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.
God of the Philosophers : God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob :: Map : Territory.
In a conversation with several other Christians, someone mentioned some atheists who are declaring themselves de-baptized. They have a hokey ceremony incorporating a hair-dryer, and witnesses, and a celebrant: the whole nine yards.
It can’t be done, of course, any more than pigs could fly. Once baptized, always baptized.
A young Evangelical in the company responded, “You gotta wonder: if they are really atheists, *why do they care*?” We all exploded in laughter. Someone else said, “It just goes to show you that despite what they say about baptism being meaningless superstition, in their hearts they don’t really believe it is.”
You can’t rebel against something you know does not exist.
For the most part, my posts here at the Orthosphere fall into two categories: current affairs on the one hand – politics, economics, public policy, the culture wars, etc. – and on the other philosophical theology. It is not surprising that our site statistics show the latter sort of posts are generally far less popular and interesting to visitors than the former. Only one of my philosophical posts makes it into the top thirty that I have published since the Orthosphere began. It is The Holy Trinity: A Simple Explanation for Children. Though it is fairly recent, it is the fourth most visited post I have published; every day it gets at least a few hits from Google searches, so it is likely to keep rising in the rankings.
Why is that? Why does the Trinity matter to people?
I mean, sure, it’s hard to explain the Trinity, especially to kids, and kids have questions, so there must be lots of Christian parents searching for a good explanation on any given day. But this raises a set of deeper questions. If the Trinity is so hard to explain, why did the Fathers make it so central to the Faith? Why do the creeds take their structures from the Persons of the Trinity? And, what is so important about creeds in the first place? Why can’t we dispense with these troublesome, incomprehensible formulae, and just love God and each other? And, for Heaven’s sake, why should a profession of adherence to the Nicene Creed – it began and remains the baptismal vow – be the threshold and test of Christian faith?
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.
Son: Dad, I’ve got a problem I need to ask you about.
Father: OK, son, glad to help. But I’m warning you: I know nothing about girls. For that, you’d be better off asking your mother. That’s what she would say.
Son [blushing violently]: Dad! It’s not about a girl! Sheesh!
Father [laughing]: OK, OK; got you good there, son. Man, you kids are so easy to tease.
Son [wearily]: Yeah, yeah. Always with the Dad jokes.
Father [wiping away tears]: I’m sorry, kiddo. What’s your problem. Schoolwork? Better to ask your mother about that, too …
Son: No, it’s not that. I was wondering in church this morning about the Incarnation.
Father: Oh boy. Here we go.
Son: What? What’s the problem?
Father: You guys always seem to pick the hard ones. OK, let’s have it.
Son: Well, how could God be a man? I mean, did he sort of take a break from all his God jobs, in order to come and be Jesus here on Earth for a while? Or what? Who was running the universe while God was Jesus on Earth, eating fish and building stuff and walking around? Was part of him left over up in Heaven, and running things? I don’t get it.
I’ve been inactive lately here at the Orthosphere because my sparse mental energies have been focused elsewhere: Bruce Charlton and I have been talking amiably for the last few days about the Mormon versus the Christian doctrines of God, over at his valuable site The Notion Club Papers (which is devoted mostly to the Inklings). Those with a taste for metaphysical disputation might want to check it out. Bruce has said that he wants to keep that thread exclusive to the two of us, for clarity’s sake, and invited those interested to comment upon it in another post at his main site, Bruce Charlton’s Miscellany. I’ll say likewise: comments on this post are closed, so if you want to add your two cents, please do so over at the Miscellany.
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.
Zippy Catholic had a great post the other day on the nature of property that got me thinking about legal property versus ontological properties. I think I have been able to tie his account of ownership of property to a metaphysical basis.
Zippy’s post is short and succinct – unlike this one – and worth a read. The most important bits for my purposes here are these:
But real authority which produces genuine moral obligations does not ultimately derive from the human will, either simpliciter or in some theoretical aggregation mediated through some heretical theory of consent of the governed. The foundation of real authority is Nature and Nature’s God. …
Property exists when an owner exercises fungible authority over subjects with respect to one or more objects.
By “object” we don’t mean physical objects: we mean the things in the property relation which are not subjects. Subjects are of course persons: moral agents with the capacity to choose behaviors.
Bear these paragraphs of Zippy’s in mind as you work your way through what follows. We don’t begin with them; rather, we are working our way toward them.
To begin then at the beginning: the form of a thing is ordered to its telos. The form of an acorn cannot be even partly that of a carburetor, or it won’t be able to produce an oak. If it is to act as an acorn acts, it has to have the form of an acorn, which is to say, all the properties of an acorn.