Thursday, 11 February 2021

WHY I AM NOT A PERENNIALIST

 

The writings and thoughts of the Perennialists of the last Century, in particular Rene Guenon, Julius Evola and Frithjof Schuon, seem accurately to diagnose much that is pathological in Modern and Post-Modern society.  We have an increasingly dispersed and disintegrated world, in which the profane science of the particular rather than the metaphysical universal is our focus, Perennialism identifies our progressive disengagement from metaphysical truth as the cause of our decline.  This seems convincing.  Furthermore Perennialism does much to challenge a simplistic positivism that assumes an inevitable Progress towards something unidentified but assumed to be better.

Only on its own materialistic and individualistic terms have we seen the positivist goal of Progress being achieved.  By any normal and more humane perspective this is surely a story of decomposition and disintegration.  Science has made leaps and bounds in its analysis of the world of becoming, thereby luring away human focus from the world of Being.  As a consequence men have become slaves of the technology that they created and evermore attentive to the transitory world of meaningless becoming, meaningless when without the metaphysical context of Being.  We are now on the cusp it seems of a dark era of trans-humanism.

The advances trumpeted by the Progressives, such as feminism, equality, the open borders causing mingling of peoples and nations, trans-rights, consumer choice – all are only advances from within the Progressive perspective, which gives no account of Being or Telos for Mankind.  On the other hand, the account given by Guenon and others of a progressive detachment from the metaphysical that had given meaning to the world of becoming is a very compelling alternative perspective.

In many ways we can learn from the school of Sophia Perennis, but nonetheless in important ways there are fundamental problems with their outlook.  Perhaps in the most profound sense there is something Manichean, an unspoken hostility to Creation, that is the major concern.  As much as we can understand the Perennialist Golden Age as a way of speaking about Eden, we must also realise that the narrative of continuous decline, while matching some understanding of Christ’s teaching that faith would not be found on the earth and that the AntiChrist would reign in the End Times, also omits the central and ultimate meaning of the Incarnation.  If the Edenic Golden-Age were better than the postlapsarian condition of Man, it is surpassed by the Incarnation, which reunited God and Man in a new way.  For the Perennialist the Incarnation is in the era of the Dark Age and that era continues towards the Kali Yuga notwithstanding.

Furthermore, just as God is willing to be comingled with the temporal world, so the world as God’s creation is, in a fundamental way, good.  And through the Incarnation the world of becoming is reunited with the world of Being, in a specific and new way.

In a schematic way, for the Perennialist, the Incarnation is one manifestation of a general trend found in all of the world religions.  For Christians the Logos, universal and divine, becomes specific in time and space, albeit not limited because divine, as the miracles demonstrate.  For the Perennialist, reliant on the mysteries of a universal religion (however respectful of tradition to avoid the shallowness of theosophy) the Incarnation is one specific example of many such manifestations.  In that sense the Perennialist doctrine inevitably falls into Gnosticism.  The outward and exoteric practices of each traditional world religion are contingent upon a hidden and esoteric mystery.  This is not acceptable from the perspective of the Church.  Christ was incarnate once and only once in First Century Judaea, He called simple fishermen, not the sophisticated and esoteric wise ones.  There were no hidden mysteries to be accessed.  The mysteries of the Church – the liturgy, baptism, marriage, ordination – are potentially open to all, not through gnostic and secret wisdom, but through faith and love.

We can understand the cyclical story of a decline to the end of the age, but the Trinity reigns from ages to ages.  Thus the Perennialist belief in cyclical time is not true.  Instead there is only one pattern that culminates in the ultimate event of the Second Coming. 

The problem with Perennialism is that it relativises Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.  Indeed the personal nature of the Trinitarian Godhead is not accepted.  Buddhism, Islam and Paganism are equally manifestations of the same Truth in the Traditionalist’s eyes.  Beyond the personal manifestations is a divine that is impersonal – more like the Platonic “One”.  We thus see again that Perennialism is a continuation of pagan religion without any acknowledgement of the cosmic and ultimate event of the Incarnation.

Now it is of course true that Western Christianity has fallen and that Guenon is right in much of his specific criticism of Western Christianity.  Nonetheless the modernisation of Christianity in the West is a decline from the true form of Christianity, as Guenon himself asserts.  The trouble is that Guenon goes too far in asserting there is a truth beyond Christianity.  The conventionalisation of Western Christianity to the temporal values of the world does not mean that the Church itself is corrupted by the spirit of disintegration – for the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.  (In this context it is more helpful to speak of the Church as specifically embodying the true Tradition, in a vertical sense, rather than “Christianity” in all its various denominations).

Guenon was simply looking in the wrong place for the Church.  As  was his wont to look East, he should have looked more closely at the Eastern Church, which as he himself acknowledged was the truly Traditional Church.  Unfortunately Guenon went further in seeking some mysterious pagan truth beyond all traditional religion, while asserting only traditional religions manifested this deeper mystery.

In the West we saw the philosophy of nominalism that detached Western Christians from the universal and eternal.  This is indeed where the problem lay and Western Christianity can rightly be singled out as a culprit for the decline into what Traditionalists would consider the final stages of the Kali Yuga.  This nominalism was only another stage in a process of thought that went as far back as the addition of the Filioque to the Creed.     The Filioque being a step towards the idea of created grace, detaching the West from the transcendental.  William of Ockham’s theories were almost an inevitable development after the Filioque, moving us further and further away from participation in the transcendent and towards a focus on the temporal in its mechanical and broken-down state – the spirit of profane science as Guenon would see it.

Now it is true, as expressed famously by Schuon, that the Traditionalist School is not relativist and that is of course highly in its favour.  The problem is not relativism, because it holds to a higher mystery lying behind the authenticity of the traditional practices of the major faiths (which to its credit it defends from liberal relativisation).  The problem is that higher mystery is really something pagan.  It is placing something esoteric above the Trinitarian God of three Persons, hypostases that manifest the energy within which we may participate.  It treats the teaching of the Church in a schematic way as simply one manifestation of many.  Christ is one manifestation of the Word, not the ultimate manifestation of God in the flesh, so that flesh might be redeemed and transformed.

In this sense Traditionalism is akin to the old mystery cults, Neoplatonism, the ideas underpinning freemasonry – all of which are inimical to the Church.  Furthermore, its is akin to the Gnosticism of the non-canonical gospels, such as that of Thomas and Mary Magdalene.  These writings were Gnostic and not Christian.

