The Social Gospel, the activities of Social Justice Warriors, Political Correctness, electioneering, and the like (and their counterparts on the right side of the aisle) are all desperate and in the end bootless Pharisaical ritual purifications, undertaken to assuage the universal feeling of having done less well than one might have. They fail, in the first place because scapegoating never provides more than a few minutes of emotional relief, and in the second because they involve no inward purgation, and a fortiori no sort of metanoia, which is the only thing that can salve the sick conscience and repair the wounded mind. They wash the outside of the bowl, but not the inside.
My latest at The Brussels Journal is an essay entitled “René Girard on the ‘Ontological Sickness.’” I taught Girard’s I See Satan Fall like Lightning to the students in my “Introduction to Literary Criticism” this semester and found myself re-reading him with a good deal of renewed interest. Girard’s notion of “ontological sickness” explains a good deal about modernity, especially about what is sometimes called “entitlement mentality.” In the essay, I try to show how this is so. The essay includes an interpretation of what I regard as one of the major modern parables about the “ontological sickness,” the HAL subplot of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The link is http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/5178
I offer a sample below.
In Things Hidden, Girard writes: “Modern people still fondly imagine that their discomfort and unease is a product of the strait-jacket that religious taboos, cultural prohibitions and, in our day, even the legal forms of protection guaranteed by the judiciary place upon desire. They think that once this confinement is over, desire will be able to blossom forth [and that] its wonderful innocence will finally be able to bear fruit.” The modern subject, wanting liberté, inveterately seeks liberation and just as inveterately experiences the belaboring frustration of its every liberating triumph. The “Declaration of Sentiments” (1848) of the Seneca Falls Convention of early feminists employs the essential “liberationist” vocabulary: “Disenfranchisement,” “social and religious degradation,” a mass of the “oppressed,” whose constituents “feel… aggrieved” and who want “rights and privileges” wickedly withheld by malefactors. The male oppressor, as the document asserts, “Has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for [the generic woman] a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.” In her much-celebrated speech on the same occasion, Elizabeth Cady Stanton invoked the image of the sovereign self in its absoluteness: “There is a solitude… more inaccessible than the ice-cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea,” which neither “eye nor touch of man or angel has ever pierced.”
The themes of the usurpation of being and of the radical autonomy of the individual, Girard’s self-inflating quasi-divine ego, come into their necessary conjunction at the inception of what would later take the name of women’s liberation.
The feminist “Declaration” and its adjunct texts were already hackneyed. Jean-Jacques Rousseau had set the tone brilliantly nearly a century before, in his Discourse upon the Origin and the Foundation of the Inequality among Mankind (1754). The second part of Rousseau’s essay begins with the speculative scenario that must have inspired Karl Marx to write The Communist Manifesto (1848 – the same year as the Seneca Falls Convention): “The first man, who, after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society.” Not merely property, but society itself, for Rousseau, is theft or usurpation. Under tutelage of Girard, one might reduce the formula even further: Usurpation is the Other, by the mere fact of his existence. In the sequel, Rousseau, speaking on behalf of the usurped, rouses the mob against the usurper: “How many crimes, how many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes and horrors, would that man have saved the human species, who pulling up the stakes or filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows: Be sure not to listen to this imposter; you are lost, if you forget that, the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to nobody!”
The Islamic and the liberal views of Jesus and of the New Testament are formally the same.
According to liberalism, Jesus was just a man, not God, who never claimed to atone for men’s sins or determine their eternal destiny, who taught liberal doctrines, and who remained dead after he died on the Cross.
According to Islam, Jesus was just a man, not God, who never claimed to atone for men’s sins or determine their eternal destiny, who taught Islamic doctrines, and who remained dead after he died of natural causes.
[Correction: The majority Islamic view of Jesus’s end of days on Earth is that he was transported to Heaven. But the Islamic view is still very close to the liberal view.]
According to liberalism, the New Testament contains many errors that have developed over the centuries, due partly to malice and partly to entropy, and we must look to scholarship to set the record straight.
According to Islam, the New Testament contains many errors that have developed over the centuries, due partly to malice and partly to entropy, and we must look to Islam to set the record straight. Moslem anti-Christian apologists according quote liberally from liberal scholars such as Bart Ehrman in attacking the New Testament.
Reason number 5,347 why liberalism is assaulting our culture.
Recall from the previous parts that traditionalism reconnects man with the wisdom of his ancestors, that the most important wisdom is to acknowledge God, and that intuition is the foundation of wisdom. Recall also that man also needs revelation and personal repentance in order to be wise, and that once he has begun to repent of liberalism he is ready to find teachers of wisdom.
Once you have repented of your participation in the modern system, and once you understand the general framework for attaining knowledge of the most basic truths, where exactly can you go to begin learning the true order of the world and the traditions of your people? This learning generally cannot be had in the formal educations offered by schools, colleges and universities. With the existence of occasional exceptions acknowledged, American schools generally do not teach the wisdom of the ages or American tradition, or at best, they only teach them as just one set of options among many equally-valid (and therefore equally-invalid) options. Under the rule of modernism, believing the truth about the order of being is generally thoughtcrime.
