Category: Religion

Everlasting GKC for Advent

Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” as a rejoinder to Neil Young’s smug “Southern Man. Likewise, GKC wrote The Everlasting Man as a rejoinder to H.G. Wells’ Outline of History.

In both cases, the rejoinders won.

The Everlasting Man explains history as part of the revelation of the Christ. It’s no wonder that the Advent season figures largely in it.

Some choice passages:

“Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether he likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars.”

“It is no more inevitable to connect God with an infant than to connect gravitation with a kitten.”

“Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet.”

“If the world wanted what is called a non-controversial aspect of Christianity, it would probably select Christmas.”

“You cannot chip away the statue of a mother from all round that of a new-born child. You cannot suspend the new-born child in mid-air; indeed you cannot really have a statue of a new-born child at all.”

“You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother; you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. If we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows as it is followed in history. We must either leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.”… Read the rest

Is the New Left the Old Occult?

The supernatural and paranormal. Postmodernism and critical theory. What could be the connection?

Over 40 years ago, Norman Cohn, author of that masterpiece about countercultural movements in the Middle Ages, The Pursuit of the Millennium, wrote a review about a little-known book by a young genius who would commit suicide at age 34.

The author: James Webb, a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, a man who Colin Wilson considered “one of the most brilliant minds of his generation.”

The book: The Occult Establishment (1976).

Cohn said:

[T]his book performs an important task. It offers the most vivid portrayal yet given of that hydra, irrationalism; and leaves one waiting, with curiosity if not with trepidation, to see what the next head will look like. 

“In Pursuit of the Irrational,” The Times Literary Supplement, June 17, 1977

The Occult Establishment is now out of print. Amazon says my copy is worth $100, if only I hadn’t beat the hell out of it with my underlinings and side notes.

But I didn’t know it would go out of print, and I didn’t know Webb was a genius of the first order.

Besides, I probably couldn’t have helped myself anyway.

The book is packed with fascinating (underline-worthy) facts about the 20th-century occult.

What is the Occult?

The “occult” is an umbrella term. It means anything pertaining to the mystical, supernatural, magical, and paranormal that falls outside religion or science.

Both religion and science use reason and logic to construct their “systems.”

The occult, on the other hand, embraces the irrational.

Religion and science seek to explain, but the occult revels in the unexplainable.

The occult, in fact, could be, and has been, defined as “rejected knowledge”: the knowledge rejected by the establishments of religion and science (OE, 15).

The term is

Read the rest

Satanism is on the Rise

And he’s not talking about BLM, transgenderism, that pitiful Vanderbilt place-kicker stunt, and couples wedding showers. He’s talking about actual Satanic activity.

Scary stuff at National Catholic Register this morning.

“Satanism is now a reality for many young people, who already know so much about it thanks to the resources they find online. On these websites, the figure of the devil is openly praised, and it attracts many people — this figure of the devil who emancipates himself from God to lead his life as he pleases. There is also a growth of real Satanic groups, whereas in the past they were a very exceptional reality. They are multiplying in a very worrying way. And I also see this through the victims of Satanism, of dangerous rites, who come to see me and who have lived unprecedented, unimaginable sufferings to their own skin. Personally, I can say that more people are coming to see me than before, and, unfortunately, I cannot follow all of them. Satanism has come out in the open, and we must be very careful about it.”… Read the rest

Wanna Move Beyond Stoicism?

Hesychasm: The largely-forgotten literary tradition that takes Stoicism to the next level

I’ve long been a fan of the Stoics. Epictetus especially, but Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and the works of Seneca have always held a sort of mesmerizing sway over me.

And, of course, Evagrius.

Who?

“Evagrius the Solitary” or “Evagrius of Pontus.” Sometimes spelled “Evagrios.”

He lived from 345 to 399. He wrote On Asceticism and Stillness.

I’m not sure there’s ever been a more Stoic-sounding title in the history of literature.

But though Stoicism has gained a lot of popularity thanks largely to the efforts of Ryan Holiday, Evagrius hasn’t, and neither has Evagrius’ literary tradition: Hesychasm.

The Sound of Silence

Stoicism is, at bottom, all about silencing the mind. Dispassion in the face of things that otherwise arouse passion. Resignation in the face of things that disappoint. Indifference in the face of things that raise emotions.

Mental silence. It’s a good trait, but human development didn’t stop with the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD, and neither did the development of Stoicism.

Stoicism, you see, had a child.

And her name was “Hesychasm.”

Whereas Stoicism is all about quieting the mind, Hesychasm is, at bottom, all about quieting the heart.

A fourth century Hesychastic writer known to us only as the “Pseudo-Macarius” says of the heart:

The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. There also are rough and uneven roads; there are precipices. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the Kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace — all things are there.

The parallels with Victor Hugo’s portrait of the soul 1,500 years … Read the rest

I Don’t Love the Nightlife and I Don’t Got to Boogie

But I miss the bars

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.” Samuel Johnson

Like Samuel Johnson and Alicia Bridges (see title), I like a good bar.

Heck, I like many bars. I love a good bar.

COVID, of course, has crippled the bar scene, which has hit me pretty hard.

You see, I’m a religious guy. I like to worship.