There are of course advantages in engaging with Traditionalism.  It effectively refutes the Positivist and Materialist idea of inevitable Progress.  It points out the error of nominalism in the West by emphasising the metaphysical Transcendent.  In every case where it contributes something though, it goes too far.  It is an over-correction.  It ends up denying that the world of the New Testament is a fundamental improvement upon the Old Covenant.  It also places so much emphasis on the immaterial as to paint the material as somehow irrevocably fallen. 

The Incarnation is the answer to the Perennialist.  It is evidence that the universal and the particular meet, that the temporal has been pierced by the eternal, that the metaphysical and the physical become one, that matter, never originally evil, is redeemed, that the universal does not abolish the particular in some form of Nirvana. 

This is the heart of the matter: divine love is the solution.  This is not the sentimental statement of a belief that there is no sin or fallen-ness, no need for change in us.  It is instead the point made by Jonathan Pageau that love is where the universal does not dissolve the particular.  Where this happens is in the event of the Incarnation and behind the Incarnation the idea of the relationship of Three Persons in the Godhead, not an impersonal “One” as in Neoplatonism.  In reaction to nominalism, a corrosive heresy in the West, Traditionalism overcompensates for the first error.  It is therefore devoid of love in the fullest sense.  For that reason its advocates have been somewhat cold towards their fellow humans, as can be found particularly in the work of Evola, but it is also latent in the work of all the Traditionalists.  For the Traditionalists, like the Muslims, there is a greater emphasis on the power of God, rather than His love.  Like the Buddhists, there is no personal God, but something eternal that is of greater power than the personal.  This means that the dissolution of the personal is acceptable and not problematic. 

For Christians God is not an abstraction that can be manifested symbolically by various personal divinities.  He is three Persons in One and the second of those three divine Persons became incarnate once in a specific place and time.  The metaphysical Tradition is only manifested vertically into the one Church through the third Person of the Holy Spirit.  God is not so distant and abstract that he dissolves the irrelevant person in a higher level of transcendental existence.  On the contrary, through love He grants that very transcendental divine existence to us as persons, because we are infinitely precious in His eyes.  The human being is the icon of Triune God.  “God became Man that men might become gods”.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Burke versus Gramsci – the Great British Institution and the Conservative Dilemma

 Conservatives look to Edmund Burke as their great founding father.  Central to Burkean thought is the institution with its historical memory as a repository of the wisdom of the ancestors.  In terms of modern philosophy and the Burkean tradition one might also look to Alasdair MacIntyre in his account of institutions and nations acquiring a tradition of virtue and as a Burkean opponent of Burke’s dreaded sophists, economists and calculators .

If conservatism depends for its philosophy upon manmade institutions there is always the risk such institutions will prove fatally fallible and corruptible.  Such could well be the problem in today’s United Kingdom.  Unlike the United States with its revolutionary origins, there has not been such a strong suspicion of Government and institutions within the British Right, sometimes quite the opposite.  The Crown and the Church as Margaret Thatcher once outlined are of far greater import to a Tory than the economy.  This perspective, it should be remembered, was held by the Conservative Prime Minister now looked to as an exemplar by today’s sophists, calculators and economists – the libertarian and neoliberal Right.

Margaret Thatcher though experienced the problem of the dilemma I intend to outline at first-hand.  All the British institutions, the Church of England, the BBC and even the hierarchy of the Conservative Party were opposed to her.  This tension has only grown more stretched and extreme.  While the Conservative Party has moved culturally to the Left, it is still faced by a hostile hard Left in control of the institutions that it should naturally be at home with.

The Church of England is no longer the Conservative Party at prayer, as the saying had it.  The BBC is faced with calls to be defenestrated by conservatives not radicals, because of its cultural Marxism.  Even the Conservative Party itself, at least its high command, is now a proponent of the hard-left cultural agenda in terms of same-sex marriage, “diversity” and equality of outcome.

It seems as though the Gramsci agenda of the “long march through the institutions” as extreme Leftist German-activist Rudi Dutschke put it, has been emphatically achieved in Great Britain.  The universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, the BBC, the Church are all advocates of a hard-line cultural Marxist agenda dressed up in palatable phrases such as “diversity”, “equality”, “openness”.

So what does a Burkean conservative do when the institutions its whole philosophy seeks to conserve and be guided by have fallen into the hands of the Marxists?  One answer is the populist response, looking to the American Right as an example.  Here characters like Nigel Farage and Aaron Banks are notable champions for such an agenda.  Indeed, despite being placed upon the Right, their populist agenda sometimes puts them on the Left.  For example, whereas an earlier Eurosceptic like Enoch Powell was a keen defender of the House of Lords, as well as the Crown and the established Church, Farage and Banks are radical constitutional-reformers.

The other response is the classically liberal agenda, advocated by the sophists, calculators and economists that conservatives should instinctively distrust.  From this free-marketeer liberal perspective privatisation rather than conservation is the answer to the BBC’s political subversion.  The free market is not really a conservative response to dealing with preservation of the institution.  We are not talking about a nationalised industry, but a British institution which is a custodian of many great British traditions.  Would commercialisation and advertising culture really be a conservative answer?

One might contrast arch-liberal free-marketeer George Osborne with populist Nigel Farage as two contrasting answers to the Gramscian victory within British institutions from Oxbridge to the BBC.  To abolish our institutions though is surely not a conservative solution, whether it be BBC privatisation or Church disestablishment. 

The populism of Brexit might have unleashed patriotic forces against the Gramsci institutions, but populist nationalism is not inherently conservative, as any cursory knowledge of Nineteenth Century nationalism will tell us.

It is undoubtedly the case that while the Right and conservatism look to be in the ascendancy, the whole movement is riven by internal contradictions.  This new populism rightly unleashed against the EU has now turned on British institutions like the House of Lords (admittedly corrupted into a culturally Marxist institution by the likes of Blair, Cameron and Clegg).  It could just as easily turn upon the Monarchy and nationalism again would have reverted to its radical-Leftist Nineteenth-Century roots.

