The Abomination of Desolation of the Marital Altar

The Eucharist is a participation in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. But then likewise a true wedding is a participation in the Sacrifice at Golgotha.[1] The bed of marriage is properly an altar, where bride and groom offer their lives in a total sacrifice, joining and thereby engendering a new and larger organism.

When Paul says, “I beseech ye, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” [Romans 12:1], he refers to the whole and perfectly general motion of the Christian toward his Savior and Lord, howsoever expressed: whether in priesthood, or martyry, or marriage – or at Mass.

The rites of the altar – the bed, the table, the throne – are the basis of society: “Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.” And, vice versa: where there is no altar, there is no civilization; no cult, no culture; no culture, no polis.

Continue reading

New Article: From Romanticism to Traditionalism

My essay From Romanticism to Traditionalism appears at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website.  The argument is that numerous premises of contemporary Traditionalism find their prototypes in early-Nineteenth Century Romantic Movement.  The essay cites the work of the English lake Poets, especially William Wordsworth and Samuel T. Coleridge, as well as the work of Chateaubriand and Goethe, and of the American “Hudson River School” of painting.  I try to demonstrate the parallelism between Wordsworth’s outlook, or Goethe’s, and the outlook of the founders of Twentieth Century Traditionalism, such as René Guénon and Nicolas Berdyaev.  I offer a sample…

The Romantic subject resembles – or, rather, it anticipates – the Traditionalist subject, as Guénon, Nicolas Berdyaev (1874 – 1948), and others have defined it.  Guénon himself in The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times (1945) characterizes modern man as having “lost the use of the faculties which in normal times allowed him to pass beyond the bounds of the sensible world.”  This loss leaves modern man alienated from “the cosmic manifestation of which he a part”; in Guénon’s analysis modern man assumes “the passive role of a mere spectator” and consumer, which is exactly how Wordsworth saw it.  Of course, Guénon does not write of loss as an accident, but as the logical consequence of choices and schemes traceable to the Enlightenment.  As Wordsworth put it, “We have given our hearts away – a sordid boon.”

According to Berdyaev, writing in The Destiny of Man (1931), “Man is not a fragmentary part of the world but contains the whole riddle of the universe and the solution of it.”  Berdyaev asserts that, contrary to modernity, “man is neither the epistemological subject [of Kant], nor the ‘soul’ of psychology, nor a spirit, nor an ideal value of ethics, logics, or aesthetics”; but, abolishing and overstepping all those reductions, “all spheres of being intersect in man.”  Berdyaev argues that, “Man is a being created by God, fallen away from God and receiving grace from God.”  The prevailing modern view, that of naturalism, “regards man as a product of evolution in the animal world,” but “man’s dynamism springs from freedom and not from necessity”; it follows therefore that “evolution” cannot explain the mystery and centrality of man’s freedom.  When Berdyaev brings “grace” into his discussion, he echoes the original Romantics, whose version of grace was the epiphanic vision, the event answering to a crisis that brings about the conversion of the fallen subject and sets him on the road to true personhood.

Angel Millar has done an exceptional job in presenting the essay.  I take the opportunity here to thank him publicly.

Repost: No Evidence for God?

To piggyback on Bonald’s post below:

At his blog, our Proph recently reposted an item that linked to an essay of mine at the old Intellectual Conservative. Since the old IC was taken down by evil leftist (but I’m redundant) hackers, Proph’s link to my essay is dead. So here is my old IC essay.  Its basic thrust: When atheists claim there is no evidence for God, they are assuming atheism at the beginning, looking at life through atheist-colored glasses, and then seeing nothing but atheism. They are being supremely illogical.

 No Evidence for God?

Atheism now has a confession of faith. Christians say “Jesus is Lord.” Moslems say “There is no God but Allah.” And English-speaking atheists now say “There is no evidence for God.” But are they correct? Continue reading

New Article at Pope Center Website

The Pope Center for Higher Education has published my article on harnessing modern technology for traditional purposes in the classroom  —  “The Smart Classroom Meets Wagner.”  I call attention to it in connection with my recent forays into pedagogy, epistemology, and culture here at The Orthosphere.  My thesis is that even badly prepared students can respond intelligently to what we might call high-cultural allure when given the opportunity in a carefully designed context.  In particular I report on their struggle, appreciable and even admirable, to come to terms with Tristan und Isolde.

I offer a sample:

The educational status quo has left my students, who after all are merely a sampling of the contemporary American undergraduate, badly deprived. Their education, even in college, once they get there, leaves them bereft of high-cultural experience.

That is a pity because taste tends to become fixed in late adolescence. They will never respond to esthetic sublimity unless they have an opportunity to experience it. Providentially, the smart classroom enables a few to have that opportunity.

The Eternal Turn

The turn of the intellect away from the world and toward eternity is a forecondition of informed and confident adult belief in orthodox Christian doctrine. Most theological confusions, and ergo most misprisions of doctrine, most doubts, most schisms, and most heresies, arise because it is so difficult for us to break the habit of thinking about theology in any but the mundane terms under which we live our daily lives. As we learn to reason under the aspect of eternity – a feat no more difficult in principle than reading English, a score, water, the sky, a proof, but nevertheless always somewhat tricky – the confusing fog of apparent paradoxes and contradictions slowly resolve into clarity.

Continue reading

Apokatastasis of the Damned

All things have their being by and from God. This is a restatement of the doctrine of omnipotence.

All things have their being in and by way of God: in him we live, move and have being. This is a restatement of the doctrine of ubiquity.

All things have their being for and toward God; he is the end toward which they tend, and that end is the reason of and for their being. This is a restatement of the doctrine of pronoia.

