Despite the advocacy of conductor and countryman Neeme Järvi and the determination of record-producer Robert von Bahr (founder of the BIS label) in the 1980s, the work of the Estonian-Swedish composer Eduard Tubin (1905 – 1982) remains largely unknown beyond a small coterie of aficionados who take an interest in Baltic and Scandinavian music. Humphrey Searle and Robert Layton in their survey of Twentieth Century Composers: Britain, Scandinavia and the Netherlands (1970) omit to mention Tubin although they devote discussion to a number of his contemporaries in mid-century Sweden such as Hilding Rosenberg (1892 – 1985), Karl-Birger Blomdahl (1916 – 1968), and Allan Pettersson (1911 – 1980). Tubin’s obscurity is a pity because he composed at a level at least as high as that achieved by Rosenberg, Blomdahl, and Pettersson. Indeed, Tubin wrote in an idiom more accessible than any of theirs, being, as one supposes, much less worried than they about his “modern” bona fides. What explains Tubin’s obscurity? It might have something to do with his refugee-expatriate status: He fled Estonia for Sweden after the Soviet invasion in 1944; and while he remained an Estonian nationalist – by reflex, anti-Soviet and anti-Communist – his adoptive country became increasingly accommodationist.
My article on Conformism and Crowd-Violence (subtitled “When the Majority is really a Mob”), appearing at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website, should appeal to readers of The Orthosphere. The article begins with a discussion of René Girard, specifically of his book I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (2001), from which it moves into a consideration of texts by Seneca (his Seventh Letter) and Saint Augustine (the anecdote of his friend Alypius at the gladiatorial games). Along the way I discuss the parallels between ancient mob-phenomena and what, in modern politics, is called “community organization.” I offer a sample below –
Seneca’s vocabulary anticipates many an observation that Girard makes about the category of the sacred, first that, being collective, the sacred belongs to the mob (that is to the lynch mob) and next that it is contagious. “From the outset of this study,” Girard remarks in Violence and the Sacred, “I have regarded violence as something eminently communicable.” Taking antique discourse seriously where the modern mentality sees it merely as mythic, Girard notes that “at times it is impossible to stay immune from violence.” Again: “The sacred consists of all those forces whose dominance over man increases or seems to increase in proportion to man’s efforts to master them.” From Seneca’s perspective the size of the crowd correlates with its infectiousness, a large crowd being indicative of an especially virulent infection. Rubbing elbows with the vulgate, as Seneca writes, leaves one “bedaubed” by its toxicity. But does Seneca, foreshadowing Girard, associate crowds and violence? The answer is yes and in investigating [the matter] we shall see how Seneca’s discourse differs from Philostratus’ discourse when they both write about theaters and theatrics.
The British writer Colin Wilson (1931 – 2013) died last night in Cornwall just before midnight, local time. Wilson, who became a celebrity at twenty-six on the publication of his first book The Outsider in 1956, was a prolific writer on a wide variety of topics from philosophy, with special attention to existentialism, to literature, history, and the occult. Wilson was never what one might call a traditionalist, but he was an inveterate critic of modernity and a defender of religion against its materialist-positivist detractors. Wilson’s authorship encompassed both fiction and nonfiction. In fiction, he exploited genre-formulas in ingenious ways, as in his first and in many ways most ambitious novel, Ritual in the Dark (1960). His science fiction The Space Vampires was adapted to the silver screen by Tobe Hooper under the title Life Force in the mid-1980s, but the adaptation did little credit to its author. Ritual in the Dark, several times optioned for cinema, regrettably never made it to the screen, large or small. Wilson, an impressive autodidact, developed a core of devoted readers who took many cues from his intellectual independence and admired him for the nonconformist freedom witnessed by his contrarian interests.
An excellent introduction to Wilson’s thinking is the immediate sequel to The Outsider, Religion and the Rebel (1957), whose chapters on literature, history, and philosophy constitute an important polemic against the deadening cultural assumptions of the mid-Twentieth Century. Wilson had befriended Albert Camus just before the latter’s fatal automobile accident. Wilson’s work may be seen as an Anglo-Saxon parallel to Camus’ work although Wilson, in contrast to Camus, was never distracted by politics.