It has to be admitted that when the Marxists own and control what you are trying to defend it is difficult to know how to proceed.  The only answer I believe is not one for people looking for instant solutions.  Only a gradual return to the values of Tradition will rescue our institutions and our culture.  And this might have to be carried out in a radical and unconventional way, outside of the apparatus of British institutions.  It might mean home schooling of our children, to teach them traditional values outside of the Marxist-run education system.  It might mean leaving the Church of England as a Church of Laodicea for a more traditionalist denomination that might feel foreign at first, such as Eastern Orthodoxy.  It might mean stepping back from the rat-race of the neoliberal economy with more self-sufficiency and less consumption.  In short it might mean letting the light of conservative tradition shine before men as an example, rather than trying to fight for it and impose it through democratic elections and the party system.  From the small acorn and with Providential nurture we might see a large oak of conservative counter-culture grow that provides a genuine alternative to the anomie of cultural Marxism and its insipid shadow, neoliberalism.  Only with a cultural change, rather than election victories will conservatives see their institutions restored and again linked back to the Burkean wisdom of ancestors. 

Monday, 24 August 2020

It ain’t over until the woke lady sings – The Battle of the Proms

 

Over the years the conductors and the BBC itself have become increasingly uncomfortable with the popular and patriotic music of the Last Night of the Proms.  For that one night only, the British are allowed to take pride in their nation and celebrate who they are and where they are from.  The woke British Broadcasting Corporation dislikes anything that celebrates Britishness, dominated as it is by the contrary woke-ideology that encourages the validation of disparate identities at the expense of the mainstream population.

Fearful of a head-on confrontation with the British public, up until now the Beeb has attempted to subvert the Proms from within.  It has selected lesbian conductors and sopranos and tried to turn a celebration of Britishness into a celebration of woke British values.  Instead of that which has traditionally been understood as Britishness – rooted in a Christian society that values virtues such as stoicism, courage and martial valour – the non-values of Sodom and Gomorrah are celebrated.  This Trojan Horse strategy of subverting patriotism from within, so that to wave the Union Jack means you also support the waving of the LGBTQ + rainbow flag, is very clever.  Meanwhile across the world our political class promotes values inimical to traditional society and calls this disastrous identity politics “British values”.

People are naturally patriotic and particularly on a party night like Last Night of the Proms they are easily susceptible to having a nefarious agenda slipped past them.  No one wants to be a party pooper.  The BBC’s Last Night of the Proms therefore got away with portraying Britishness as wokeness.

Nonetheless wokeness cannot hide its true colours.  It is not about unity or tradition, it is by definition hostile to what holds us together.  Wokeness is about creating disparate identities that define people as small and “oppressed” groups, downplaying and denying what unites them with their countrymen.  This is the corrosive and poisonous dogma of intersectionality.  It makes the marginal the mainstream at the expense of tradition and shared culture.  This is why the woke are sympathetic to the promotion of traditional Islam and feminism – seemingly contradictory ideologies.  This is not a contradiction if your overarching ideology is actually about destroying the mainstream culture and eradicating tradition.  Contradictory perspectives and ideologies are equally worthwhile of promotion if you wish to destroy Christian society.

Now there is not that much explicitly Christian about Last Night of the Proms (apart from Jerusalem).  Rule Britannia is from the Seven Years War when our Protestant identity was far stronger.  Land of Hope and Glory being Edwardian is more from the zenith or peak of British imperialism when perhaps more Masonic and Deist ideas were in the ascendancy, but the composer himself was a Roman Catholic.  Nonetheless patriotism more than faith is what is celebrated, albeit with references to God natural to a Christian society.  The reason these pieces of music are a target is they support a coherent national identity and that national identity because of our culture and history is linked to being a Christian country.

Subversion by the BBC had been working and was powerfully symbolised in last year’s last night, with both EU and Rainbow flags being unfurled and waved.  Particularly symbolic was the choice made of the soprano for Rule Britannia.  A rather large bisexual or lesbian American was selected who unfurled not a Union Jack, but a Rainbow flag.  She also sang the innocent children’s song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with strong hints of sexualisation.  It really was decadent degeneracy.  In a free society people can follow their sexual leanings, but in a decent society one does not advertise that as an integral part of one’s identity, particularly for a national celebration meant for everyone such as the Proms.  Claiming to be inclusive this behaviour is really exclusive of most of us, who really do not need to know about someone’s preferences and passions in the bedroom . . .

The contrast seemed even more powerful because the beautiful Tartar soprano Aida Garifullina was outside in the park also singing Rule Britannia, as though the mainstream and the traditional ideas of beauty were banished to the outside, while the margin had moved into the centre.  Orthodox Youtuber Jonathan Pageau has talked extensively about the topsy turvy way the woke agenda places the marginal in the centre at the expense of the traditional and normative.

This rendition of Rule Britannia by the woke lesbian Jamie Barton was the very peak of the Trojan Horse strategy.  She was able to ride the patriotic cheers as though they were actually cheers for what she was inclined to do in her private bedroom (a fact she was all too keen to make public).

This strategy that was working now seems to have been abandoned.  Covid 19 has changed the strategy.  Just as we had to witness unrepresentative BLM demonstrators destroying the monuments of our history and identity so the newly appointed Proms conductor from Finland, Dalia Stasevska, sees Covid and our virtual house arrest as an opportunity to “sanitise” the Proms of our patriotic songs.  This really is sneaky, because just like the BLM demonstrators, the conductress feels she can make this move as the audience will not be there.  It is though a strategic blunder.

This move, to delete patriotic songs, just proves wokeness and patriotism are not compatible.  For the former is about minority identities at the expense of cohesion and the latter brings us all together.   Wokeness, let us be clear, is not simply about tolerance, but promotion of the abnormal, the irregular and the marginal at the expense of the traditional.  Its whole narrative thrives on painting history and shared identity as oppressive of minorities who are of more importance than the majority.  So it was never really true that British values could be woke values.

Britain is a tolerant country, but tolerance is not the same as active promotion of the marginal.  Britain has a history we are proud of that has allowed a space for the margin, but has not attacked the mainstream tradition.  It is a history based on the recognition the mainstream does not need to oppress the margin.  Wokeness, with its cultural Marxist philosophy cannot accept tolerance, because really its programme is all about revolution.  It aims to overturn the normative and will utilise disparate groups and interests to do that.  As with all revolutions it is not promoted by the ordinary working class, but by a narrow group of privileged intellectuals who do not share the concerns of normal people.  Sadly this narrow group dominates in fields like the media, especially the BBC.

