Political representation in Genesis

Like all other known societies, Israel emerged into political life from mankind’s primeval organization, the tribe.  In fact, Israel maintained its tribal identification even after becoming a territorial monarchy, and its tribal identity will be preserved as long as the Jewish people endure.  Thus, the patriarchs–Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–remained key to Israel’s corporate self-understanding throughout the time the Bible was being written and redacted.    The three patriarchs are symbols of Israel in Voegelin’s sense that they represent Israel in such ways as to manifest that nation’s understanding of itself.  (Of course, that they serve as symbols doesn’t mean that they didn’t also exist as historical individuals.  The tribes of Israel had to get started somehow, after all.)

Each patriarch represents the people Israel in a different way.  My understanding of these representations (which should be regarded as speculative) are as follows.  Abraham is the first patriarch.  He is the one called out of the profane nations by God; he is the one to whom God makes His promises to the people as a whole; it is with him that God initiates the first Israelite covanant.  Thus, Abraham represents the Israelites as a people called forth by God and formed by Him.  Abraham represents Irael as the recipient of God’s politically creative initiative.  Isaac is Israel as sacrifice; he represents the people offering themselves up to God, an offering-up manifested both in the worship given to God in the Temple and the obedience given to his laws.  Thus, the initiating movement of God which forms the community (represented by Abraham) is followed by a return movement, the response of Israel to God (represented by Isaac).  Finally, there is Jacob, whose name is also Israel.  By his name, he represents Israel’s self-awareness, its consciousness of itself as a corporate person.  From him directly come the twelve tribes.

Many of the above themes will be familiar to readers of Voegelin or of my writings here, but there are also challenges to both of us.  In particular, the order of patriarchs is not what a Voegelin or “bonald” reader would be led to expect.  In The New Science of Politics, for example, we start with “existential representation” (Jacob, in this case), from which we build to the higher representations, with the soteriological representation (God’s movement toward man–Abraham in this case) not coming until Christianity.  Of course, Voegelin’s was a historical study, but it seems natural to imagine that the order would be conceptual as well:  a people must first recognize themselves as a people before they recognize themselves as a people called by God or a people devoted to God.  In the lingo of this blog, a community’s “horizontal completion” should be conceptually prior to its “vertical completion“.  Jacob should come first.  The Bible, however, says “First Abraham.  Then Isaac.  Then Jacob.”  This birth order has meaning.  If Abraham didn’t come first in the mind of the Israelites, they would never have survived the Exile, when their State (the embodiment of corporate existence) was destroyed.  For the Jew, the first political idea was that he was called by God.  The second was his affirmation of the covanant offered to him.  The third was the realization that it was not an “I” responding to God, but a “we”.    In this, Israel’s political consciousness mirrored an individual’s consciousness.  We are not primarily aware of ourselves as conscious subjects.  Rather, we are first aware of external objects, and then only through reflection on these acts of external awareness do we become aware of ourselves as conscious subjects.

Although it’s said that only “fundamentalists” believe it, it is nevertheless true:  the Bible has a great deal to teach us about politics.  I suspect I haven’t gotten to the bottom of this one issue yet.

The Republican apostasy continues

Ken Mehlman, former RNC Chairman:  enthusiastic sodomite and now open advocate of androgynism in the GOP.

And the editor of National Review is okay with this, saying “His conservative credentials are impeccable”.  Rich, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

The dilemmas of pseudonymity

Not many of my readers know my true identity.  (At least, I think you don’t.)  That means, when I write “I believe…” or “I approve of…”, most of you don’t know who this “I” is.  From time to time, this has presented an unexpected dilemma for me, in that I have to decide who “I” am, i.e. who my blog persona is.  I suppose this is a general feature of pseudonymity.  There are several posibilities:

  1. “I” might refer to my actual self:  a 21st century American assistant professor of physics with a wife and unborn baby.  With no separation between self and persona, I could feel free to disgourge my opinions on anything–music, movies, NSF’s funding priorities.  “bonald”‘s opinions = my opinions.
  2. “I” might be the historical Louis de Bonald.  I could limit myself to explaining and applying this French thinker’s beliefs, and I would remain silent on issues onto which the historical Bonald’s recorded opinions don’t speak.  At times, this might even lead me to post opinions contrary to my personal beliefs.
  3. “I” might be a sort of distilled essence of traditionalist conservatism.  The opinions I present would be my own, but only those opinions that flow from traditionalist core principles.

Most of the time, I’ve stuck with persona 3, although occasionally I’ve slipped into 1 when I mention events in my personal life.  (These are real events, not imaginary events in the life of my web persona.)  As for 2, I am content to say that this blog derives in key ways from the French counter-revolutionary tradition.