I recommend Angel Millar’s article on Strength, Spirituality, and Masculinity against Materialism at his People of Shambhala website. Millar argues that modern men have largely relinquished spirituality, ceding it by default to women who have, naturally, feminized and caricatured it.
I am humbled and pleased that the editors of The New York Review of Science Fiction have given the feature position to my article on William Olaf Stapledon, “Contact, Communion, and the Marriage of Minds,” in the latest number of their publication. “Contact” is the much-edited version of the talk that I gave last July at “Doxacon,” a colloquium on the crossroads of science fiction and religion. I believe that the essay will be of interest to readers of The Orthosphere. Stapledon was a greatly conflicted thinker, tempted by atheism, but unable to shake his profound intuition that the universe is not reducible to matter and the void; that existence has a divine ground. His fiction and non-fiction alike address the issue. I try to put Stapledon, as the subtitle of the essay puts it, “in context.” The context is the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which I interpret as, partly, a religious displacement.
I offer an extract below –
Once the investigator grasps Flammarion and Lowell, along with the whole of late-Romantic plurality discourse, in this way [as a vestige of Medieval cosmology,] much of the peculiarity in their exposition begins to make sense. When Flammarion seems to adhere to a Darwinian vocabulary, making free use of the term evolution, he never means what Darwin or Darwin’s materialist followers meant by the term. On the contrary, the evolution that concerns Flammarion is that of mind, which he regards as the self-articulation at the microcosmic level of the macrocosmic consciousness – Dieu dans la Nature. In a Times story for 10 November 1910, Flammarion told the reporter, “I believe there are denizens on Mars, and that they are superior to us.” Flammarion opines that the Martians “ought to resemble [what humanity] will be several million years hence, inasmuch as Mars is a much older planet than the earth.” Flammarion believes that the Martians have made several attempts to communicate with humanity, the first one “hundreds of thousands of years ago” and the last one “a few thousand years ago.”
Lowell, who knew Flammarion, writes in the same vein. In his three-part Atlantic article from the summer of 1895 (June, July, August), he argues that the phenomenon of the canals “points to a highly intelligent mind behind it.” Martian sentience must take the form of “a mind… of considerably more comprehensiveness” than the human. Such things as “party politics,” Lowell insists, “have had no part” in the elaboration of the system of planetary irrigation – the canals whose courses Lowell had so painstakingly mapped.
According to Lowell, the very study of Mars exerts a spiritually transforming effect on him who undertakes it. He learns to “look at things from a standpoint raised above our local point of view,” to “free our minds at least from the shackles that of necessity tether our bodies,” and to “recognize the possibility of others in the same light that we do the certainty of ourselves.” As Lowell writes in Mars as the Abode of Life, “Turning to Mars with quickened sense, we witness an astounding thing,” a globe “where life at the present moment would likely be of a high order.”In the plurality discourse of the fin-de-siècle, then, the reader will detect the stubborn persistence of a cosmological view that actual modern science tells us is an outmoded and distinctly unscientific way of comprehending the celestial universe. This late-Medieval way of thinking cosmologically sees the universe as creation; it sees the heavens as instinct with symbolic significance, pervaded by mind in the form of the plural, extraterrestrial humanities, and as responsive – at least potentially – to the effort, not only to establish contact with those humanities, but to come into communion with the sum and total of their shared consciousness.
My good friend-and-colleague at SUNY Oswego, Richard Cocks, who teaches on the Philosophy Faculty, has a discussion of the contradictoriness of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Existentialism at Angel Millar’s always-provocative People of Shambhala website. The article is succinct. I strongly recommend it to aficionados of The Orthosphere. The article is entitled “Nietzsche: Allure and Misunderstanding on the Left and Right.”
Here is a sample:
The saint of acceptance tries to accept everything as a consequence of unconditional love. But when he tries to accept Nature, he finds endless death and no mercy. Better and worse. Strong and weak. Out of love and compassion he will send the weak to the gas chambers and deny their pleas for help because in not accepting their fate, the weak are rejecting LIFE. They must be shown the light. Those who seek to protect the weak are the naysayers.
