Do the Rulers Know Indeed?

“So that in this spiritual warfare we do not contend like the warriors of this world for a triumphal wreath that will wither upon our brows, or for fame and renown which is nothing but the breath of a company of talking people, or for the enlarging of our empire over the next handful of turf; but we are contending with enemies that are pursuing us to Hell, and binding us in chains of everlasting darkness.” 

John Scott, Christian Life (1683)

I am picking my way through John’s gospel and in this morning’s portion read the account of Jesus’ appearance in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Tabernacles.  I have since been chewing rather sourly on what I have decided to call the Appalling Question.  This is the question asked by “some of them of Jerusalem” in John 7, verses 25-26.

25: Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?

26: But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing to him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?

The Appalling Question is the question in verse 26.  Jesus was indeed the man that the rulers (the chief priests and Pharisees) sought to kill, and as a simple violation of the law against murder, this was appalling enough.  Jesus had just said as much in John 7: 19-20.  But the truly Appalling Question is in verse 26, where “some of them of Jerusalem” ask, do our rulers seek to kill Jesus because they do not know he is “the very Christ,” or do our rulers know he is “the very Christ” and seek to kill him for that very reason? Continue reading

On the Difficulty of the Cosmos

Twenty years or more ago someone I care about gave me a couple 3D wooden puzzles. I forget how I got them, or from whom, but I remember I care about them. So I kept them on a shelf in my study. Here is one of them, disassembled:

Here is the other, ordered on exactly the same principles, assembled:

Continue reading

Our Strength Destroyed by this New Age’s Ways

The lament of universal ruin is as old as man himself, so it is not without reason that the carping greybeard is a figure of fun and contempt.  Times change, and youth will always delight in the violets that sprout from the manure pile the old bequeath them.   Times don’t change, and the old will always observe that the stink of the pile is much stronger than the scent of the violet. Continue reading

The Real Land of Beings that Have Been Burnt

“O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark . . .”

T. S. Eliot, “East Coker” (1940)

Men have always wondered where a thing is when it is no more.  That a being should be simply subtracted from the world of beings offends our reason, since a being that can be not would seem not to have been in the first place.   A world of things that can cease to be real must itself be an unreal world. Continue reading

Requiescat in Pace Thomas Bertonneau

I bear the sad news that longtime Orthosphere author Thomas Bertonneau died last night in his sleep.   He had been suffering from a wasting disease and knew that death was near at hand, but he resolved to accept his end with a manly mix of Stoical reserve and Christian insouciance.  As Tom wrote to me in the first part of June,

“As soon as the neurologist made the diagnosis, I instructed her that I wanted to know nothing – absolutely nothing – about the details of the disease’s progress or about the timeline of my foreshortened future. I resolved to live – as happily as possible – one day at a time.”

For those who understood the happy warrior that Tom was, these words will come as no surprise.  He had the faith and the philosophy to know that a man should not worry about the hour that Death will knock at his door, but should rather worry about the man who must open that door and allow Death to enter in.

Please say a prayer for Tom’s dear, departed soul.  We will post a longer tribute to his life and work sometime soon.  I’ve pasted below a poem that seems to suit the circumstances.  It is by the Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, and it describes the way that men pass through our lives on their way to the life where there is no more passing through.  The second stanza describes men whose bright minds rain rich beams down on those they pass.  It would seem to have been written with Thomas Bertonneau in mind, since he has been for all of us an intrepid lantern-bearer in this dark and dolorous world.

The Lantern out of Doors
(1877)

Sometimes a lantern moves along the night,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?

Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mold or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.

Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.

Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.

Pray for Lydia McGrew

Philosopher and Biblical scholar Lydia McGrew, our longstanding friend and dauntless shieldmate in the culture wars since the VFR days, has just revealed over at What’s Wrong With the World that since a week after her Pfizer covid vaccination in April, she has been afflicted with a devastating but mysterious – and, not yet diagnosed – malady that causes her daily intense and more or less constant pain. It has interfered with sleep, eating, work, sitting, walking: everything. It acts like inflammation of nerves, but that has not yet been ascertained. Since she began documenting her symptoms, Lydia has learned of many hundreds of other such cases. Perhaps thousands.