What will now happen is that the ordinary public, Sir Henry Wood’s key audience, who so love the Proms will react and no longer accept the woke propaganda, being revealed for what it is and what it is hostile towards.  Thus if the proposal goes ahead, the Proms would become a narrow world for the self-important woke and privileged.  Patriotic music is so often a way into the world of classical music for those not fortunate enough to have been educated through the private system and university (where nowadays you seem to learn to sneer at tradition).  The Brexit voters are the descendants of Sir Henry Wood’s target audience. 

The BBC might see its legitimacy at stake, when the unpopularity of the proposal becomes clear.  Most likely a “compromise” will be found in a dispute that never was other than in the inflamed imaginations of the privileged media class, so the songs will remain, but sanitised and made bland.  Nonetheless, what has happened is a major error.  The woke, having wormed their way into British life have now clearly cast their ideology as the opponent of patriotism.  We can now hope that when the woke soprano sang, it was the swansong of using patriotism as a mask for the woke agenda.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Reactionary Rus


Russia seems either both European and Asian or neither European nor Asian.  Is it Marxist or conservative?  Atheist or Orthodox?  Democratic or despotic?  The West is never really clear about Russia, as Winston Churchill once succinctly put into a pithy comment.

Today the liberal Western media is wringing its hands about a further step towards despotism, voted for by the Russian public.  What makes the media more upset is that the new constitution voted upon by the Russian people not only in effect seems to give Putin power for life, but has been sold to the people as a restoration of traditional values, particularly in terms of protecting marriage as between man and woman and including God in the constitution.

Traditional values are thus seen as the clever ploy and part of a despotic manoeuvre to seize power.  Worse is that the Western media regards this as an appeal to prejudice as though Putin has manipulated base instincts to rally support for his prolonged presidency.

The constitution itself does place a strict limit upon the presidency of two terms of six years.  It nonetheless resets the clock allowing Putin to begin his terms all over again.  Hence the accusation of an attempt to fix up a lifelong presidency. 

The role of a little-known body called the State Council is also raised in importance and power.  Again Putin’s critics have accused him of using this body to ensure he retains power as a member.

Whatever the politics, and this article is not meant to defend Putin, the interesting question is how Putin has relied upon social conservatism as an integral part of these constitutional changes.  By contrast, in the West, with its representative democracy, widely-held socially-conservative views remain excluded from political debate.  It is as though socially-conservative views cannot break through the dominance of liberalism in the Western party system, while Putin’s ever increasing power has meant the focus of accountability is directly upon him.  If Russia were to introduce same-sex marriage only one man could be held responsible for that.  Meanwhile in the United Kingdom a Conservative Government could introduce same-sex marriage with very little consequence in terms of electoral losses amongst small-c conservative voters. 

It would be a mistake to see social conservatism in Russia as somehow imposed as false consciousness from above.  Anyone who has encountered the revival of Christianity in Russia or discussed traditional values with Russians will have found that socially-conservative views remain mainstream for many.  It is far more likely that Putin is following the instincts of grass-roots attitudes that survived seventy years of atheistic Marxism to win his referendum.

What the overwhelming vote for Putin’s constitutional changes therefore demands from Western social conservatives is that they ask themselves why they are losing so badly compared to the victory in the cultural war in Russia.  And it is not just in Russia,  indeed many of the former Warsaw Pact nations are seeing a revival in both conservative Christianity and social conservatism, from Hungary to Poland.  Meanwhile, without any violent revolution in the West, values have been stripped away leaving a meaningless liberal anomie somehow fraudulently compensated for by Left-wing identity politics.  Most social conservatives will appreciate which of the cultural options will lead to greater human flourishing.  The disconcerting thing is that in Russia it appears to come at the cost of stable rule of law and democratic politics.

But is the political contrast so black and white?  While there is clearly a healthy bedrock and foundation of rule of law in the West, it is undeniable that as the cultural Marxist and postmodern outlooks have rapidly spread from the Academy into politics, law enforcement and the legal system, those fundamentals cannot be taken for granted.
 
There is a sort of totalitarianism-lite in the West.  In a free market economy it is vital to be able to survive in the world of employment.  With legislation on hate speech and equality goals any challenge to the cultural Marxist agenda can result in loss of employment - permanently.  There is no need for the Gulag or brutal oppression when people are scared about not being able to pay their mortgage or feed their families.  Meanwhile elections might change the finer details of economic policy, but whatever the voters want, the agenda of attacking traditional values continues under whichever party is in power.  There is a sort of liberal oligarchy installed in the West, with much more in common across borders than with the people within politicians' own nations.  In the UK the Brexit vote was a sign of this disparity and the same was true of Donald Trump’s election victory.  
Nonetheless, even without the heavy-handed legislation and the confident arrogance of the liberal oligarchy, the public in the West are very unsure about their conservative instincts.  While Russian babushka grandmothers ensured values survived Soviet oppression during the years of the Godless regime and the various nationalistic movements in Catholic Europe looked to Pope John Paul II, in the West the tide of consumerism and popular culture has almost drowned any residue of conservatism.  It is not just a detached oligarchy, but a confused public that ensures the onward and unimpeded march towards Sodom and Gomorrah.   

The Academy, the political world and the media reinforce the enthusiasm and commitment of each other for pursuing an agenda of radical liberalism that can only end in anomie.  Those institutions (such as the Church and the Tory Party) that should give leadership in this cultural battle are dominated by the same group of people – liberal, privileged and tending towards a relativism learnt at university.  The non-values dressed up as worthy tolerance and open-mindedness that these powerful people share give them some sense of purpose while allowing moral decadence in their own lives and in society at large.  While ideas inherited from the Protestant roots of much of the West in terms of probity in public office and the rule of law persist at least for now, there is a programme of undermining the standards and meaning bequeathed to us by Christian civilization.  The corruption is benign and amoral at the moment, not violent and criminal.  In a sense that makes it all the more corrosive to the soul of Europe.  It is spiritually and morally bankrupt, but sees itself as righteous and worthy.  This is a very dangerous situation.
 
