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.
Posterity remembers Herbert George Wells (1866 – 1946) primarily as a novelist. He came into public acclaim around the turn of the century on the basis of his “scientific romances” such as The War of the Worlds (1897), The First Men in the Moon (1901), and The War in the Air (1906), but he soon turned his attention to the social novel, demonstrating a talent similar to that of Charles Dickens in Kipps (1905), Tono-Bungay (1906), and The Undying Fire (1919). Wells was one of the original public intellectuals of the mediated age, his voice familiar to listeners of the BBC, his visage familiar from newsreels. He believed in the social efficacy of science and technology, called himself a socialist, adding that his vision of socialism was so far ahead of Marxism and Leninism that compared to him their adherents were living in the Stone Age. In the monumental Experiment in Autobiography (1934), perhaps surprisingly, Wells tends to characterize almost all his activities under the heading of education – and he makes it clear that he thought of himself, no matter to what he put his hand, as above all an educator. He wrote any number of explicitly pedagogical books. The Outline of History (1919), A Short History of the World (1923), and The Work, Health, and Happiness of Mankind (1932) come to mind, the first two still useful today. Wells’s first idea of a career, in his early twenties, was a school mastership. He persevered through normal training and migrated through a number of appointments until the poverty of it irked him and he turned to writing.
It’s a funny thing that we’re always making fun of Mormons for their “weird” beliefs, when our own Bible contains a well-known story far more implausible–meaning both intrinsically implausible and seemingly incompatible with geological and genetic (for every animal species!) evidence–than anything in the Book of Mormon.
So, do I really believe that a six hundred year old guy saved the animals from a worldwide flood by putting a pair of each on a big boat? It’s funny that nobody asks me this, so I never bother to ask myself. Battles over the authority of the Old Testament always seem to concentrate on whether the Earth was really made in six days, whether there was a historical Adam and Eve, and whether Moses really wrote the Pentateuch. So that’s what we think about. The story of the Flood seems to be one where nothing is at stake except the reliability of Scripture (whereas Christian orthodoxy requires some sort of historical Fall in order to make sense), meaning that we’d all be happy to relegate Noah’s ordeal to some sort of allegory. On the other hand, if we take it on ourselves to start saying that this or that part of the Bible didn’t really happen, where will it end? The Fundamentalists are right to worry that this sort of attitude will end up making all of revelation optional.
Probably the Church has already spoken on this, pronounced hellfire for anyone who doubts the tale, etc. If the Church’s enemies start making noises about this issue, I guess I’ll have to read up on it. For now, I’ll concentrate on more spiritually fruitful questions, and I’ll be careful what I say against the Mormons.
Here’s something I’m excited about. Orthosphere-contributor “Proph” has decided to return to the public a bunch of old posts from his excellent prior blog, Collapse: The Blog. Collapse was my favorite blog for a while, and as Proph re-releases more posts, you’ll be able to see why.
“Conservatives are stupid and crazy, say totally unbiased social scientists”. How many times have you seen a headline like that? Now Radish has gathered up all these reports and subjected them to the debunking they deserve. As a side-effect, any residual respect for the social science you have might not survive reading that link.
The Vatican II that might have been. (Hat tip to Phillip Blosser.) Five of the original schemas drawn up by the preparatory commission (headed by Cardinal Ottaviani) for the second Vatican council have been translated into English. Compared to the council’s final documents, they are admirably clear and unambiguous. I note that there was a whole schema on marriage and chastity, and it has a chapter on male headship.
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued a report on the Holy See demanding that the Catholic Church embrace abortion, sodomy, and contraception. When will the Church accept that the United Nations is irredeemably evil?
Last link on Catholicism–I promise! Patrick Deneen on the more interesting intra-Catholic battle, the one waged between what he calls too different wings of conservative Catholicism, but that I would call real conservative Catholics vs. Americanist heretics.
An essay of mine has gone up at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website, on the topics of “Traditionalism, le Wagnerisme, and Vincent d’Indy.” D’Indy (1851 – 1931) was a French and decidedly Catholic composer who responded positively to the innovations of Richard Wagner; he founded the Schola Cantorum, a conservatory in Paris dedicated to the proposition that art is in service to civilization and has a moral as well as an aesthetic role. D’Indy was a lifelong monarchist and satisfyingly reactionary in most of his views.