God is then the origin, ground and end of all things; and all things are therefore integral to his life, and partake therein, whether or not they wish to do so, or realize that they do. This participation in the life of God is the mode of their existence, for God is the being of beings. By this participation are they known to him, as aspects of his own life; by that knowledge are their acts of existence completed, for no act of existence is fully complete until it is known and reckoned by God. So the inception of creatures by God and their completion in him are aspects in the singular, integral act of their creation, of which their inception, evolution and completion are phases.

The integration of all things in the life of God is a restatement of the doctrine of omniscience.

By omniscience, all things are in their truest nature integrated into the being and life of God, and are thus – in their truest natures, mind, albeit not necessarily in the relatively defective natures of their creaturely actualities – rendered consubstantial with him.

What then is the nature of the defect in defective creaturely actuality? It is an error about our consubstantiality with God – about the fact that we begin, proceed and end in, from, by, and toward him. It is the illusion that we and our fellow creatures each subsist independently, and are therefore our own creation, beholden only to ourselves. Because it errs in regard to the true order of things, such vanity generates acts that disagree with reality, and thus inflict harm upon the world – sinful acts.

Continue reading

Supersubstantiation

[This post is an edited transcript of a brainstorm that overtook me a few weeks ago, while I was reading Stratford Caldecott’s pellucid and penetrating recent book, The Radiance of Being: Dimensions of Cosmic Christianity, and madly scribbled as a marginal note therein. The quotations below are cited to page numbers in that volume.]

In the Lord’s Prayer, God calls the Bread of the Presence that we Anointed Priests of his House consume in the Divine Liturgy of the Temple our “supersubstantial bread.” The doctrine implicit in this term subsumes, reconciles, and integrates all the various doctrines of the Real Presence in the Eucharist – memorial, pneumatic, sacramental, consubstantial, transubstantial, and so forth.

Of these doctrines, transubstantiation is the most inclusive – if it’s true, so are all the others – but also the most difficult to take on board:

What makes us uneasy [about transubstantiation] is that the substances of the bread and the wine seem to have been destroyed [by Grace, rather than perfected thereby]. And yet Aquinas is very concerned to show that this is not the case; the substances are not destroyed but converted.

-          page 231

They are turned from their own lives, toward and into the life of God. The elements are no longer occasions of their own careers, but of God. So likewise with the communicant: “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20).

The Host has all the properties of bread, and all the causal effects of bread. These do not disappear at the Consecration. As Caldecott says, we don’t expect the consecrated bread to look any different under an electron microscope (nor do communicants look any different after they have partaken thereof). After the Consecration, the bread still behaves like bread, whatever else it may be doing. In so far forth, then, it is indeed – literally – bread. But it is not, ultimately, merely bread. Which is to say that it *just isn’t* bread anymore. It is God. It is supersubstantial bread.

How does supersubstantiation work?

Continue reading

Ernest Bloch and the Prophetic Impulse: Music as Spiritual Protest

Ernest Bloch (1880 – 1959), Swiss-born but American by naturalization, plays tag with the usual categories.  An inheritor and continuator of the European tradition in concert music, he nevertheless made common cause with his adoptive countryman-composers by attempting after 1916 to write music in an idiom that would reflect conditions in the New World to which he had sworn allegiance.  Bloch was also self-consciously a Jewish composer who understood that the vast majority of his potential audience belonged to the Christian-Protestant professions of a largely Anglo-Saxon nation – a challenging rhetorical situation.  Bloch’s Judaism, moreover, was the Judaism, not of the rabbinate, but of the Prophets.  When he “spoke” deliberately in his distinctive American dialect, he did so in the mode of a musical nabi, and like the nabi, he gave voice, as best he could, to the judgment of divinity on the existing offense of humanity’s disorderliness.  For it must be said that Bloch’s music, from his earliest mature compositions, functioned by intention as a protest against the modern world.  Is Bloch one of those “reactionary” composers, whose reputations traditionalists would like to revive?  In many ways, the answer is “yes,” even though during Bloch’s American years his musical style became increasingly less Romantic and noticeably more modern in its motivic terseness and harmonic astringency.  Yet the composer of the late Trombone Symphony (1954) is unmistakably the same as the composer of Schelomo (1916), the “Jewish Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra” that remains Bloch’s best-known and most-played score.

Continue reading

The Argument from Possibility per se

Possibilities have no actual existence in their own right. They concretely exist only in and as potential acts of some concrete actuality or other. And possibilities exist necessarily: for x ever to be possible in any state of affairs, x must in every state of affairs always have been possible in and for some state of affairs or other. Possibilities exist eternally. That possibilities necessarily and eternally exist means therefore that in every possible state of affairs whatsoever there exists an eternal, necessary concrete actuality, in whom all possibilities exist as potential acts.

If anything be possible, then, God necessarily exists.

The Argument from Definiteness

I often find the popular debate between Religion™ and Science™ intensely irritating, because almost everyone on both sides seems to take it for granted that if we have (or might someday have) a scientific explanation for something, then we don’t stand in need of a divine explanation for it; so that the only places where God might possibly play a role in our explanatory scheme is in the bits and pieces of the world that science has not yet explained. And this notion of the “God of the Gaps” presupposes that the merely scientific explanation is exhaustively adequate, at least in principle. But that means that the whole debate is skewed from the get go by an implicit presupposition in favor of naturalism, and is therefore founded upon begging the very question that it proposes to answer.

It’s dunderheaded.

God is not needed first as an explanation of this or that item in the natural order, but rather as an explanation of the fact that there is such a thing as nature in the first place, or that there exists anything at all that might have a nature. If God does not exist, then there can be no explanation of existence per se, or therefore of any of the things that do seem to us actually to exist. If God does not exist, then all we can say of things in the final analysis is that they are what they are, for no particular reason.

Or can we say even that?

Continue reading