It is dangerous not because of the risk of some extremist movement from beyond the Overton Window (although such a risk should not be breezily dismissed, as we saw from the rise of Black Lives Matter with its Marxist agenda of erasing history and silencing opposition over the summer).  Even in the straitened times of Covid 19 and in the post- Credit crunch world, material life will not turn into unbearable suffering for most.  Instead there is a risk of falling into a state of anomie in part because of all our wants being met in a consumerist society and all our freedoms to follow our passions respected as long as we “respect” the driving passions of everyone else.  Fundamentally important to this nadir of Western civilization is the disappearance of Christianity.  What remains of the Church as an institution in most Western countries is run and led by that same anti-traditional section of society, thereby ensuring no genuine revival is possible.  Combine that with the continual pushing at lowering of moral standards and promotion of immorality in drama and in all aspects of the media and the trajectory of the West looks to be pretty vertiginous.
 
To look specifically at the UK, where social conservatism is almost silenced, there is no mechanism such as the primary system that the United States has, to give direct democratic input into the selection of the prime minister.  True we are a  monarchy, not a pure republican democracy.  A primary system for the potential Prime Minister does not necessarily mean that the Queen would not still have the formal role of appointing her first minister, only that the party would select him differently and then recommend him to the Queen.  That primary system would be a safety valve to overcome the control the party has over selection of candidates.  It would be a means to start dismantling the liberal oligarchy.

What the Left dismisses sniffily as “populism” must have democratic avenues to be expressed, because it reflects the attitudes and prejudices of a nation.  Despotism from the Right remains a very remote risk in the West of course.  The real danger is the growing power of cultural Marxism to which dominant liberalism has been unable to present any serious ideological resistance.  Freedom of speech, political diversity and honesty are all under threat from the cancel culture of the Left.  Electing a Conservative Government in the UK has done very little to slow down the increasing power of the Marxists, as has been seen by the ease with which they seized control of the streets and attacked precious monuments with seeming impunity. 

Thus there are a number of reasons why traditional perspectives are locked out of the public square – the lack of Church leadership, the cultural changes forced by the media, the infiltration of the Conservative Party by hard-line social liberals, the politically-correct restrictions enforced through intimidation and by means of new laws.  Meanwhile the Academy continues its programme of brainwashing our young people with Marxist indoctrination. 

Nonetheless, Russia faced all this too and yet retained its belief in traditional values.  Perhaps the iron fist causes a reaction of resistance; but more likely, despite Sergeism, the values were more deeply instilled in the Russian people and could not be erased.

In the West since before the Enlightenment, all the way back to William of Ockham and the Nominalists, truth and values have been attacked.  This has disorientated ordinary people, meaning they are not sure how to justify what they feel in their spirit to be true.    The real problem therefore lies in centuries of dismantling our Christian values.  It lies in the very liberal paradigm that tried to accommodate the fracturing of Protestantism into different sects and the loss of a coherent and sustaining tradition.  It lies in the European narrative from a Humanist perspective of an oppressive Church that played the role of Caesar.  It lies in the doctrine of Papal Supremacy that broke the West from the East and eventually led not to a rebuilding of cohesion, but everyone becoming their own Pope through Protestantism.

Therefore even with avenues for populist expression, whereby the residue of traditional values amongst ordinary people that have not yet been erased might find expression, that incoherence of tradition will not be overcome.  Instead only a spiritual renewal will achieve anything in secular society.  Only a rediscovery of Tradition in the sense of a uniting, objectively true and subjectively encountered reality can heal the West.  Its very dynamic scientific and material successes are in part both due to and a cause of the break down of that cohesive Tradition.  The worldly comforts and riches achieved were pursued after the loss of Tradition and distract from the need for a return to Tradition.  The West has gained the whole world, but lost its soul.

Russia undoubtedly has its problems, as indicated by high levels of both single parenthood and abortions.  There is financial and criminal corruption in high places.  It was badly damaged by the Revolution and prior to that there were Oriental forms of oppression by the Tsarist state despite its Christian ethos that was so deeply rooted.

Nonetheless what survived in Russia and what often seems alien to those of us unable to see the world from outside the liberal paradigm, is the tradition of faith that is life sustaining in an eternal sense.  Of course, even the Church was heavily compromised by the Soviet regime, but the Tradition through the Holy Spirit exists within each member of that Church, as Lossky explained.  It is far more possible to remain unperturbed in one’s faith in the Orthodox Church when there are profound sacerdotal failings than under the sacerdotal hierarchy of all forms of Western Christianity.  Priesthood and laity are understood differently.

What we see in Russia is a suffering nation and through suffering Christianity flourishes.  Western material success combined with a reductive strand of theology has led to a hollowing out of the Tradition. Only from the small seeds of faith and re-connection with the Holy Tradition will the West be rescued in a sense far more important than maintenance of the rule of law and democratic rights.  Perhaps a time will come when those fundamentals of law and freedom are lost so that providentially we might rediscover what is important.  In the West we have lost the sense of what is most important and that is why we have become obsessed in a maniacal way with cultural Marxist causes.  The rise of Left wing extremism is indicative of the craving for meaning, but it will not be found there.  It will only be found in a return to Traditional Faith and the Church.  Russia has already learnt that lesson the hard way and furthermore at a grassroots level it never fully lost touch with Tradition.   We need to be able to understand what is happening in Russia and we can only do that by stepping outside of our liberal secularist paradigm.    

Friday, 11 October 2019

LAWFARE - THE WEAPON OF THE PROGRESSIVE ASS


When Charles Dickens revived the old phrase “the laws is an ass” in his novel "Oliver Twist", he was writing in a time when despite the legal reforms in the Victorian age, law generally meant the law of precedent known as common law and the law of equity or fairness.  The former was the strict interpretation of legal rights, the latter was the evolution of a process of fairness within the jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor, known as the keeper of the King’s conscience. 

In his novel that focused particularly on the legal profession, “Bleak House”, Dickens portrayed lawyers as mercenary, cynical and self-interested.  Those who became caught up especially in equity disputes in the Court of Chancery, where the Lord Chancellor sat, found themselves consuming their capital and destroying their happiness, chasing the chimera of legal settlement in their favour.  The interminable case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce has entered the popular consciousness of Englishmen.  It was of course ironic that the area of law meant to do away with a legalistic and inflexible approach itself had become a burden upon litigants.

