Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"When you see with, not through, the eye"

The late Malcolm Muggeridge, who spent much of his life on both sides of the BBC cameras, would often recite these lines from William Blake:
"This Life's dim windows of the soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole,
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not through, the eye."

Eastern Orthodox Christians speak of man's spiritual eye as the 'nous.'  This essay from the New Liturgical Movement blog goes into detail on the "eye of the heart;" and how trinitarian anthropology became skewed when, contra the Apostle Paul, we began to equate soul and spirit.

(There is a cantankerous streak in man that always wants to "improve" things by knocking off a portion of any three-legged stool...)
One of the links mentioned in the essay is to a piece by Stratford Caldecott -- which is, in part, a call to steer between the rock of Rationalism and the whirlpool of Romanticism.  Here is his comment on contraception:
"The sexual relationship, for example, if it is not open to new life, collapses into a form of narcissism. Connected with this is a strong sense of what is wrong with the act of contraception. To contracept is wrong because by acting against the being of the child who might otherwise come to exist through the act; it turns the relationship back into a dualistic one, no longer 'asymmetrical' and no longer open to a mysterious 'third person.' It is to act (however unknowingly) not just against the potential child but against the presence within the marriage of the Holy Spirit, who is the Giver of Life."

Mr. Caldecott on how we got in this pickle:
"Rationalism cannot be overcome by mere intensity of sentiment. Romanticism cannot be overcome by more careful planning and calculation. We are caught in the dichotomy characteristic of Western thought since Descartes: the radical division between cold objectivity ('clear and distinct ideas') and unintelligent subjectivity. According to Christian 'non-dualism', if two realities are to be united without losing their distinctiveness, they must find their unity in a third. If this is applied not to the relationship between persons, but to the human faculties within the individual, it suggests that reason and intuition, thought and feeling, may find their unity and fulfilment in a third faculty, the 'intelligence of the heart'... "

[The papal encyclical reaffirming the ban on artificial birth control, 'Humanae Vitae,' was published in the summer of 1968.  In January of that pivotal year, Malcolm Muggeridge resigned his rectorship of Edinburgh University in protest of the campus health center's decision to dispense contraceptive pills.  A decade and a half later, Muggeridge and his wife joined the Catholic Church.]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The facts on the ground: MIDEAST

Syria has more than 21 million people (Lebanon has 4 million; Israel 8 million).

Saudi Arabia (27 million), Iraq (30), Turkey (75), Iran (78), and Egypt (81).

Saudi Arabia is 97 percent Sunni, Egypt 90% Sunni, Syria 75% Sunni.

The Sunni majority in Syria -- and all Sunni governments in the Arab League -- want to overthrow the ruling Alawites (a tiny sect of Shiites) and their Christian allies (10 percent).

Democracy in Iraq gave the 65 percent Shiites new control over the secularists who favored the 30% Sunni and 5% Christians.

Democracy in Egypt will hurt the 10 percent Christian Copts who were favored by the secularist leaders Mubarak and Sadat.

Democracy in Turkey is replacing the old secular traditions of Kemal Ataturk (d. 1938) with Sunni Islam dominance.

Lebanon has not had a census since 1932: Christians 40%, Sunni 28%, Shiite 28%. This split would be tipped if half a million Palestinian refugees (97 percent Sunni) were allowed citizenship. The present Syrian government (and Iranian funds) aids Shiite Hezbollah emergence in Lebanese government.

Supporters of Syria's government are Shiite Iran along with Orthodox Christians -- both oppose another Sunni-dominated state.

The Sunni Arabic Saudis are all for attacking the Persian Shiites of Iran (90 percent of the population, with 8 percent Sunni).

The Russian government -- which blocked the UN's condemnation of Syria -- promised its Russian Orthodox bishops that its foreign policy will include the defense of Christians in the Mideast. This was the major cause of the pre-Communist Russian Crimean War against the Ottomans (the former Turkey, et al).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Adam's sin disrupted male agreement

Pence writes:

Man is searching for the right authority and for true masculine communion. Cain and Abel were called to be lieutenants to their father.

