Not thirty minutes into the story of San Andreas, a colossal skyscraper falls on my old girlfriend’s apartment house in West L.A. and then a tsunami sweeps it all away. So – pretty good stuff! I am giving this movie four-and-a-half stars out of five. I withhold half a star for the scenes in which the actors have lines.
Thinking these thoughts so that my friends don’t need to. TFB.
In a recent post on the justice of the property tax, I said that I was not interested so much to discuss that question as something else. That something is the vision of a familiarly ordered society, which suddenly opened itself to me as I pondered the modern property tax and its origins in corvée labor. I happened to read at that time, “coincidentally” – which is to say, synchronistically, or as we would here put it, providentially – an interview with Michael Hudson in which he revealed that recent archeological research seems to indicate that the pyramids and other ancient public works were built, not with coerced or slave labor, but by compensated freemen. Recently translated accounting records from these projects reveal that they enjoyed a high protein diet and vast quantities of beer. Periods of intense construction activity appear to have been coordinated and motivated by great religious festivals, featuring lots of sacrifices and feasting, that would have attracted people from far and wide. Involvement in this labor appears then to have been, not coerced, but voluntarily rendered, and motivated by strong positive emotions, which we might perhaps recognize as echoed in the intense patriotic fervor that prompted our forefathers to sign up in eager millions for the meat grinders of the 20th Century World Wars.
We may take this as an indication that a truly familiar society such as I discussed in the previous post would be radically different in character from the only sort of society any of us have ever known. I have not even begun to count all the ways it would be different; indeed, I feel I barely know how to think about what such a society would be like.
One of the interesting things about being a Christian reactionary is that I keep discovering huge unsuspected remnants of my native modernism by means of their sudden collapse. One moment a liberal notion is cooking along as well and as unconsciously as ever, drawing no attention to itself, and the next its incoherence or absurdity are suddenly revealed to my conscious awareness and admitted to my concern by its contradiction – practical, logical, empirical – with other notions I feel sure are true. I never even notice these wrong-headed ideas or policies – call them illogismoi – until this happens. When it does, things appear to me in a new way – or rather, in what generally turns out to be quite an old way, that had never before seemed like a way at all.
I never know what will trigger these mental avalanches. Often it is quite a little thing.
This happened to me again recently when I was mulling Zippy Catholic’s arguments for the inherent injustice of property taxes. I have long thought that such taxes are indeed unjust – have hated them in my guts, together with capital gains taxes, estate and death taxes, business equipment taxes, and other levies against property. So when I read his arguments, my reaction was, “yeah, damn right.”
Now, suddenly, I am not so sure. Or perhaps I am. Bear with me, now, as I explain how consideration of property tax opened a new horizon to my fuddled sight. Or no, wait: a very old horizon, rather.
Part I of this series posed the linked questions whether Eric Voegelin’s characterization of Gnosticism in his various books on the topic was valid – and whether, as Voegelin asserted, modernity, in the form of the liberal and totalitarian ideologies, could be understood as the resurgence of ancient Gnosticism. The purpose of Part I was not to furnish definitive answers to those questions, but rather to explore two critiques of Gnostic doctrine from Late Antiquity. These were the essay Against the Gnostics by the Third-Century Neo-Platonic philosopher Plotinus and the discussion in Saint Augustine’sConfessions (Books III, IV, and V) of the Manichaean religion, a late variant of Gnosticism. The exposition concluded that the two accounts of Gnosticism although written more than a century apart (Augustine being subsequent to Plotinus) were convergent and largely similar. The argument did not propose that Plotinus and Augustine, in their critiques, anticipate Voegelin, but readers might justly have inferred that as a tacit thesis.
The present essay addresses Gnosticism by examining it in its own terms. It is certainly provocative that two ancient writers, separated by a tumultuous century-and-a-half should have arrived at essentially the same assessment of Gnosticism. Nevertheless, this similitude in the judgment might be because both authors are prejudiced in the same way; thus their agreement could erroneous or bigoted. After all, as the father of modern Gnosticism-scholarship, Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860), averred, the Gnostics were formidable thinkers, masters of confabulation, and connoisseurs of a wide variety of religions, including but by no means confined to Judaism and Christianity. Elements of Gnosticism likely became incorporated in Christian theology (think of Revelations) even as Patristic writers systematically anathematized what they regarded as heresy.