Yet today we have a new and particularly post-modern form of legal abuse – that often referred to as lawfare, implying war by other means.  Examples current are the ongoing persecution of the hunting community through the courts and the blatant political attempts to prevent implementation of the referendum on EU membership.

What makes the development of lawfare so troubling is that England was a nation in which the rule of law was a sacrosanct principle.  Back before Henry II (who built upon Anglo Saxon respect for the law in his legal reforms) the King’s Peace meant that common law in Anglo-Saxon England that extended across the realm.  These principles, although much undermined, survived post the Conquest and were restored by Henry II and reluctantly reaffirmed by his son, King John when he signed the Magna Carta in 1215.

That deep respect for the rule of law, by which an English aristocrat like the commonest felon could be sentenced to die on the scaffold, as a principle before which every Englishman was equal, spread across the globe.  Most famously the constitutional governmental system in the United States built upon the English principle of the rule of law.  Through the Commonwealth this principle became worldwide.

What then is the modern Western nation state without the rule of law?  It is that system of commonwealth suffering from that constitution most feared by the Whigs in their rhetoric at least, arbitrary government!

Yet what Whigs say should never be taken at face value.  The Whigs overturned important principles such as the precedent of Royal Succession and used their new found power in England to run a corrupt oligarchy.  It is interesting and telling that today’s liberals, who use the law as a weapon against political opponents, are the philosophical descendants of the Whigs.  That belief in history going in a positivist direction has been further affirmed harmfully through a Left wing account of jurisprudence by the American academic of the Left, Professor Ronald Dworkin.  "Progress", according to the ideology of the Left, could now be enforced by judge-made law.  A hybrid of Whig positivism and cultural- Marxist jurisprudence has given us "lawfare".

By taking advantage of the Englishman’s reverence for the rule of law, corrupt progressives are not just blatantly attempting to overturn referendum results, but to tie up the Englishman in red tape and restrictive laws   In a sense the ban on hunting with hounds was the test case, the canary in the coalmine.  Contrary to the principles of English common law, which looked to established practice for legality, Parliamentary statute overturned generations of a country sport, symbiotically tied in with rural life, in a complex ecosystem of nature, agriculture, sport and tradition.  The English common law would never have ruled in such a way.  It depended upon Parliamentary statute to overturn a prescriptive right to hunt.  After such an egregious victory, many more things became subject to bans and restrictive legislation, until the Englishman has found it difficult to emerge from his house without breaking one law or another.

This abuse came from the growing importance of parliamentary statute, depending upon a transient majority in the Commons, over the importance of common law, which looked to legal precedent and also, in a sense even more importantly, established usage.  If something had been done for time immemorial, then in a free country it must be legal – unless a Parliamentary statute overruled this.

There is nothing antiquated, quaint or anachronistic about the common law: the most serious offence of murder remains a common law offence.  Statute though, with its expression of the sacrosanct principle of Parliamentary sovereignty, commands legal legitimacy and transcends pre-existing common law.  Courts would go on following precedent until overruled by a new act of Parliament. Statutes should be rare and something like a matter of last resort.

The problem with the increasing level of legislation is not just that it is used to restrict an Englishman’s historical rights, but that there is nearly always a political agenda behind it.  There is currently a lot of talk about the Benn Act, which – against all precedent and having been passed through a breach of parliamentary convention – forces the executive to approach the EU for an extension in the event of no deal at the time of the legislated deadline. 

Those MPs who passed the bill in a cynical and political manoeuvre now grow disingenuously indignant about the rule of law when the Prime Minister has threatened to disobey this cynical law – as though the Benn Act were some ancient principle handed down for generations.  What hypocrites!  This law is nothing more than a tactic and yet it is granted the same sanctity as court rulings based in centuries of precedent.

Even worse and especially since the creation of a “supreme court” by Tony Blair’s government, the problem of judge-made law through judicial review is growing and threatening the nation with a constitutional crisis.

Before our eyes we can see that the Whig history was wrong about our constitution.  We are governed by the Queen in Parliament.  Within its realm Parliament is sovereign, but it depends upon the head of state for Royal Assent.  Furthermore Parliamentary sovereignty has nothing to do with the exercise of the Royal Prerogative and neither is that Prerogative justiciable. 

This is not simply a misreading of history that is leading to a constitutional crisis.  It is also to do with that ongoing problem of the “long march through the institutions” by the cultural Marxists.  To a large extent left-wing liberals are the useful idiots of the cultural Marxist agenda, even if they are not fully-aware or fully-signed-up to the agenda of cultural Marxism.  In any event, they are willing to breach with precedent, protocol and prescriptive rights to achieve a political agenda. 

That means that longstanding practices unpopular with or unnoticed by the majority, such as foxhunting and shooting can no longer depend upon being established customs.  They are threatened by a simple majority in the Commons.  If the Lords object they will be overruled (and since Blair’s reforms, the Upper House has been completely corrupted, anyway).  The exercise of the Royal Prerogative by a Government to achieve democratic goals such as dissolution or prorogation are prevented by statute or the Supreme Court.

The whole agenda of the progressives, by which they essentially cheat the system, is reliant upon the Englishman’s acquiescence to the law as an-almost-sacred principle.  Nonetheless, this cannot carry on forever.  If one or two political movements use the law to frustrate democracy or destroy ways of life, then the law itself will lose credibility.  There is an arrogant contempt of the law by those who weaponise it for their own political goals, however complacent they are about their own righteousness.  Being self-satisfied about one’s political views and having the power to abuse the law cannot go on with impunity.  The danger is progressives (liberals and cultural Marxists) will push people too far so that the law and our institutions are no longer respected.  That will not only take away their power, but be a loss and a blow for Anglo Saxon civilisation.  The mistake was to believe the Whig analysis of ever-increasing parliamentary power and history heading in a liberal direction, rather than recognising our rights and civilisation depend upon established usage, custom and precedent.  That Tory spirit of precedent and prescriptive rights in our law making is needed if our institutions and respect for the law are to survive.


Saturday, 20 April 2019

The Christian Roots of Cultural Marxism

To many conservative Christians the belief system known as Cultural Marxism, like its close cousin, post-modernism, is a hateful ideology bent on destruction of our Christian culture.  To many on the Left the analysis by conservatives of Cultural Marxism is a type of shibboleth denying progressive forces.  Any mention of "Cultural Marxism" is an indication to many on the Left that their interlocutor is really a right-wing extremist, perhaps even a White Supremacist.

