Introduction. Paul Johnson, usually acute, prejudices the case against Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906) in the chapter that he devotes to the instigator of modern drama in his Intellectuals (1993), where the author of Emperor and Galilean (1873) keeps company with the likes of Karl Marx, Berthold Brecht, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, and Lillian Hellman. Johnson can classify Ibsen under the pejorative label of an “intellectual” only by ignoring Ibsen’s text and concentrating on the biographical details, which indeed make their subject look like a contemptible piece of work. This criticism of Johnson by no means invalidates Johnson’s definition of an “intellectual.” On the contrary, Johnson has defined the “intellectual” brilliantly and his treatment of the phenomenon must bear instructively on any analysis of Ibsen’s play about Julian the Apostate. According to Johnson, the “intellectual,” who appears first in the person of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is a politically committed character for whom “a utopian, socialist future [is] plainly a substitute for a religious idealism in which he [cannot] believe.” An intellectual is often the master of a narrow slice of specialized knowledge who, however, feels “no incongruity in moving from [his] own discipline… to public affairs.” Yet when examined closely, even the specialized knowledge of the intellectual, his peculiar theory, tends to be unconvincing and perverse – a type of pleading by the person to himself to protect his theory from inconvenient facts and to preserve his vision of himself as someone qualified to “counsel humanity.” Writing specifically of Rousseau, Johnson remarks that intellectuals see themselves, not as “servants or interpreters of the gods but [as] substitutes” – that is, of both the gods or God and the sacerdotal clerisy. Johnson writes of that “most marked [of the] characteristics of the new secular intellectuals,” namely “the relish with which they subjected religion and its protagonists to critical scrutiny.”
My longtime friend and correspondent Steve Kogan has an essay at The Brussels Journal on the pseudo-religiosity and gnostic intolerance of the environmentalist movement. In particular, Steve, who is a close-reader par excellence, skewers Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s Population Bomb (1968) and its face-saving sequel The Population Bomb Revisited (2009). Steve’s is an exceptionally fine essay, the first of three parts. I hope that aficionados of The Orthosphere will take the time to read it.
I have a new essay at Kidist Paulos Asrat’s Reclaiming Beauty website; the topic is the musical genre of fugue – its meaning and history through the mid-Nineteenth Century. Incidentally, my semester kept me quite busy and it is only since final examinations (two weeks ago) that I have been able to write. I hope to post an essay soon at The Orthosphere on Christianity and Ideology.
For those who take an interest, Angel Millar has published my essay on Gustave Flaubert’s “Herodias,” a tale of John the Baptist, and one of the Three Tales (1877), at his People of Shambhala website. We think of Flaubert as the consummate social novelist (Madame Bovary  and A Sentimental Education ), but he was also, despite not being much of a believer, a powerful religious thinker (Salammbo  and The Temptation of Saint Anthony ).
The essay is also a meditation on the function of the Holy Spirit. Here is the link: http://peopleofshambhala.com/herodias-of-flaubert/
The essay explores additional themes such as the relation of mimesis and crisis and the relation of text and conscience.
From Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1978; English translation, 1987); Book III, Chapter 3, “Mimesis and Sexuality” (Pages 337 – 338)
“If we recognize that the sexual appetite can be affected by the interplay of mimetic interferences, we have no reason to stop at ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ in our critique of false psychiatric labels. Let us grant that the subject can no longer obtain sexual satisfaction without involving the violence of the model or a simulation of that violence – and that the instinctual structures we have inherited from the animals, in the sexual domain, can allow themselves to be inflected by the mimetic game. We then have to ask ourselves [whether] these cases of interference are not likely to have a still more decisive effect and give rise to at least some of the forms of homosexuality.
For those who are interested, Kidist Paulos Asrat has posted my essay on the English composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst at her Reclaiming Beauty website.
My friend and colleague Dr. Richard Cocks has written an article, well worth reading, on the impossibility, as he sees it, that cybernetic devices will ever attain consciousness. The article can be accessed at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website.
You will notice that the “hats off in the house” rule is included in the course-syllabus. It is an item in the “Guidelines for Classroom Decorum”:
Hats and head-coverings off during class-time. A college-level humanities lecture is a serious, adult occasion and a civilized, professional activity even quasi-solemn in character. The Instructor therefore institutes the “no hats” rule to help students, especially the hat-wearing ones, make the sometimes-difficult transition from their state of pre-critical high-school-and-popular-culture conformism to that of adult, civilized, intellectual reflexivity and ethical independence. In practice, the “no hats” rule applies mostly to men, but in principle it includes women.
My article, H. G. Wells: Mysticism and Machinery, a study of the man’s religious thought, appears at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website.
Some time ago when The Orthosphere was novel, Kristor, in addressing the issue of how I might best contribute to the enterprise, suggested to me in private correspondence that not every posting needed to be a fully worked out, objectively couched essay. Shorter, more personal or subjective postings might serve justifiably – postings that reported, say, moments of intellectual clarification, attempts to live in a context of liberal soft tyranny, important formulations discovered in reading, objects of longstanding connoisseurship, or the like. A posting might even be modestly autobiographical or self-explanatory. What follows is an amalgam of all that.