Mankind was meant to be born within a kin group under the headship of Adam... When boys grow up without the compelling presence of male authorities, they become first and foremost deficient in attentiveness.

Attention deficit is the condition of those not living with a compelling authority.

We need fathers! We need our sacred altars, our female "temples of the Holy Spirit" and our male seed to once again be declared sacred and worthy of defense. We need acts of authority within our own system of governance and sacraments.The Catholics must change the dynamic -- and the Catholics are the Bishops.

The bishops protest against a specific and odious insurance requirement. Theirs is a protest of individual conscience -- a protest against authority, asking for an individual right for exemption. Like Martin Luther, they draw a line in the sand and say: "Here I stand; I can do no other." Like prophets, they speak a particular truth to power. Like adolescents, they are shocked that universal rules apply to them too.

The Catholic bishops are not Protestants. The priest kings do not hunger after justice only in the garb of prophets. Bishops are authoritative Fathers and Kings in their own domain. The 1960s are over -- for that matter, so is the 16th-century gambit of nailing demands on church doors.

Does anyone notice that in this war against the sexual rebels we are fighting the last configuration of the atheistic Enlightenment? In some ways because sexual order is so fundamental to the rule of love, it seems this is the legion of demons that rushed in after we evicted the Marxist devil. There never has been such willful and widespread confusion of what is good and what is evil. In other ways, though, the feminist homosexual masquerade is so pathetic, so deeply repugnant to whole cultures -- that one can imagine a good week of straight talk could totally turn the tide (even if there would be years of individual barn cleanings to follow.)

The bishops have authority in the sacred domain -- a precinct not meant to be a launching pad for politics. It is the higher domain that the political bond protects. In their heyday Cardinals Bernardin (Chicago) and Mahony (Los Angeles), along with Archbishops Roach (St. Paul) and Weakland (Milwaukee), turned the National Bishops Conference into the Senate Subcommittee on Moral Pronouncements. It does not help that as bishops become more orthodox, they keep the the Bernardin paradigm of the Catholic Church as a nag and lobbyist to the real authorities in Washington DC. It is the sacred precincts, not conservative policies, that are under attack and must be defended.

For decades now, feminists and homosexuals at work in the priesthood, church charities, remnant religious orders, Catholic schools, and non-profit agencies have built a highly effective alliance of government, non-profit, and church employees united by the common ideology of the sexual Left. Under the banner of women's health and a masquerade of civil rights and concern for the poor, they have rendered our civic discourse unintelligible because of fundamental category errors. They have kept the bishops off-balance by accusing them of being all male. What an odd change-of-pace screwball pitch that was! The problem with Catholic bishops is NOT that they are all male. It is that they are not masculine enough in personality, in temperament, in bonding patterns, in word and in deed.

Confirmed Catholics are aligned to each other under our bishops. We need them to clean our ecclesial houses to restore the sacred altar, to prune a corrupted priesthood and episcopacy, and to protect the Eucharist from defilement.

Nothing will help laymen in the political arena more than acts of protective authority in the sacral arenas. We need our bishop fathers to act in their own households to restore order. True Religion is the first rule of social justice: render God His due. Repent already, begin to cleanse His Temple, and Jerusalem will follow.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A. Lincoln knew the Bible by heart

In 1864 President Lincoln told his old friend Joshua Speed

"Take all of this Book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man."
Harry Truman was another who often read through the entire Bible, including seven times while living in the White House. His first speech to Congress concluded:

"I humbly pray God in the words of King Solomon, 'Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern good and bad: for who is able to judge this Thy so great a people?' I ask only to be a good and faithful servant of my Lord and my people."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What civil war -- that ended in the 1860s -- was the bloodiest in all of history?

The Taiping Rebellion in southern China resulted in more than 20 million dead -- mostly civilians.

In America's civil war, less than a million died.

Hong Xiuquan, who believed himself to be Jesus' younger brother, led the mass revolt that nearly toppled the Qing Dynasty. [Founded in 1644 by Manchu tribesmen who swept down from the north, this final Chinese dynasty ended in 1912].

"The uprising spread with incredible swiftness and spontaneity.  They captured the city of Nanjing in 1853, massacred its entire Manchu population, and held the city as their capital and base for 11 years until the civil war ended."