It does not help that many of the thinkers of the Frankfurt School, who articulated the key ideas of Cultural Marxism, were Jewish, thus adding to the impression on the Left that those who complain about this philosophy are on the Hard Right and inclined towards anti-Semitic conspiracies.  Cultural Marxism being a dog whistle for anti-semites.  Nonetheless the Jewish aspect to Cultural Marxism is important, as will be argued here below.

In the West and indeed in the Orthodox East, we live in a Judaeo-Christian culture and the beliefs and values of Christianity, emerging as it did from the Jewish milieu, still set the paradigm within which our ethics and politics are worked out and discussed.  Cultural Marxism's power is that it touches on many of these deep cultural-values, while denying and attacking the faith upon which these values were founded.

It was Nietzsche, with his attempt to smash our table of values, who identified an inherent tendency to self destruction in Christianity, which he saw as a slavish and Semitic faith (going back to the validation of slaves as chosen people, not subhuman, and their liberation in the story of Exodus).  Other thinkers on the Right, such as Julius Evola utterly rejected the Christian values of compassion and what he saw as a celebration of weakness, looking instead to a religion of heroes as he believed existed in the Aryan world before Christianity.  Yet as Rene Guenon pointed out, the Tradition of our ancestors was to be found passed on to us within our traditional Christian inheritance.

To understand the political extremes of Left and Right, we really need to pay attention to the powerful and fundamental cultural symbol of Christ as the victim.  Nietszche and Evola were right, without Christianity our moral values would not have been centred on the victim.  Instead, more likely we would have looked back to Imperial Rome or even the earlier Dictators, with their symbol - the fasces, which was to give its name to a Twentieth Century ideology.

Cultural Marxism itself is simply what it claims to be.  It extends the Marxist economic critique to all aspects of society.  Thus it is no longer about dividing the world into economic oppressors of the poor in the form of the bourgeoisie versus the proletariat.  Now every relationship is to be understood as one of group oppression.  Just as we are defined by our economic identity in the struggle of economic power, so we belong to groups in our social interactions, either as oppressors or victims.  As men we inevitably oppress women, as Whites we inevitably oppress other ethnic groups, as heterosexuals we oppress people of non-heterosexual inclinations or passions.  From this stems the absurd idea of intersectionality, which leads to the bizarre "oppression Olympics" of groups competing for entitlement to power on the basis of their greater level of victimhood.

Such an ideology is of course destructive, debilitating and depersonalising.  The individual person is defined by his power status as understood by the ideological narrative.  When revealed as it is , the ideology is about nothing more than power.

While so much is wrong with this ideology, we must understand that it is a phenomenon that only a Judaeo Christian society could spawn.  It is a form of heresy and like all heresies there is only a small deviation from truth that leads to major consequences in terms of actions.  For Christ is indeed the victim, Who calls upon us to love the victim.  On this holy weekend we remember Christ as the sacred victim and scapegoat who suffered and died for us.  Weakness, vulnerability and compassion are all emphasised in the heart of the Christian faith as so powerfully attested to by Christ's willing sacrifice upon the Cross.

With the Cultural Marxists however, there is nothing redemptive about being a victim.  Instead dependency and wallowing in a feeling of being oppressed is encouraged, with the consequent resentment that causes.  It therefore takes us far away from the Christian ethos of forgiveness leading to redemption and towards a revolutionary attitude based upon resentment and self righteousness.

And of course, Christians themselves are ideologically defined as oppressors.  This denial of the founding value-system leads to the bizarre situation of Cultural Marxists turning a blind eye to oppression by other faiths, because it is not possible to comprehend in terms of the ideology that other faiths might cause oppression.  Thus Cultural Marxists are quick to defend those who carry our violence against Israel, yet the Muslim oppression of Christians is deliberately ignored.

The importance of the victim in Christianity has degenerated into the fetishization of victimhood.  The distortion from Christianity involves the denial that Christ redeemed us and was victorious on the Cross, but retains the cultural symbol of the victim.  Without that redemption and possibility of eternal life, all is about this passing world.  The victory must be achieved in this world, where victims are only ever victims and have no hope of Paradise, but must instead fight for Utopia politically and even on the street.  That is the original fall from Christian theology and with a centrifugal force the heresy moves the Cultural Marxists farther and farther away from Christian Truth, until they turn on Christianity itself.  Thinkers such as Evola and Nietszche were wrong, Christianity did not contain inherently the seeds of its own destruction.  Instead Cultural Marxism is only possible, as with the Left wing ideas of their day, because of a heretical turn.

That turn had its root in a heterodox over-emphasis in the West on Christ's humanity at the expense of His divinity.  The Catholic Church focused so much on the suffering of Christ as a victim that it forgot His ultimate victory.  The Protestants did not do very much to break away from this fetishization of Christ as a human victim, rather than triumphant Godhead in the flesh.   Our art and iconography powerfully portrays Christ as a dying or even a dead man.  This is so much so that Fyodor Dostoevsky was shaken on his visit to Europe when he saw Holbein's famous painting of Christ dead in the tomb.  As an Orthodox Christian to see Christ in this way had been unthinkable to the Russian writer, who went on to experience a crisis of faith. 

The fetishization of victimhood was to be combined with another reductionist aspect we inflicted upon Christianity - justification by faith alone.  While faith is central on the journey into the full stature of Christ, if it becomes reduced to justification by adherence to specific statements of a creed, the personal interaction and growth is gone.  Being Christian is no longer about becoming a full human being through faith in Christ, but believing a true creed is sufficient.  This is not so very different from what Jordan Peterson describes as ideological possession - belief in the correct ideology covers all sins and justifies the means.  This is why so many Leftists seem to be so insufferably self-righteous, exhibiting the intolerance of Seventeenth Century Puritans.

