Contemporary Liberalism is a Suicide Cult, not a Religion

Even though his Christianity is sometimes heretical, Bruce Charlton is often tremendously brilliant. And I mean “brilliant” in an almost literal way: Shining strong light to reveal an important truth. Witness his recent post, Is Social Justice/ Political Correctness/ New Leftism a religion? Actually *not* (despite superficial similarities).

I have been saying that liberalism is a religion. Not so, points out Charlton. Some quotes:

The Old Left, such as Communism, was very much like a Godless religion; and it did have saints- such as Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao. But the New Left of Social Justice and Political Correctness has only temporary idols, any of whom may be vilified and demonized at any time.

The idols of the Social Justice Warriors are not saints, but merely function as clubs, taken-up to beat the enemy – then usually discarded.

(snip)

And this is the essence of the beast: it is negative, oppositional, lives by subversion, inversion and destruction of the Good; its stance is perpetual opposition.

Stability and the status quo and tradition [are] attacked, but there is no alternative stable state in view; no Social Justice utopia being aimed-at; no end-point at which political correctness will say ‘enough’, ‘this is it’.

Classical liberalism was a de facto religion, with a plausible (although false) cosmic metanarrative, a code of ethics, “saints,” and even, as one wag put it, the New York Times as Holy Writ. But contemporary, politically correct leftism doesn’t deserve to be called a religion. It has no stable form, only a constant, intuitive hatred of the true, the good and the beautiful. It’s a civilizational suicide cult.

To be sure, the politically-correct Left frequently invokes the ideas of classical liberalism, which still command widespread respect. But when it does, it’s just a demon in wolf’s clothing. The current Left is all about destruction.

*

Our job, then, as relatively sane men, is to dodge the falling debris.

Truth is a King

Truth demands our adherence, our conformity. There is no just, no correct argument against Truth, or therefore any just or correct way to act in contravention to Truth – indeed, no possible way, for there can be no way to enact a false or incoherent proposition. It might seem prima facie that it is possible to enact a falsehood. But not so. The only way we can possibly act is in a way that is in agreement with reality, and thus with Truth. We can certainly believe that we are enacting a proposition that is in fact false, and so shape our acts wrongly, as appropriate to circumstances that do not in fact obtain. Acts may err in their aims. But they must conform to reality, or they could not happen.

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Plotinus and Augustine on Gnosticism

Gnosis 02The trend of politics in the Western nations since Eric Voegelin’s death in 1986 has made his work increasingly relevant to any philosophically rigorous Conservatism or Traditionalism. In particular, Voegelin’s argument that liberalism and its Leftwing metastases constitute an evangelical religious movement, mimicking and distorting Christianity, has gained currency. The pronounced irrational character of the “Global Warming” cult and the obvious messianism of Barack Hussein Obama’s presidency have together sharpened the perception that contemporary Leftwing politics shares with history’s specimen-type doctrinally intransigent sects an absolute intolerance for dissent, even for discussion, along with a conviction of perfect certainty in all things. The sudden experience of Leftwing triumph attests that, indeed, utopian radicalism draws its strength from a deep well of resentment that puts it in conflict, not merely with those whom it regards as heterodox, but also with the unalterable structure of reality. Voegelin argued – in The New Science of Politics (1952), Science Politics & Gnosticism (1965), and throughout Order and History (1957-65) – that the rebellion against reality was a recurrent affliction of civilized life; he pointed to the acute anticosmic sects of Late Antiquity as offering a paradigm of the phenomenon and expanded the scholarly designation of them as “Gnosticism” to cover insurgent ideological doctrines of the modern period, particularly Marxism and National Socialism.

Thus Lawrence Auster, the late creator and supervisor of the (now inactive) View from the Right website, explicitly links his understanding of the Left and his idea of Traditionalism to Voegelin’s argument that modernity is essentially Gnostic. A somewhat less focused acknowledgment that the Left is cultic in its behavior has surfaced now and then at The American Thinker and the name Voegelin has occurred in that venue. Again, nationally syndicated “conservative” columnist and radio-host Dennis Prager, while not citing Voegelin, has nevertheless in a recent essay declared explicitly that Left-Liberalism is a religion and can be understand in no other way. In my own contributions to The Brussels Journal and in various print articles (for example, in a Modern Age essay on V. S. Naipaul) I have frequently invoked Voegelin, often quoting his pithy sentences, as a rich and clairvoyant explicator of our straitened times. Are we certain, however, that Voegelin’s disapprobation of Gnosticism is valid? And might Voegelin’s insistent parallelisms of the ancient and the modern be a result of an idiosyncratic view?

The topical literature is fortunately large. It reaches back to the Late Antique primary texts of Gnosticism – such as the Valentinian Gospel of Truth (ca. 150) – and the accompanying critical and anti-heretical discourses of the philosophers and the Christian Patres; and it embraces a rich scholarly investigation beginning in the early Nineteenth Century, continuing to the present. What do the ancient sources tell us about Gnosticism? And what does the scholarship of Voegelin’s Nineteenth-Century precursors, his contemporaries, and his successors tell us about it? Continue reading

Sacrifice Manufactures Society

The hunter has paid for his kill, by his excellence, his effort, his diligence in training and attention, his dedication and focus. Nevertheless it is the god who has given the kill to the hunter, by putting the prey in his way. In the excellence of the hunter and of his works is the way; the prey he finds in that way is from the god, and gratuitous, nowise earned. The hunter does not make the prey, after all, and cannot. All he can do is fit himself to the gift of it. He therefore stands in ontological debt to his divine benefactor (sometimes personified in and as the prey itself, often understood as an avatar or totem of the god). So the duteous, righteous hunter, who would that his own ways continued prosperous, is not proud, but rather gives back his kill to the god who sent it his way in the first place. Along with the effort he has expended in the hunt, and the excellence of his hunting (learned – earned – by arduous training to the mastery of his art), the sacrifice is partial payment for the hunter’s ontological debt.

