Why Modern Authorities are (Generally) Dishonest Manipulators

[This will not be news to most Orthosphere readers, but we need clear statements of basic principles to educate the young.]

Not all authorities are dishonest manipulators, of course, but the higher their rank, the more dishonest and manipulative they tend to be. And this is not just an unfortunate fluke. In the modern world authorities have to be manipulators. They have no real authority but they must somehow establish and maintain order, so manipulation is usually their only recourse.

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A bit of history: Until modern times (roughly, before the end of World War I), most people made most of their important decisions based largely on tradition and authority. “Tradition” means the ways of thinking and living they inherited from their ancestors, and “authority” means the teachings and the commands of people such as lords, kings, pastors and teachers. Tradition and the authorities were recognized as having the right to answer the important questions of life and to tell us, in broad terms, how we ought to live.

But now, thanks to the successful liberal takeover of the West, tradition and authority are greatly diminished.  The liberal jihad fights, in large part, under the banner of personal freedom, and in the modern world we are all supposed to be autonomous, self-actualizing freedmen who accept no authority not freely chosen and who are liberated from the tyranny of tradition. Continue reading

The Insatiable Maw that Devours Men & Nations

Some habits can be relatively benign, even when addictive: caffeine, the athlete’s highs, haute cuisine, tidiness. A benign addiction to coffee can tend to its own daily limit, where the marginal cup of coffee decreases the sought after acuity of thought that motivated the habit in the first place. And you can only run so many miles every day without crippling your ability to run.

Some habits – as prayer, music, discipline, training, courage, thoughtfulness, care, attention, gratitude – are virtuous, and incline us more and more to virtue in every department of life. Virtue is in itself, and in all its varieties, an addictive pleasure, that tends to the general increase of virtue and to the correction, harmony and vim of the whole organism. The virtuous addiction to prayer, for example, tends to permeate life, integrating, settling, and healing it.

Benign addictions then are self-limiting, while virtuous addictions salve and ennoble the whole person, more and more. Both sorts tend toward balance, toward what the Greeks called krasis – the just mixture of ingredients in a mixing bowl or Receptacle (a krater).   

But many addictions catch the addict in a vicious positive feedback loop wherein ever stronger doses of the addictive pleasure are needed in order to reproduce its characteristic hedonic effect. Eventually the doses, and the need for them, grow so large as to be all-consuming, toxic, and so eventually lethal, somehow or other: to the body, the balance sheet, the career, the family.

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Pulling a Location

The most worldly man I know, brilliant, effervescent, wildly gay (in both senses of the word), generous to a fault, impishly funny, cynical and compassionate, utterly depraved, abandoned in and relishing his slavery to sins – sins that soon killed him – was chatting with me once long ago about a mutual acquaintance, who had surprised all of us who knew him by moving on the spur of the moment to New Orleans. “Seems like something out of the blue,” said I. “He’s pulling a location,” said he. I looked at him quizzically. “It’s an AA term,“ he explained, “for a standard move addicts make shortly before they hit bottom. They try to solve their problems by changing their location – moving to a new town, far away. They figure a fresh start is all they need to get off on the right foot, and stay on the right track. It never works. Their problems have nothing to do with where they are living, or the other people who happen to live there, or who don’t live there. It never, ever works. Sometimes you have to pull two or three locations before you figure out that nothing’s better in one place than it is in any other, and the problem is located in you. He’ll be back.”

So he was, indeed – stone cold sober, thanks be to God, at least for a while – right about the time my interlocutor began to succumb to AIDS.

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Reversion to the Mean

If there is a real world, and if it is consistently ordered, and if this consistent orderliness extends to the living portion of that world – these being the de minimis foreconditions of any sort of life whatsoever – then there must be some basic set of policies best suited to the lives of humans as we find them in the world as it is. Such is the proposition at the crux of philosophical Traditionalism, and of all the unconscious chthonic traditions that arose of old and organically from the practice of life, and were one day noticed and then taught by priests and sages. It is obviously true; it cannot but be true.

The Decalogue is the palmary exemplar of that basic set of policies. It is the quintessential answer for man, and so of man, to the Natural and Divine order. In and by it ordered, man fitly meets his environment – his world, and its God – and, as thus meet thereto, is rendered himself fit, so to fare well, and happy, healthy, numerous, and prosperous.

Any deviations from those policies then are in comparison to following them somewhat disadvantageous; so that we should expect deviants of any sort to find their purposes frustrated, their prosperity and health vitiated, their lives shortened and their reproduction hampered, at least at the margin. And so it is indeed. Deviations are then all self-correcting, sooner or later, as dooming deviants to relative poverty, disease, barrenness, unhappiness, and failure.

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Reality versus “Marriage”

Our loyal leftist commenter a.morphous responded to my post of the other day on Homeostasis & Cultural Health with an argument that homosexuals want to be able to marry each other simply because “they are people and want to live like people.”

Not so. They want to be able to marry each other because they want to be able to live like heterosexual people, without ever actually living like heterosexual people.

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Homeostasis & Cultural Health

Not only is there always a state religion, but there is always a king of some sort, a father of the country. Likewise there is always a class of priests and judges, always a class of warrior nobles, always a class of merchants, always monastics and hermits, a market, a language, families, patriarchs, prophets, sex roles, etc. These things are built into man. They can be suppressed for a while, or injured, but not permanently eliminated from the constitution of human society. You can’t get rid of them, any more than you can get rid of the pancreas or the spleen. The functions they mediate must be mediated, and one way or another they will be mediated.