There was one key ingredient left before the subversion of our Judaeo Christian culture could begin.  To return to our roots - back in the First Century, the Jews rejected Christ for various reasons.  For the Pharisees, His teaching they thought would endanger their uncomfortable compromise with the Roman Empire that allowed them a level of religious autonomy.  Yet there was another element to Jewish society that became embittered by Christ - the Zionists of the time.  Zealots and others foresaw a Messiah who would by military means overthrow the Romans and establish a Kingdom based upon justice for the poor and oppressed.  Christ taught instead an internal change manifested in a life of love.  This caused severe disappointment and the welcomes of Palm Sunday in defiance of the Sanhedrin led to an unholy alliance of Zealot and Pharisee.  It was about political revolution to establish social justice, rather than hoping in faith for Paradise.  One can see that combined with Catholic emphasis on the victim and Protestant justification by faith alone, this Jewish emphasis on political rather than spiritual solutions was another key ingredient.  First came Marxism and then today, with its long march through our institutions we have Cultural Marxism.

We cannot blame true Judaism any more than true Christianity; yet the Western Churches weakly seem to accept the Cultural Marxist narrative and allow Christianity thereby to be dismissed as oppressive and as rigid tradition.  Instead our culture, based fundamentally upon Christianity, must find its voice again, to counter this corrosive ideology of resentment and materialism.  The answer is to be found in the Patristic writings, from Chrysostom to the Cappadocian Fathers - all of whom took the plight of the poor and oppressed very seriously.  Only then will we again understand that while Christ might have appeared as a victim, a stumbling block and foolishness to many, He is the victor over death and the Church is not a powerful and oppressive institution, but His body on earth.




     

Monday, 8 April 2019

PROGRESS - THE MODERN IDOLATRY

What is very interesting about the typical progressive is their dismissal of religious faith based upon personal revelation and inherited tradition as blind. The ideology of the progressive does not stand up to the sort of scrutiny to which traditional Christianity is continually subjected.  By that ideology I mean the unquestioned premise that the direction of history is towards a positive state and that the new is good by dint of being new.

Such an ideology can be traced back to the Victorian Positivists and further back to the Whiggery of Eighteenth Century England.  The Whigs won the battle of history and wrote history as though it had a providential direction towards the Hanoverian state.  This was taken up as a sort of pseudo-science and spawned the social Darwinism of Spencer, the Dialectical Materialism of Marx and Engels and the liberal assumption that society will become ever-more liberal and ever-more free.  The irony is that such philosophies of blind faith in blind progress have led to persecution, eugenics, concentration camps, class war, the GUlag and the destruction of freedom under the heel of the jack boot of the modern state.

It is to these dangerous roots that the modern Progressive consciously or unconsciously receives the succour for his ideology.  And the key point is that while religious faith is rejected as superstitious and as contradicted by empirical evidence, the Progressive himself places a blind faith in an ever-improving society as state power, censorship and bureaucracy increase, despite the overwhelming lesson of history that from Oliver Cromwell, through to Robespierre, Lenin and Hitler, the radical rejection of inherited society in favour of state-enforced progress has led to misery for countless millions.  From the French Terror to the millions dead in Ukraine from the collectivisation of farms, this blind and superstitious faith in progress has led to misery.

At root is the heresy often criticised by the late Seraphim Rose, the American convert from atheism to Eastern Orthodox Christianity - the heresy of Chiliasm.  That heresy was the belief that God's Kingdom could be created on earth, by political action.  Like so many heresies it moves away from orthodoxy by only the slightest degree, yet the consequences of the original error increase exponentially, so the last state is far worse than the first.  The second commandment of loving one's neighbour is distorted to create an ultimate solution for all our neighbours even at the expense of love of God.  The result has always been and always will be misery.  Utopia on this earth is impossible and to achieve it shows a lack of genuine faith and instead a dangerous blind faith in the inevitability of progress resulting from political action.

The answer to this serious error in Western thinking is to view society as being better or worse depending upon how much it participates in Truth.  This then removes the philosophical error of assuming history is going in one direction.  Further, rejecting this premise makes us aware of the danger of decline and decadence, and helps us to look for ways to maintain and achieve human flourishing through inherited wisdom.

Man lives a more flourishing life the closer he conforms to Truth, not as a result of being more modern or forward thinking.  This living life in a full and flourishing way can appear reactionary or old-fashioned - for example living life in the vocation of a husband and father or housewife and mother.  It can also be progressive, but not for the sake of being progressive.  William Wilberforce did not fight slavery through an appeal to abstract theory or the demands of progress; he fought and defeated slavery by an appeal to the internal and inherited traditions of Western civilisation - Christian values.  One might say Judaeo-Christian values when one thinks of the emphasis in the Old Testament on God freeing His people from slavery to a human master in the form of Pharaoh.

It is quite simply shallow to place one's faith in an ill-defined concept of progress.  We need to ask rather, does this social or political reform bring us closer to or further from the Truth?  An idea of progress for the sake of progress cannot help here.  We cannot know whether a change is for good or bad unless we turn to inherited tradition and personal faith (if these two work against each other something is very wrong with a civilisation and culture).

To give a specific example, there is a lot now said about the role of the male gender in a society.  The aggressive assaults upon our cultural understanding of what it is to be a male role model by the feminist ideologues has confused many.  They have conflated men when they fail, are violent, drunk or purposeless with the Gentleman.  The Gentleman is close to the Truth, tracing his antecedents in the idea of the Christian Knight, that civilised savage, courteous and true, yet strong and brave. To be fully-developed as a man is to look back to that inherited wisdom, which taught men to use their superior physical strength to defend the weak.  To avoid degenerating into a brute men should not be emasculated, but fulfil their potential as Gentlemen.  Here then we see that looking back enables us to reach closer to the Truth, as opposed to the confused situation resulting from progressive ideologies such as feminism.  When men behave as gentlemen it will be far more difficult for the Harvey Weinsteins of this world to misbehave - their behaviour would reveal them as cads because of the stark contrast with a social norm of chivalry. Our current progressive and socially-liberal milieu allowed cads and scoundrels to pass unnoticed for many years.

Progress as an idea is a false and shallow chimera.  It is superstition and nothingness.  It is far more irrational than faith placed in a personal God, discovered in personal revelation through the institution and inherited traditions of the Church. The progressive really should stop projecting their own flimsiness in their faith upon those who follow a deep, prescriptive and traditional religion.  The empirical evidence is clear, a belief in Utopia rather than Heaven has caused the greatest levels of misery in history, while those social reforms that have endured - equality under the law, the abolition of slavery, political freedom all rest upon an ancient and inherited notion of each man being made in the image of God.