary factor of social life; it is a derivative feature of social order, but not its source; for, social order by definition consists in constraints upon individual acts, whether through custom, or taboo, or scapegoating, or law. Social order then is the source and basis of such liberty as may be, and not vice versa.

Where there is no social order, there is no freedom to do anything but fight. This is that hypothetical State of Nature cherished analytically by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, either to disparage or valorize it. But notice that it never really happened, nor could it: man has always been a social animal, and cannot be otherwise. The most basic jot of society – i.e., sex – consists in constraints upon individual liberty; for, sex is either a mutual agreement to accept the constraints of duty to a lover, or else by rape an utter and complete constraint upon some other. Whether these constraints arise from within the social agent as the voice of his conscience, or from without as the voices of others urging him to this or that, is neither here nor there.

The zero of social order then is the zero of sex, ergo of man.

The true state of nature for man is a state of highly evolved and definite social order. His freedom of action, then, has always been constrained by social order; and that social order is in fact the basis of his freedom to opt for anything other than combat.

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Open Thread: Bright Lights Under the Shadow of the Hideous Strength

Orthospherean Dale Nelson commented on my recent post about That Hideous Strength:

Interested readers can find my old commentary on That Hideous Strength [at Bruce Charlton’s Notion Club Papers, Bright Lights Under the Shadow of the Hideous Strength: The St. Anne’s Household — and Our Own Households.] Printed, it runs to about 60 pages including its appendices. It could use some revision but I think there is a lot of good material in it. It was originally prepared as a paper for a Christian retreat in rural Wisconsin. If anyone reads it and would like to discuss it, could The Orthosphere host that discussion?

That Hideous Strength is indeed an inspiring work, and my paper provides some leads for further reading.

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Suggested Reading For Analytical Philosophers: Wordsworth’s Prelude

cole-voyage-panel-iv-1842

This modest offering stems from two provocations.  One is Richard Cocks’ piquant disquisition at The People of Shambhala, referenced here at The Orthosphere, concerning the limitations inherent in the modern school of thought that calls itself Logical Positivism or Analytical Philosophy; the other is a pedagogical necessity that befell me last week to explicate in class for the students of my “Writing about Literature” course a famous passage from William Wordsworth’s Prelude, Book I.  My title must obviously be taken cum grano salis, as logical positivists and analytical philosophers would immediately reduce Wordsworth’s  observations and arguments to their own insipid categories.  Frankly, I cannot imagine the logical positivists or analytical philosophers, or howsoever they dub themselves, making any sense whatsoever of Wordsworths verses or, for that matter, being interested in or aware of them.  Wordsworth’s fundamental assumptions must be opaque to such people.

I have written up my lecture-outline as a short essay.  I append the text on which I comment at the end of the essay.  Those sufficiently generous to feel curiosity about the essay might want to read the excerpt first.  I take for my illustration the fourth panel of The Voyage of Life (1842) by Thomas Cole, one of the founders of the Hudson Valley School.

***********

A Brief Essay on the Adventure of the Boat at Night: It is an observation of natural philosophy that ontogeny repeats phylogeny: That is, the gestation and maturation of the individual repeat the gestation and maturation of the family, genus, or the species.  More generally speaking, everything that exists is an effect that research – or introspection – can trace back to a cause until the procedure finds its destination in a First Cause.  These facts entail any number of paradoxes, not least the poet William Wordsworth’s contention, found in his little poem “My Heart Leaps Up” (1802), that “the child is the father of the man”:

wrodsworth-my-heart-leaps-up

Wordsworth averred often in his prosaic self-explanations that his every line of verse belonged to one great conjectural poem such that each smaller poem was but part of a transcendent whole, which could perhaps never be completed in the poet’s lifetime.  That one Wordsworthian poem should  comment on another should come therefore as no surprise.  The few short lines, almost throwaway verse, of “My heart leaps up” indeed suggest much concerning a crucial passage from one of the early books of one of Wordsworth’s most ambitious poems – the epic-length verse-autobiography The Prelude, begun by the poet as early as 1798 but never published until after his death in 1850.  In the episode in question, Wordsworth recounts one of the adventures of his boyhood, in the Lake District of Northwest England just below the Scottish Border, the native locale where he spent his childhood and to which he returned to live later in life after the peregrinations of his young adulthood.