The only real case where this has been an issue is over religion, a topic we do talk a lot about here.  Is “bonald” a Catholic?  By both 1 and 2, he would be, but not by 3.  Being a traditionalist does not logically entail being a Roman Catholic.  For this reason, I try to be careful not to turn this into an apologetics site.  The point of this website is to promote traditionalism in its purity with no extras.  Conservative Protestants are welcome here, and they probably won’t find anything here to disagree with.  It’s not that the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism aren’t important.  It’s just that these differences can’t be resolved solely by appeal to shared traditionalist principles, and for clarity’s sake, separate ideas should be treated separately.  Obviously, the same goes for the Eastern Orthodox.

When we leave Christianity, things become less clear.  Could there be Muslim traditionalists?  Buddhist traditionalists?  Atheist traditionalists?  By the operative definition of this website, namely “can you agree to the points in all my big essays”, the answers would be (I think) “yes”, “no”, and “no”.  I’m only really clear on that last one, though.

Alan Carlson in Australia

Alan Carlson is still doing his customary brilliant job in defending the natural family.  Unsurprisingly, the author of this blog particularly appreciated this bit:

Over two hundred years ago, the French statesman Louis de Bonald ― also sometimes called the first social scientist ― explained why the state had a vital interest in each new marriage.  As he wrote in his 1801 book, On Divorce:

“Political power only intervenes in the spouse’s contract of union because it represents the unborn child, which is the sole object of marriage, and because it accepts the commitment made by the spouses … under its guarantee to bring that child into being [and to raise it well].”

Nothing of significance has changed since:  natural marriage is for the good of the children, which every healthy government need acknowledge.

Another casualty: Maverick Philosopher embraces tolerance

There’s something about Islam that turns generally right-leaning people into raving liberals.  Maverick Philosopher, in his attacks on Muslim “intolerance” has committed one of the few offenses grave enough to earn explusion from my blogroll:  he has praised the Enlightenment.  He writes

That is why both leftists and Islamists must be vigorously and relentlessly opposed if we care about our classically liberal values.

The trouble with the Islamic world is that nothing occurred in it comparable to our Enlightenment. In the West, Christianity was chastened and its tendency towards fanaticism put in check by the philosophers. Athens disciplined Jerusalem. (And of course this began long before the Enlightenment.)  Nothing similar happened in the Islamic world. They have no Athens. (Yes, I know all about al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, et al. — that doesn’t alter the main point.)  Their world is rife with unreasoning fanatics bent on destroying ‘infidels’ — whether they be Christians, Jews, Buddhists, or other Muslims. We had better wake up to this threat, or one day soon we will wake up to a nuclear ‘event’ in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles which kills not 3,000 but 300,000.

After affirming his commitment to liberalism, MP asserts that Christianity is a false religion.  Truth doesn’t need to be “chastened” or “checked”.  Since truth never contradicts itself, the only thing that can check truth would be falsehood.  Of course, we traditionalists know that falsehood, and falsehood of the most socially destructive kind, is exactly what the philosophes promoted.  Nevertheless, if God is God, and the Church is the new Jeruselem, then nothing outside and contradictory to it should “discipline” this holy City of God.  What I find most risible about MP’s statement is the way if equates the French philosophes with Athens.  It seems strange to me that materialists like Voltaire and Diderot should be regarded as the champions of Greek reason, while Platonists like Anselm and Aristotelians like Aquinas should be regarded as its enemy.  Perhaps MP believes that Anselm and Aquinas in fact spent their careers “checking” and “disciplining” Christianity.  I’m quite sure that if we would ask these illustrious thinkers, they would strongly disagree.

Later, MP asserts his dogmatic commitment to tolerance even against Christianity.

To the extent that Islam takes on Jihadist contours, to the extent that Islam entails its imposition on humanity, it cannot and ought not be tolerated by the West.  Indeed, no religion that attempts to suppress other religions can or ought to be  tolerated, including Christianity.  We in the West do, or at least should, believe that competition among religions in a free marketplace of ideas is a good thing. 

MP has rediscovered Rousseau’s compulsary religion of tolerance.  I’m always amazed that liberals never see the irony in their position.  What about the belief system that suppresses all belief systems that would suppress other belief systems?  “We tolerate all religions, but only to the exent that they understand themselves to be private hobbies without connection to any objective goods worth  public recognition.  You may affiliate yourself with any belief system you want, but you must act like atheist utilitarianism is the actual truth.  If you fail to do so, we will expell or kill you.  We don’t tolerate the intolerant.”

I have no idea where MP gets this idea that a free marketplace of ideas promotes an assent to the truth.  Our two century experiment with free expression has not been encouraging.  What we have seen is that the marketplace of ideas leads to a race to the bottom, with those beliefs always triumphing that best excuse the vices and flatter the pride of the masses.  As with other free markets, the product that wins is not the best but the cheapest.  In my essay on censorship, I explain why this will always be the case.