My article on ancient atomism appears at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website. In particular, I undertake a reading of Lucretius’s great poem On the Nature of Things, a strange mixture of bold speculation that anticipates modern physics and cosmology more interesting perhaps for its fairly concerted critique of sacrificial religion. I offer a sample –
Posterity knows only a little about Lucretius and much of what it knows it gleans from autobiographical references in his poem. The poem itself is paradoxical. Alleging to explicate, for the sake of a potential recruit, the scientific truths discovered by Epicurus, the truths that will redeem life for the one who accepts them, On the Nature of Things couches itself in the language of insistent evangelism, making of its intellectual hero, as George Santayana noted in his study of Lucretius in Three Philosophical Poets, a secular saint. The poem attests a powerful experience on the part of its author, which can only be described as spiritual conversion, which he then wishes to foster in another. Already in the generation just after Epicurus, his followers acquired the habit of referring to him under the honorific of soter or “savior,” an etiquette that imitated in turn a propaganda device of Alexander’s successors, the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasts. Lucretius, whose time and place knew the afflictions of political breakdown, picks up this thus slightly tainted habit.
I call the attention of Orthospherians to my article “I get a Kick out of Fugue II: Fugue in the Twentieth Century” at Kidist Paulos Asrat’s Reclaiming Beauty website; “Fugue II” is a follow-up to my article from early in summer, “I get a Kick out of Fugue,” also at Reclaiming Beauty. Meanwhile, Angel Millar has given my essay on “Richard Wagner, Revolution, and the Re-Founding of Humanity” a generous presentation at his website, The People of Shambhala. The two essays on fugue argue, with plentiful musical illustration, my anthropological theory of fugal practice as reflecting the patterns of social breakdown and reformation. The essay on Richard Wagner and Musikdrama likewise has an anthropological slant: I take seriously Wagner’s writings, wherein, once one gets past the florid rhetoric, one finds a genuine and plausible theory of the origin alike of consciousness and culture. I recommend both Reclaiming Beauty and People of Shambhala as interesting and valuable websites.
I have an essay just up (21 July) at The Brussels Journal under the title “René Guénon and Eric Voegelin on the Degeneration of Right Order.” The topic involves an excursion through the history of the Greeks in India and the essay entails a discussion of Voegelin’s term “the ecumene.” On another matter, I spent the weekend at “Doxacon,” a conference organized under the auspices of a Greek Orthodox parish in Northern Virginia and intended to explore the intersections of religion and theology with the fantastic genres of literature, especially science fiction. I hope to report on the event in a day or two here at The Orthosphere.
Here is a sample from the Brussels Journal essay:
It will undoubtedly have impressed those who have followed the argument so far that, simply at the level of descriptive phraseology, many of Guénon’s constructions and Voegelin’s suggest their own application to the contemporary state of affairs in the incipient Twenty-First Century. Guénon in Spiritual Authority mentions the origins of étatisme, with its relentless centralization of political power, in Fourteenth Century France. Voegelin in The Ecumenic Age refers to the ecumenic empires as ‘organizational shells that will expand indefinitely to engulf former concrete societies.’ The centripetal and centrifugal movements might seem opposite to one another and therefore non-compossible, but they are in fact simultaneous and complementary. They describe in structural terms the libidinous process by which the bearers of ‘moral apocalypse’ – that is, the Gnostic reformers of society – progressively obliterate the concrete societies that come under their imperial-entrepreneurial sway. Whether it is the arrogantly self-aggrandizing Federal Government in the United States of America or the inhumanly bureaucratic Brussels Parliament of the European Union in Western Europe, the attitude of the reigning elites towards the world is none other than the attitude of the auto-apotheotic conquistador toward the ecumene.
The redoubtable Paul Gottfried, one of the best living analysts of liberal-theocratic absolutism and its weird mental gymnastics, and more than that, a relentless critic of so-called conservatives who accommodate and facilitate liberalism, is well-known for his books and articles. Gottfried has established his own website, The Gottfried Report, where he does what he does best without being filtered through a third party’s wont or sensitivity. I strongly recommend The Gottfried Report to readers of The Orthosphere.