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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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.

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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.

How to Become an American Traditionalist, Part Eight: Finding the Teachers of Wisdom

[Part OnePart Two.   Part ThreePart Four.  Part FivePart SixPart Seven.]

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

How to Become an American Traditionalist, Part Seven: Responding to the Intuitive Skeptic

[Part OnePart Two.   Part ThreePart FourPart FivePart Six.]

We’ve been saying 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. But what about the liberal who refuses to acknowledge the order of being?

Or, more generally, what about the man who denies what intuition suggests? The most basic truths are known through intuition but since intuition sometimes seems irrational, not based on clear-cut data and sharply-defined modes of logical reasoning, the man who wants to deny an intuitive truth can easily fool himself into thinking that since “it isn’t supported by evidence” (or so he thinks), it must not be true.

Consider a simple example that is nevertheless a paradigm for all valid intuitive knowledge: The existence of your consciousness. If someone challenged you by saying “Prove to me that your consciousness exists,” how would you respond? Continue reading

How to Become an American Traditionalist, Part Six: Other Authorities

[Part OnePart TwoPart Three.  Part FourPart Five.]

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.

We have said that man can know the answers to many of his deepest questions or, in other words, that he can know the basic nature of the order of being, through his intuition. Since intuition can be corrupted or obscured, man needs to have these intuitions articulated, guided, and affirmed by authorities. And the highest authority is the Bible, God’s Word.

But there are other religious authorities. The Bible is not the only Christian authority. It is the highest (and the only infallible) authority, but you will need creeds and confessions, pastors and bishops, teachers and theologians to guide you. To become wise about God, you will need eventually to join one of the existing Christian traditions. Continue reading

How to Become an American Traditionalist, Part Five: Knowing About God

[Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four.]

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

Philosophy versus Tradition

Many reactionaries complain that capitalism is eo ipso inimical to tradition. I disagree about that: it is liberal or deranged capitalism that is the problem; so that the problem is not with capitalism per se – which is really nothing other than the natural and basic form of human economic coordination, rooted at bottom in the exchange of gifts and favors, in the love we bear for each other as friends, neighbours and relatives, and so is the default to which all societies recur (and must recur, or else falter and dwindle) – but with its derangement. Latter day capitalism is sick, to be sure. But so is our whole society, beset in all her members and organs by the maladies and diseases by which we infect and corrupt her, a wounded animal struggling ever to heal herself, again and again deformed and crippled by our manifold political foolishness and iterated moral and intellectual insanities.

It’s not economics that is intrinsically inimical to tradition, but philosophy. In a traditional society, there would be no such thing. In a traditional society, no one would wonder how to be a good man, or what the meaning and purpose of life might be, or how and by what agencies the world is ordered. In a healthy traditional society, such questions would not even occur to anyone, because from earliest childhood everyone would have understood the ancient answers handed down by their forefathers from the very beginnings of time. No other answers would be even conceivable. Contrary doctrines would be greeted with outrage, horror and disgust.

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How to Become an American Traditionalist, Part Four: Revelation and Repentance

[Part OnePart TwoPart Three.]

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

Traditionalism is the Reductio of Modernism

Walking through the Oakland Airport this evening I spotted another one of those dreary advertisements that all schools of business everywhere throw up, showing some brave person who is not a businessman striding bravely into the brave new world she has dreamed up, and exhorting the reader (and prospective applicant) to “think outside the box,” “do well, but do good,” and most importantly, “challenge the status quo.”

Creativity in business is all well and good, of course, in due proportion, and where there is a better way to do things. But that is not what these ads are about. They are appealing to people who consider themselves “agents of change,” and who want to get into businesses and shake them up so that they are less, you know, businessy and more like NGOs. Not seeking those yucky profits, you see; not selling. Ew!

Dragging myself along the concourse, I reflected on the relentless chorus of “change!” to which we have all been more and more subjected these last 50 years now, and considered (not for the first time) that neo-reaction and traditionalism are the last gasp of the modernist critique of all established authority, with the ironic difference that the established authority they call into question is modernism itself.

Traditionalism is a quintessentially modern phenomenon. It is an artifact of a shattered, rudderless society. In a traditional society, there could be no such thing as traditionalism; for, in a traditional society, any suggestion that perhaps things ought to be done differently than they have been done would be met with horror, and outrage; so that, far from calling for their defense, their traditions would seem to them not even traditional, but rather just, and simply, the way that things must of course be done.

What does it indicate, that modernism has in these latter days elaborated a withering modernist critique of modernism? Is the phenomenon of historically self-conscious traditionalism in fact modernism’s last gasp?