What follows concerns itself with details of four Gnostic documents: The Tri-Partite Tractate,usually attributed to Heracleon, a follower of Valentinus; The Origin of the World,of anonymous authorship; The Gospel of Truth,by Valentinus; and Zostrianos, also of anonymous authorship – all of which come from the so-called Nag Hammadi documents and all of which belong to the mid-Second Century or slightly later. Zostrianos likely influenced Mani (216-276) when he was writing his own scripture in the Third Century.
Any religion must express some truths, or it will be utterly useless, and will gain no purchase among men. It will fail to convince them. They will see that it is just absurd.
So all perdurant religions express some truths. Nevertheless they disagree, or they would not differ. So none of them express the same set of truths. And to the extent that they disagree in any respect with Christianity about the Incarnation and its implications, they cannot but mislead men, to their spiritual detriment, and even in the limit to their damnation.
By their fundamental cult a people understand what their society and its coordinate activities are ultimately about – what they and their doings are for, and what they are against. Thus only may they understand who they are, and who they are not; where is their source, their end, and their true home; who are their friends, or enemies, and how they ought to behave toward them.
In a wide-ranging and penetrating essaycontra the ordination of women, Peter Leithart argues that because sex is inerasably graven in the logos of man, ipso facto is it graven in the nature of whatever man does, from liturgy to marriage; that worship, being the quintessentially human activity, in which we can reach the sublimity of all our special capacities (for thought, word, deed; for art, music, argument, prayer; and so forth), is the font and archetype of all subsidiary activities, to which it lends them form; so that when we upend or confuse the sexes in church, we must perforce do likewise in marriage, and everywhere else.
The most effective thing that we can still do to conserve our civilization is raise and educate our own children in the way that they should go. Shortly after the Orthosphere began operating in early 2012, I posted an item about the superiority of homeschooling. But what about middle and secondary school? What about college?
Two of our most luminous and percipient writers, both themselves professors – Anthony Esolen and Roger Scruton – have recently posted on these questions.
Cassiodorus asked me to take a look at an essay by Perennialist scholar James Cutsinger and provide my reactions. The essay – The Mystery of the Two Natures – argues that Perennialist archon Frithjof Schuon was entirely orthodox, from a Patristic (and ergo Nicene) point of view, in his insistence that the divine pole of the Incarnation, entailing as it does the ubiquity of Christ’s saving power, means that there is a transcendent unity of all religions.
I have long admired both Cutsinger and Schuon. They are both formidable scholars, both write (so think) like angels, and both have penetrated deeply and sympathetically into many of the great religions. Both are sane, irenic, and wise, and seem holy (sanctity being a dissemblance difficult to carry off). Like all thoroughgoing exponents of the Perennialist proposal, they reject modernity root and branch. I agree with them, I have always found, in almost everything.
I enjoyed the article a great deal, learned much from it, and recommend it as a wonderfully clear discussion of the Incarnation, and for its original and penetrating analyses of some of the major Christological heresies. But I disagree with it in two respects, one minor, one crucial. Continue reading →
Certainly, the Orthosphere fits within the larger category of Right-wing blogs, and within the subcategory of “reactionary” (extreme, i.e. Enlightenment-rejecting, Right) blogs. Even this subcategory has distinct clusters: the Orthosphere, Integralists, Identitarians, and Neoreactionaries, to name just the most impressive. Are these different ideological movements, or different focuses within a single movement? To rephrase, here are the two possibilities. 1) The Orthosphere’s fundamental principles (our ultimate premises) are the same as its defining principles (the positions that distinguish us from other groups), in which case we are ultimately our own movement and those other groups are at best allies. 2) Our defining principles are applications to our particular area of interest of more fundamental principles shared by the larger community of reactionaries. Which is it?
With a movement that has different areas of focus, you are bound to get drift. The different wheels of Spandrell’s Trike like to roll off on their own for extended periods and not participate in the congregation of a collective might. Social Matter, a product of the Hestia Society for Social Studies, is a more-than-worthy rallying point for the radical right...Through promotion, Social Matter should get pushed to the fore.