Before she got the shot, she was, so far as she knew, perfectly healthy.

Lydia is hanging in there, and she is one tough gal, but I have to say that this sounds pretty bad. Lydia wrote me last evening to ask for my prayers. I agreed, of course, and asked if I could post this appeal. She said yes.

Please join me, therefore, in an earnest prayer for the health of Lydia McGrew. Or several hundred of them.

If you do not know of Lydia’s terrific work for our side in the present war, it would do you good to check it out. You won’t be able to read it all. She’s far more prolific than all of us here put together, and she’s been at it for longer. But it’s all worth reading. With Lawrence Auster, Jim Kalb, Bruce Charlton, and Zippy Catholic, Lydia has from early days in my own career as an online apologist and culture warrior been an important and beneficent influence upon me, and if you read her stuff I think it will be the same for you. I’m going to tag this post as an Apologetical Weapon, because that’s what Lydia is.

May God bless and keep his faithful servant, Lydia McGrew. May he bring her into all knowledge, restore her to health, and give her peace and rest in him, if not yet, then soon, and at last, and forever. Amen, amen.

On Oligarchs and Their Alien Allies

“They have many cries and various modes of conduct; but they have only one object—the establishment of an oligarchy in this free and equal land.” 

“While they aim at oligarchical rule, they apparently advocate popular rights.” 

“We find . . . a powerful section of the great nobles ever at war with the national institutions.”

Benjamin Disraeli, The Letters of Runnymede (1836)

Whatever fictions it may employ to conceal the fact, every society is governed by a minority or ruling elite.  All government is therefore oligarchical in the simple etymological sense of rule by the few.  But rule by the few is not the true essence of oligarchy, since that would make the title of oligarchical government redundant.  The true essence of oligarchy is, rather, rule by a rapacious few, and a concomitant and barely disguised hostility of these rapacious robber-barons for the nation of rubes over which they so rapaciously rule. Continue reading

Richard Cocks is Not Narrow-Minded and Should Not Consent to Become So

“For the narrow-minded man, though worthy of  good things, deprives himself of what he is worthy of.”

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (350 B.C.), iv. 3.

Richard’s latest post set me to puzzling over the meaning of the word narrow-minded.  I poked around and discovered that I had unknowingly swallowed the word as a liberal slogan, that the word narrow-minded has another meaning in ancient philosophy, and that Richard is the very opposite of narrow-minded in the ancient sense when he is most narrow minded in the liberal sense. Continue reading

Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Stack of Worlds & the Literal Fall; &c.

The stack of worlds implicit in Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems furnishes a way of understanding the Fall as having happened literally, and in (so far as I can tell) complete congruity with the latter day scientific model of our own world’s history – and, indeed, with that of any other – and with the account in Genesis.

This post supervenes two others in a series respecting divers Philosophical Skeleton Keys: first, The Stack of Worlds, and then, The Play: Its Wright, Players, & Characters. It will I think be easier to understand this post if you review them, before essaying this one.

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Profiles in Pedantry, a Guide to Learned Braggarts, Learned Bullies, and Learned Bores.

“The haughty pedant, swoln with frothy name
Of learned man, big with his classic fame,
A thousand books read o’re and o’re again,
Does word for word most perfectly retain,
Heap’d in the lumber-office of his brain;
Yet this crammed skull, this undigested mass,
Does very often prove an arrant ass.”

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, “The Fourth Satire” (1687)

The word pedant was first used among the French to name a man charged with the instruction of children.  A pedant was no different than a pedagogue.  But by the sixteenth century the word pedant had become the epithet of a poser who was stuffed to the tonsils with a mishmash of inexact, superficial, and ostentatious learning.  Montagne tells us that farcical plays of that day always brought a pedant in “for the fool of the play,” since there is no fool so farcical as a fool who pretends he is wise. Continue reading