It goes deeper. Like all his fellows, the hunter knows well and in his bones that he stands in irreparable debt to the god not just for the kill but for his own very being – and with it his capacity to pursue his way – which he cannot himself procure. As the hunter cannot create his prey, nor can he create himself. Everything, then, is owed to the god. So at the root and uttermost limit of sacrifice, the righteous man dedicates the whole of his own life and work to the god, and stands ready to make of himself the sacrifice, to the god and for his people, his flock.

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The Modern World in a Nutshell

Our leaders want to create a new world in which nobody is mean.

(By “mean,” I mean “cruel,” not “average.”)

But this is impossible. Meanness cannot be eliminated. Just telling people “Stop being mean!” doesn’t work. So our leaders have decided to be mean to the mean people, in the name of anti-meanness, in the hope that this will stop the mean people from being mean.

And since being mean is to them a sin, our leaders don’t acknowledge that they’re being mean. In their own eyes, they’re not sinners. So they can’t be mean.

This makes them meaner, because they don’t recognize, and therefore seek to control, their own meanness. Their meanness isn’t meanness. It’s goodness.

And, of course, when ordinary people emulate our leaders’ meanness, they’re being good too.

Our leaders also want to create a new world in which nobody believes in truth or goodness. People who believe in truth and goodness care about truth and goodness. This makes them mean to the people who don’t care about truth or goodness, or who oppose truth or goodness. Can’t have that.

So in order to eliminate meanness, we have to be mean to the mean without admitting it, and we have to hate truth and goodness, because these are the ultimate cause of most meanness. And that means that we have to hate God, because He is the ultimate truth and goodness.

Welcome to the modern world.

 Postscript

You have to live in the modern world, but you don’t have to agree with it. You can disagree. You can say silently to yourself “That’s wrong.” This is the beginning of sanity.

The Science of Science

Theology encompasses metaphysics the way that the necessary concrete actuality of God encompasses and outpasses the mere abstract intellectual conception of God as that than which nothing greater may be conceived. Anselm’s Argument is where abstract metaphysical ratiocination entails the Act of a Being whose actuality makes metaphysics possible, ergo necessary.

Only if God exists actually can metaphysics be possible conceptually. Or, ergo, mathematics, or its application in physics.

The Moderns who insist that metaphysics is dead or impossible or obsolescent all argue from the basis of a metaphysical presupposition – a prejudice, and no more – that there is no God. If there is no God, then they are right. But if there is no God, nor therefore any metaphysics, then neither is there anything else, either; including materialist metaphysics, that boasts to abjure metaphysics altogether.

You can’t get any of the beings that are less than the most real being if you don’t first have the most real being. Take a set of beings; one of them is most real, the others all relatively less real. If the most real being is not real at all, then all the less real beings are even less real than “not real at all.” And the only way to be less real than what is not real at all, is to be in the first place inconceivable.

Theology, then, is the science of all science, the science in virtue of which any other science can know anything. If God is not actual, nothing else can be; if God is not intelligible, and knowable (at least in part, and in principle), then nor can anything else be either knowable or intelligible.

Wonder suffuses the practice of all science – drudgery, too, of course, but the drudgery is motivated by the wonder, which is the engine at the base of the whole project. Appropriately, it is at the far sublime edge of theology that science reaches the limit and culmination of wonder: worship.

Mere Reaction

Secular reaction can’t work. As Bruce Charlton pointed out yesterday, secular cultures must tend always leftward – i.e., toward chaos and death – because at bottom they are guided and governed by disordered passions and desires, and so furthermore are careless of their danger. This will be as true of their noblest exponents and leaders as of their common folk. And we won’t be able to persuade a whole people that the first principles of their secular society are insane using only secular arguments. To sway them, we’ll have to put the fear of God into them. And we can’t give them what we don’t ourselves possess.  Continue reading

Necessity or Eternity

What is necessary is necessarily eternal, but the eternal is not necessarily necessary.

Time – which is to say, congeries of contingent events, that are causally related and that therefore, together, constitute worlds, extensive continua along time, space, and myriad other dimensions – occurs in eternity. It occurs eternally (and only then, and only in virtue of its eternal occurrence, temporally), but not necessarily. It occurs freely. So likewise also for God’s Act.

Eternal acts can be free. They are not necessarily necessary. Some may also be temporal, such as this moment in your life, or the Incarnation.

Necessities comprise what Whitehead called the Primordial Nature of God, and Plato the Realm of the Forms: the Nature in virtue of which there is such a thing as order in the first place, the order of all order. The free eternal Act of God, and all its derivates in his knowledge, comprise what Whitehead called the Consequent Nature of God. Both these Natures are eternal, and indeed coterminous, in that together they characterize a single Act; so that they are sections of a single Nature. But of the two, only the Primordial Nature is necessary.

NB: God’s omniscient knowledge does not continge upon creaturely acts, but vice versa. It is only in virtue of his logically prior knowledge of creaturely acts that creatures may act in the first place.