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Living Beyond the Pale

Back when the West was sane, egregious transgressors of the traditional customs of the city were exiled to the wilderness beyond the pale – i.e., beyond the palisade (of poles, or pales, or piles) that walled the settlement, and constituted it a polis. The worst of them were also bewildered – led deep into the forest blindfolded and lightly bound, so that when they finally struggled free they would be hopelessly lost (criminals were of course just killed).

Nowadays we all live among a people who have as one body ventured forth without the pale, bound and bewildered themselves.

Our problem, then, at least severally, is to loosen our bonds, tear off our blindfolds, and find our way back to the city. But as we do so, we must be careful not to arouse too much notice from the tyrants who have emptied the town and loudly howled to attract the wolves, or they shall kill us as dangerous traitors. We must just disappear from amongst them, as if we had been eaten.

How to Become an American Traditionalist, Part Nine: The Content of Traditionalism Briefly Discussed

[Part One.  Part TwoPart Three.  Part FourPart Five.  Part SixPart SevenPart Eight.]

Here is the final part (too long delayed) of this series.

When discussing how to become a traditionalist, it is appropriate also to speak briefly of the content of traditionalism. In harmony with the order of being, traditionalism seeks a social order that, among other things,

  • is based on Christianity, in the sense that it affirms the basic Christian views of God, man and society but does not necessarily support only one view of exactly how man must worship or be saved from the wrath of God.
  • publicly honors Christianity, and holds that theology and God-honoring philosophy, not science, are the highest forms of knowledge.
  • acknowledges that some men naturally have authority over others: magistrates over citizens, clergymen over parishioners, teachers over students, husbands over wives and children, mothers over children, and so on.
  • acknowledges not only that authority exists, but that male authority is of fundamental importance for the proper functioning of society at every level, from the family to the national government. Without strong male authority, exercised with competence and love, things naturally fall apart. With this authority, men, women and children can live as they ought.
  • promotes what is commonly called the traditional view of male-female relations: premarital chastity, male headship of the household, female emphasis on childrearing and maintenance of the household, and the importance of bearing and properly raising children.
  • holds that we ought to honor our parents and, more generally, the ways of our people.
  • does not suicidally demand that the people be tolerant and inclusive of a disruptive influx of foreigners, but instead looks on the nation as a people and an order that are good and are therefore to be preserved.
  • is intolerant of, and seeks to control, crime, vice, perversion, ugliness and the like.
  • recognizes that part of our Western heritage is freedom, provided that it is an ordered freedom under God and the civil law.
  • limits government, out of an understanding that government officials have a natural tendency to gain and abuse power, and that since government has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, the growth of government is a fundamental threat against which we must guard. This view does not contradict the legitimacy of authority, because all legitimate authority has limits, beyond which it becomes tyrannical and therefore invalid.
  • uses the law to punish criminals, with the death penalty when appropriate, rather than to satisfy procedural and bureaucratic regulations, or to promote liberalism.
  • regards the nation and its history as fundamentally good, and does not seek radical change. Change is for the purpose of incremental improvement, not the radical overturning of imaginary fundamental injustices.
  • holds that freedom and equality are not (contra liberalism) the primary social goods, and that they become destructive forces when not subordinated to other, more fundamental goods, such as honoring God.

Continue reading

Ritual Purity With & Without God

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.

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Sex and the Religion of Me

Orthospherean James Kalb has written an essay for the latest issue of First Things. Sex and the Religion of Me: A challenge to the project of sexual liberation is about – well, you can pretty much tell what it is about.

The full article is behind a pay wall. Jim’s writing is good enough to warrant a subscription in its own right, of course, but it would be understandable if orthosphereans were to pause before committing their dough. At its beginnings, First Things was a revolutionary pioneer of intelligent, erudite Mere Christian traditionalism, both muscular and optimistic. But gradually it became an institution, and more mainstream. Partly this was due to the fact that its own success in making traditionalism respectable was a major factor of the recent increase in our numbers, many of whom are naturally more radical than the coterie of first class writers and thinkers at First Things. For many of the traditionalists First Things helped to incubate, it was not traditional enough, and too ready to accomodate itself to the terms of the discourse under the prevailing political weltanschauung.

In recent months, however, a number of exogenous factors seem to be radicalizing the whole traditionalist right, and First Things is no exception. The recent reversals on gay “marriage,” the apparent nod to libertinism of Pope Francis, last month’s fractious Synod, and the accelerating progress down the slippery slope to utter insanity of every aspect of our culture seem to have made pragmatic engagement with the political establishment impossible for serious Christians. More and more, it seems, the only options open to us are recusal, protest or civil disobedience. As the issues grow ever starker, the fissures ever deeper and steeper, the middle ground disappears. So, the writers at First Things find themselves more and more isolate from and inimical to the American political culture the journal had hoped to influence. Bruised and saddened, they seem to be moving rightward – or no, wait: upward, rather, and ever more perpendicular to the spectra by which kingdoms of this world calibrate each other.

That might make their conversations more interesting to orthosphereans and our ilk.

As a bonus, there is in every issue, and always at the First Things website, a plethora of insightful theology. David Bentley Hart and Peter Leithart are particularly worthy and voluminous contributors under that heading.