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A Thousand Essays

The Orthosphere yesterday reached 1,000 posts since we began writing here in early 2012. Meaningless in itself, this passage nevertheless marks a milestone. It is fitting then to reflect on how well we have met our original purpose, of providing a traditional, orthodox Christian perspective on the maelstrom ever in progress here on Earth.

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Dominique Venner on Nihilism and “The Religion of Humanity”

Venner

I offer, as best I can, a translation of a section from Dominique Venner’s masterwork Histoire et tradition des Européens: 30,000 ans d’identité [The History and Tradition of the Europeans: 30,000 Years of Identity,] published in French in 2002 by Éditions du Rocher.  The excerpt originates in Chapter 10, “Nihilisme et Saccage de la Nature” [“Nihilism and the Exploitation of Nature”].  Venner wrote in a style that runs to the ironic and telegraphic: Phrases in brackets represent my attempt to overcome the occasional obscurity that his tendencies of irony and compression, or self-allusion, entail.  Flora Montcorbier, whom Venner cites in the excerpt, is a writer of the French New Right.  I give the French original of the text first, followed by my attempt at an idiomatic English rendering.

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Of Possible Interest: The Degeneration of Right Order

Ruins with Jihadis

I am pleased to report that an essay of mine, René Guénon and Eric Voegelin on the Degeneration of Right Order, has appeared (Part I of two parts) at the Sydney Traditionalist Forum.  I hope that it might be of interest to Orthosphereans.  The essay discusses the disastrous cultural and civilizational consequences of the ancient empires, especially those empires whose ambitions intersected in the Central Asian region known in Antiquity as Bactria.  Both Guénon and Voegelin were fascinated by the seemingly perpetual flux and reflux of imperial ambitions in that region, where global powers remain locked in contention to the present day.  The essay explores Guénon’s discussion in Spiritual Authority & Temporal Power of the “Revolt of the Kshatriyas,” a social upheaval that weakened the Indian states in the Fifth Century BC and made them vulnerable to Persian and Macedonian intervention; it also explores Voegelin’s discussion in The Ecumenic Age of “concupiscential exodus,” exemplified by Alexander’s Asian campaigns, as a destroyer of the civilized order.  I argue in Part II, which will appear in the same venue next week, that the commentaries of Guénon and Voegelin on this topic are eminently applicable to the modern condition.

The Modern Pox Upon the Old City

Western cities more than a century old all feature a stark contrast between their remaining old-fashioned neighborhoods and their horrid modern depravations of the builder’s art. In few however is the contrast as stark as in New Haven, Connecticut. Consider the view from two different windows of a single hotel room in that town, and choose one for yourself.

First, the view south over the post war cityscape:

2016-05-22 10.57.26

Note that grey monolith just left of the Ikea store. Up close, it is far and away the ugliest, most brutal building I have ever seen, literally breathtaking in its visceral affront to the human body. One aches to get away from it; the feeling it provokes is subdued rage. This is perhaps why it stands now vacant. The adjacent Ikea store is positively charming by contrast.

Modern New Haven is dispiriting – it engenders despair. Few pedestrians are to be seen on its barren sidewalks, scuttling quickly on their way, heads down.

Here then is the view to the north, taking in the Yale campus:

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Sydney Traditionalist Forum: 2016 Symposium

Our friends at Sydney Trads have just published their 2016 Symposium, the latest in what must be hoped will be a long series of similar collections. Among the essays are three by Orthosphereans: Tom Bertonneau, Jim Kalb, and myself. The other contributors are Barry Spurr, Alain de Benoist, Krzysztof Urbanek, Peter King, Gwendolyn Taunton, Luke Torrisi, Michael Tung, and Valdis Grinsteins.

Many thanks to our antipodean colleagues for their efforts in mounting the Symposia.