Traditionalism must therefore be learned through unofficial channels. Continue reading
Recall from the previous parts of this series that traditionalism reconnects man with the wisdom of his ancestors and that the most important item of wisdom is to acknowledge the God of the Bible. Recall also that intuition is the foundation of wisdom, and that man also needs revelation and personal repentance in order to be wise. Once you have begun to repent of your liberalism, you are ready to find teachers of wisdom
The greatest teacher, of course, is God, and His teachings are found in the Bible. The most important of these teachings is how you can be saved from God’s wrath through repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. This truth, of course, cannot be known through intuition. It must be revealed to you, and then you must believe it.
Since the Bible, and only the Bible, is God speaking, it is the highest authority other than God Himself[i]. It is the ultimate authority for testing and correcting our intuitions about the order of being.
But we face an immediate problem: Authorities disagree about exactly what the Bible means. Often these disagreements arise when men don’t want to acknowledge the clear meaning of the words. These are disagreements caused by stubbornness, not by a lack of clarity in the text. But there are genuine disagreements. The authorities disagree about what the Bible teaches.
Perhaps you, the reader, are already a part of a Christian tradition. In that case you already have an authority which clarifies the meaning of the Bible. But this essay assumes that you are not yet a traditionalist. That being so, you do not yet know which authority to trust. Continue reading
Recall from the previous parts that traditionalism reconnects man with the true order of being and the wisdom of his ancestors, and that the most important item of wisdom is to acknowledge the God of the Bible. Recall also that intuition, despite not being infallible, is the foundation of wisdom.
But intuition, although necessary, is not sufficient. Man also needs revelation in order to be wise, for his intuition is not always dependable and because he has a natural tendency to rebel even against the true and the good.
“Revelation” includes Scripture as its most important example, but it also includes any instance when man is not able to know as a result of his own efforts, and must rely on the testimony of those who do know. “Believing revelation” is not the customary way to refer, for example, to a man believing the testimony of a scientist or other specialist about his field of expertise, but it is the same type of act as when a man believes what God has said in the Bible. In both cases, a man trusts the testimony of someone with greater knowledge. Most of what we know, in fact, is knowledge we cannot verify ourselves, and so believing revelation (perhaps under another name) is a necessary part of wisdom. Continue reading
Recall from the previous parts that traditionalism reconnects man with the true order of being and the wisdom of his ancestors, so that his life will be neither futile nor (like the leaders of liberalism) dedicated to evil. Recall also that the most important item of wisdom is the existence of the God of the Bible, a truth that has consequences for all reality.
This series emphasizes how a non-traditionalist can make the life-giving change to traditionalism. Instead of laying out a description of the content of traditionalism and then asking the reader to decide if he agrees, we speak in general terms about the need for traditionalism. Most details will come later. And although we have used the phrase “American traditionalist,” non-Americans can also make this change.
How is the understanding of the order of being cultivated? Fundamentally through intuition.
Intuition is the faculty of knowing something immediately, without engaging in a formal process of logical reasoning from premises to conclusions. Intuitive knowledge is something you just know, and it therefore develops naturally unless it is actively opposed. Most people, for example, have, when they are young, an intuitive understanding that sex is holy and therefore not to be desecrated. But today people often become jaded and cynical as they internalize the false liberal view of sex that surrounds us. For such people the beginning of sexual wisdom is to start to reclaim their earlier, more innocent and more correct view of sex. And the way to awaken this sense is to pay attention to one’s deep intuitions. Continue reading
[Part One is here.]
Recall from Part One that traditionalism reconnects man with the true order of being, an order that is systematically denied by modernity. To become an American traditionalist, you must begin to know the elements of traditionalism so that you can begin to see their value and be nourished by them. How is this to be done?
Start at the beginning. You cannot begin to seek the ways of tradition unless you know you need them to counteract the lies of the modern age. And you cannot know that lies are lies unless you know the truths that correct them.
But even if you don’t know the truth, you can often sense that lies are lies. So your traditionalism begins with a sense of discontent of the contemporary world in which you have been immersed. If you have been blessed with the gift of discontentment with the status quo, read on. Traditionalism has what you need.
[But let the buyer beware: Many charlatans know you are discontented. Learn to avoid their snake oil.]
Traditionalism is not simply following tradition, although the ways of our ancestors are an important part of it. Traditions can be corrupted, so you must know the truth behind the tradition. Traditionalism has value not because it is good to follow the ways of our ancestors (although it usually is), but because we Americans have become collectively foolish under the influence of modernity. We need to reconnect with the wisdom of the ages that our ancestors understood better than we. Traditionalism supplies this life-giving connection. Continue reading
[I plan for this to be a nine-part series, rather than, as has been my custom, one lengthy post.]
Previously I argued that you need to be a traditionalist conservative. But how does a non-traditionalist become a traditionalist? This essay addresses the question.
Of course, this not a fully rational process. There is no tight recipe for repentance. But we need to talk about it.
In the previous essay I observed that contemporary thinking is fundamentally wrongheaded. As a result, contemporary societies are fundamentally unravelling and contemporary people (aside from those filled with the demonic energy of the liberal jihad) are spiritually and intellectually demoralized. What is the way out of the madness? Continue reading
But remember, same-sex “marriage” doesn’t concern you!