I offer a sample –
When in 1894 d’Indy with Charles Bordes and Alexandre Guilmant established the Schola Cantorum, a school for composers and performers that would concentrate on instrumental and orchestral music rather than opera, he began his project of realizing his ideals in a functioning institution that would compete with the other conservatories already in existence. D’Indy believed in the absoluteness of counterpoint as the basis of compositional excellence; he believed that musician-composers should know not only music but also the history of music – and alongside all that be well grounded in the other arts and the humanities. D’Indy believed that a truly French music, reflecting France’s Catholic civilization, would find its natural soil in the Gregorian repertory and in regional folk music. He believed that music should participate in all the central institutions of a society, beginning with the Church, and that in so doing it would contribute to the moral health of the nation.
D’Indy’s emphasis on the regionality of folk-music sources indicates his appreciation that the French nation was forged by the union of distinct smaller polities and local dialects. Although d’Indy’s own music would become progressively less Teutonic, his ideas about music as a moral and cultural force remain identifiably Wagnerian.
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.
Needless to say, the most important new thing on the internet is part II of my series on Catholicism, connecting part I‘s discussion of the power of natural symbols to the doctrine of the Atonement and setting the stage for part III on the sacraments.
Why does the continued existence of humanity after our personal deaths matter so much to us? A fascinating exploration of the issue by Samuel Scheffler respectfully critiqued by Mark Johnston.
African American Studies programs explained! How stupid must these UNC folks be? It would have been so easy to actually sit their football players in a classroom for a couple of hours a week to bitch about how racist North Carolina and hand out A’s at the end. Then who would have dared say nothing of academic merit was going on?
Dalrock on the culture’s vigilance in protecting women from the joys of selfless love:
Modern women are warned constantly that acts of service and caring for others are traps they must avoid at all costs, lest they be tricked into a spirit of love and selflessness and “lose themselves”. The very idea of cooking, cleaning, and caring for her husband and family are repulsive and terrifying to the modern woman. If unable to avoid an act of service altogether, modern women are taught to diligently fortify their hearts with a spirit of resentment while doing the act to prevent a spirit of love and selflessness from entering. This sense of determined miserliness extends even to the modern woman’s marital bed. Should even a slight sense of selflessness somehow slip though, modern women are constantly reminded to “be true to themselves” and stamp out any thoughts of love, loyalty, and doing for others before they grow into something terrifying. A woman who is even suspected of serving others is urgently prescribed a treatment of “pampering themselves” to reorient their frame of mind back to selfishness.
There’s been an outbreak of activity from the internet Overton window police expressing outrage that neoreactionaries and orthospherians should dare reject the intellectual prison known as “the Enlightenment” and its demon god Liberty. An educational project on our side is obviously appropriate, and I’m sure one of my colleagues or I will get around to it as soon as our current projects are off the plate.
I offer a brief continuation of my main essay on post-literacy. My old graduate school buddy “Ivar the Midwesterner,” who teaches humanities on faculty at a “nondescript state college east of the Left Coast and west of the Mississippi,” inveterately asks his freshman composition students on the first day of class to respond in writing to the following prompt, one of the aphorisms from the extant fragments of the Archaic-Age Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (the “Logos Philosopher”):
All men should speak clearly and logically, and thus share a rational discourse and have a body of thought in common, just as the people of a city should be under the same laws.
Here are five typical responses, as Ivar assures me, to the prompt:
When defending Christianity and its historical record, Christian–and especially Catholic–apologists often seem very eager to point out that yes, terrible atrocities have been committed in the name of the Church. Obviously, this is true–any large institution that has been around for so long is bound to contain all the extremes of humanity–but that should be obvious to anyone who is qualified to operate a blanket. Besides, when the apologist, in the typical manner, simply waves his hand in the general direction of non-specific atrocities, his listeners will probably think of the Crusades and the Inquisition, and the urban legends about them will thus live on. There is no other creed or institution that has to self-flagellate in this way even as it defends itself (keeping in mind that “white” and “European” are not creeds), even though the record of the Church is, if anything, far better than that of any of its competitors. (When was the last time you heard a fan of the “Enlightenment” apologize for the Slaughter of the Vendée?) The enemies of the Church don’t think that, of course, but why should their misconceptions dictate what we are and aren’t allowed to say?
A colleague who teaches in the humanities at the state college where I work also teaches at a nearby private college. In the colleague’s description, the private college is perpetually in the grip of a panic over the prospect of a drop in enrollment. The college’s administration has therefore instituted an unwritten but implacable policy the upshot of which is that the student is always right, no matter how absurd his complaint, and the consequence of which is that instructors must never tax students beyond an infantile minimum of scholarly exertion. Among the consequences of the consequence are that students refuse to undertake out-of-class reading assignments, fail quizzes related to those assignments, and then lodge complaints with chairs and deans against the instructor.