Catholic/Protestant debate in an age of Liberal ascendancy

I’m a big fan of religious intolerance.  Whenever I see the brethren hurling accusations of heresy at each other, I feel a warm glow inside, as if there were a little stake in my heart and I were roasting Hans Kung on it.  Nevertheless, I often find myself acting against type and condemning acts of interreligious hostility.  I know some of my readers have been troubled by what often seems like my soft spot for Islam.  Am I a hypocrite, one who preaches discord and practices open-mindedness?  Not at all!  I quite approve of Christians criticizing Islam or (and this will be the main topic of this post) Catholics and Protestants arguing with each other.  I just don’t approve of the way it’s often done.  The fact is, most of the time we don’t fault other religions for sinning against truth; we fault them for sinning against Liberalism.

Continue reading

Montaigne on the Spirit of Vatican II

Now, that which methinks brings as much disorder in our consciences, namely in these troubles of religion wherein we are, is the dispensation Catholics make of their belief.  They suppose to show themselves very moderate and skillful when they yield their adversaries any of those articles now in question.  But besides that they perceive not what an advantage it is for him that chargeth you, if you but once begin to yield and give them ground, and how much that encourageth him to pursue his point; those articles which they choose for the lightest are oftentimes most important.  Either a man must wholly submit himself to the authority of our Ecclesiastical policy or altogether dispense himself from it.  It is not for us to determine what part of obedience we owe unto it.  And moreover, I may say it, because I have made trial of it, having sometimes used this liberty of my choice and particular election, not regarding certain points of the observance of our Church, which seem to bear a face either more vain or more strange.  Coming to communicate them with wise men, I have found that those things have a most solid and steady foundation, and that it is but foolishness and ignorance makes us receive them with less respect and reverence than the rest.  Why remember we not what and how many contradictions we find and feel even in our own judgement?  How many things served us but yesterday as articles of faith which today we deem but fables?  Glory and curiosity are the scourges of our souls.  The latter induceth us to have an oar in every ship, and the former forbids us to leave anything unresolved or undecided.

—from It is folly to refer truth or falsehood to our sufficiency

Polynesian theism

Io-te-wananga (Io-the-omnierudite) of the heavens is the origin of all things.  These are the things tat Io-mata-ngaro (Io-the-unseen-face) retained to himself; the sprit and the life and the form; it is by these that all things have form according to their kind…

All things were subservient to Io-the-great-one, and hence the truth of the names of Io:

Io-the-great-god-over-all, Io-the-enduring (or everlasting), Io-the-all-parent, Io-of-all-knowledge, Io-the-origin-of-all-things (the one true God), Io-the-immutable, Io-the-summit-of-heaven, Io-the-god-of-one-command, Io-the-hidden-face, Io-only-seen-in-a-flash-of-light, Io-presiding-in-all-heavens, Io-the-exalted-of-heaven, Io-the-parentless (self-created), Io-the-life-giving, Io-who-renders-not-to-man-that-which-he-withholds…

Now, it is clear that all things, the worlds and their belongings, all gods of mankind, his own gods, all are gathered in his presence (i.e. proceed from him).  There is nothing outside or beyond him; with him is the power of life, of death, of godship.  Everything that proceeds from other than Io and his commands, death is the collector of those.  If all his commands are obeyed and fulfilled by everyone, safety and well-being result therefrom.

Now, it is obvious that all things of life and death are combined in the presence of (or are due to) Io-the-hidden-face; there is nothing outside or beyond him.  All godships are in him and he appoints them their places; the gods of the dead and the gods of the living.  All things are named (i.e. created) by the god of the worlds, in the heavens, the plances and the water, each has its own function.  Even the smallest atom, such as grains of dust, or pebbles, has its place–to hold the boundaries of the ocean or the waters.

–quoted in Primitive Man as Philosopher by Paul Radin

What the Pope should have done

In retrospect, it’s all perfectly clear.  Everything has conspired to produce the worst of all possible worlds.  Still, if the Vatican had anticipated the American attack ten years ago, appropriate measures might have been taken.

The key would be to convince the world at large that the United States is not a disinterested judge of the Church’s behavior.  Some big fight and diplomatic incident should have been created.  The papacy’s opposition to the Iraq invasion provided the perfect opportunity, if only they would have seized it.  Most of the world would have been on the Church’s side.  Of course, the pope’s opinion of the war was well known, but it was never exploited to produce an incident.  Far better if the Vatican had declared the USA a criminal regime, absolved American Catholics of their national allegiance, and excommunicated all American Catholics in the military.  (A delightful side benefit would be the “that’s right, bitches–Innocent III is baaack!” message sent to other nations.)

The key lesson to learn from the downfall of the Catholic Church is this:  never apologize; always attack first.  Continue reading

How can Catholics respond to the kidnapping on the Pope?

As I said in an earlier article, I am almost certain that the United States of America will launch a physical attack on Vatican City and kidnap the pope sometime this decade.  The Church as well as every individual Catholic should be planning their counter-moves.

Continue reading