Britain (and France) intervened on the side of the government in Beijing:  "With American encouragement, the British supplied arms, gunships, and military officers to the Manchu government and ultimately helped tip the balance of the war in its favor."

Check out this "Times" review of Stephen Platt's new history; and an even better one in the "WS Journal" which points out similarities between the insurgents and America's Confederate soldiers, and ends with this anecdote:

In the 1970s, Richard Nixon became the first sitting American president to visit [China], but in the 1870s Ulysses S. Grant was the first former occupant of the White House to do so. One official that Grant met in China was [retired military commander] Li Hongzhang, by then a viceroy. According to a letter published in the New York Herald, before meeting the famous American he had long admired, the viceroy noted how "funny" it was to have a surname so like that of "General Grant's opponent." This fact notwithstanding, Grant and Li became friends, which perhaps should not surprise us, given something important they had in common. "General Grant and I," the viceroy reportedly said at one point during Grant's visit to China, "have suppressed the two greatest rebellions known in history."

UPDATE:  Less than a  century later, Nanjing was the site of atrocities by the Japanese army.  During the winter of 1937-38, the number of Chinese raped and slaughtered there is staggering.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Christ cast out the darkness; Rene Descartes' philosophy had the opposite effect

One historian has written: "Philosophically, the Enlightenment began when Descartes made a search for clear and distinct ideas to serve as a foundation for knowledge."

Most folks today, in the disorder we call modernity, would concede that was a bootless search by the Frenchman who wrote all his major works in the Netherlands and died in Sweden.

From an interview with philosopher Peter Kreeft:

Christians today seem to practice a "sanctified rationalism." We don't tap into the sense of a higher reason that seems necessary to begin to apprehend the idea of a mysterious God.

Kreeft: "My favorite villains here are Descartes and Kant, both of whom have narrowed reason. Descartes narrowed reason to a human psychological thing—calculating. And Kant narrowed reason to a subjective thing—merely something that goes on inside our head that does not correspond to an objective reality we can know.

"In the Middle Ages and in ancient times, reason was the cosmic order of things which we understood intuitively before we understood it analytically. When the ancients defined man as the rational animal, they didn't mean he was a narrow, dull, abstract analytic thing. They included his heart, his moral sense of conscience, his aesthetic sense. It was part of reason to wonder at the beauty of the heavens."

From an essay by the Jesuit priest James Schall:

John Paul II makes the following startling statement: "Over the years I have become more and more convinced that the ideologies of evil are profoundly rooted in the history of European philosophical thought." What we think is not an indifferent matter, particularly if we think our minds are not bound by what is. This intellectual source of evil calls for a reexamination of the Enlightenment, which had a somewhat different form in each European country, including Poland. It erupted with particular violence in the twentieth century with Marxism.

Demonstrating his own careful philosophical studies, John Paul II examines the effect of Descartes and how his thought differed from the philosophy of St Thomas. Aquinas began with being, with what is. Descartes began with thought itself, the famous cogito. At first sight, this difference might seem a mere philosopher's quibble and not the origin of modern evils. But Pope Wojytyla makes a good case for why this difference enabled modern ideologies to be so lethal:

In the pre-Cartesian period, philosophy, that is to say cogito, or rather the cognosco, was subordinate to esse, which was considered prior. To Descartes, however, the esse seemed secondary, and he judged the cogito to be prior. This not only changed the direction of philosophizing, but it marked the decisive abandonment of what philosophy had been hitherto, particularly the philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas, and namely the philosophy of esse.

In Aquinas, thus, God was a real and self-sufficient Being who created an actual world to which we are open. God was the "necessary ground of every being."

The shift that took place with Descartes meant that God was "thought." All being, including the divine being, remained within thought. Indeed, in Descartes, for anyone to know anything outside of one's self, he first had to prove the existence of God in his mind. "Philosophy now concerned itself with beings qua content of consciousness and not qua existing independently of it."

The significance of this shift in emphasis is that a Creator God who is subsistent Being (Aquinas) might be able to communicate with real being from outside the causation of creatures, but a God totally under the control of our minds (Descartes) could not do this.