I’m pantheistic in my approach. God, for me, isn’t found only in the brick-and-mortar church sanctuary. God is everywhere.

Oh yeah, to be sure, he’s found in some places better than others. I believe He is present in every church. I also think He’s present in other people and acutely present in the poor.

I also believe he’s present in quiet places. It’s a belief that goes back almost 3,000 years, to the time of Elijah:

A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord — but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake — but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire — but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound,” a “still and small” breeze, and then the Lord spoke, “Elijah, why are you here?”

I’m a silence monger. I seek it wherever I can find it. On the worst winter days, you’ll often find me outside, taking in the silence born from forcing the world indoors.

On a weekday afternoon, you might find me in a bar, taking advantage of the dead period — that time from, say, 1:30 to 4:00 — when the bar has virtually no customers. The lunch crowd … Read the rest

A Festivus for the Rest of Us

Yeah, I know: Festivus is a fake holiday created by Seinfeld in 1997, when Mr. Costanza told Kramer about the family holiday he created: Festivus.

It was, Mr. Costanza explained, a “festivus for the rest of us.”

It has since become a real “thing,” with its official celebration date on December 23rd. It’s a denunciation of the pressures and commercialization of Christmas.

You can even buy a (tacky as hell) Festivus celebration kit at Amazon.

But I’d like to propose that the Catholics take it back. I mean, heck, we’ve taken so many other things from the Jews, we might as well take Festivus.

We’d apply it to today: All Soul’s Day.

The canonized saints have their own feast days. The uncanonized saints were recognized yesterday.

Today, the Church recognizes the rest of us.

I believe it’s the only commemoration in the liturgical year for non-saints. Check me if I’m wrong, but I believe every other day involves a saint or an event (or a building . . . the Dedication of St. John Lateran).

Today is our day.

Well, not yet, I guess. If you’re reading this, you’re still alive, but if you’re like the rest of us on this Festivus, it will be your day shortly.

Burn the candle, say the prayers, spin the beads for their souls.

Heck, even put up the aluminum pole, if it’ll help you to remember to do your earthly spiritual duty today.… Read the rest

Do Saints Just Happen or Are They Sent?

structural photography of castle
Photo by Pierre Blaché on Pexels.com

Every so often, spiritual lightning sears across a culture’s landscape. The example of St. Francis of Assisi immediately comes to mind. So does St. Antony. Their intense holiness was bright and powerful, and left an indelible mark on the earth.

We can’t know for certain why God sends these religious jolts when he does, but we can assume he has some purpose. St. Francis, for instance, came at a time when Europe was emerging from the Dark Ages. European wealth and power and prosperity surged in the twelfth century, and with it came temptations to greed and vice. St. Francis cut against the wealth and power by opting for no property and no control. His was absolute poverty at a time when poverty was becoming a dirty word.

He, with St. Dominic (his spiritual twin brother), spawned new religious orders of poverty-embracing friars and paved the way for the thirteenth century, a time when the Catholic Church produced some of its greatest cultural contributions. It is no coincidence that the century’s greatest thinkers, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure, belonged to the Dominican and Franciscan Orders, respectively.

St. Antony, too, appears to have come at a particular time for a particular reason. He went to the desert shortly before Christianity became the institutionalized religion of the Roman Empire.

Before its ascendancy, persecution and martyrdom were never far away, and the possibility of a violent death hung over the heads of the faithful, pressing them to a life of virtue. But after Christianity was implanted as the official religion, martyrdom was no longer available.

A new form of heroism was needed, and tens of thousands found it in the desert struggles that Antony showed them. The martyrdom that gave a strong backbone to early … Read the rest

The Architecture of Speed

Thoughts build your everyday existence. Technology affects your thoughts. The implications? Ask Marshall McLuhan.

Sometimes I’m Gothic. Other times, Tudor-ish. In the morning I might be Romanesque, but by the afternoon I’m Bauhaus.

The architecture of my mind changes day-to-day, hour-to-hour, sometimes minute-to-minute. I generally want to live a life of good deeds, uplifting counsel, and noble thoughts. But as a typical human being, the mental architecture of a particular day or hour might be more inclined to make me obsess about money, be loud, or tell ribald jokes.

The most troubling thing: the architecture I wake up with or shift into during the day isn’t a conscious choice. I don’t wake up and say, “Well, yesterday I was Gothic: grand, prayerful, elevated in thought, word, and deed. Today, I want to be Victorian-like: noble, demur, of refine appearance. Tomorrow, I’ll be Romanesque: sleek, elegant, and a temple to the pursuit of money.”

It doesn’t work like that. I wake up or find myself in the middle of the day with a mental architecture I didn’t choose.

Pretty much the only thing I can do is work with it the best I can. The ease or difficulty of working with it depends on what I want to do.

If the architectural style that day is Romanesque and I want to make a lot of money, it’s a great fit. But if I want to be in my study, meditating with the Stoics? That’s tough. It’d be like living a life of chastity at the Playboy mansion.

Control your thoughts

Our mental architecture is crucial to determining whether we’ll be kind or rude, noble or mean, courteous or abrupt. Although we don’t have control over the architectural form like we do our day’s clothes, we can sway it.

We can supply the … Read the rest