Monday, December 19, 2011

A Call to Action

To a generation cowed into obedience to a corrupt, oppressive elite of academics, corporate executives, bankers, politicians, etc., Henry Timrod's 'Carolina' is a welcome antidote.  There is no need for armed battle, but we could gain much by taking to heart its underlying message:  the duty to put forward manly resistance to an enemy intent on doing us harm.

By Henry Timrod
The despot treads thy sacred sands,
Thy pines give shelter to his bands,
Thy sons stand by with idle hands,
He breathes at ease thy airs of balm,
He scorns the lances of thy palm;
Oh! who shall break thy craven calm,
Thy ancient fame is growing dim,
A spot is on thy garment's rim;
Give to the winds thy battle hymn,
Call on thy children of the hill,
Wake swamp and river, coast and rill,
Rouse all thy strength and all thy skill,
Cite wealth and science, trade and art,
Touch with thy fire the cautious mart,
And pour thee through the people's heart,
Till even the coward spurns his fears,
And all thy fields and fens and meres
Shall bristle like thy palm with spears,
Hold up the glories of thy dead;
Say how thy elder children bled,
And point to Eutaw’s battle-bed,
Tell how the patriot's soul was tried,
And what his dauntless breast defied;
How Rutledge ruled and Laurens died,
Cry! till thy summons heard at last,
Shall fall like Marion's bugle-blast
Re-echoed from the haunted Past,
I hear a murmur as of waves
That grope their way through sunless caves,
Like bodies struggling in their graves,
And now it deepens; slow and grand
It swells, as, rolling to the land,
An ocean broke upon thy strand,
Shout! let it reach the startled Huns!
And roar with all thy festal guns!
It is the answer of thy sons,
They will not wait to hear thee call;
From Sachem's Head to Sumter's wall
Resounds the voice of hut and hall,
No! thou hast not a stain, they say,
Or none save what the battle-day
Shall wash in seas of blood away,
Thy skirts indeed the foe may part,
Thy robe be pierced with sword and dart,
They shall not touch thy noble heart,
Ere thou shalt own the tyrant's thrall
Ten times ten thousand men must fall;
Thy corpse may hearken to his call,
When, by thy bier, in mournful throngs
The women chant thy mortal wrongs,
'T will be their own funereal songs,
From thy dead breast by ruffians trod
No helpless child shall look to God;
All shall be safe beneath thy sod,
Girt with such wills to do and bear,
Assured in right, and mailed in prayer,
Thou wilt not bow thee to despair,
Throw thy bold banner to the breeze!
Front with thy ranks the threatening seas
Like thine own proud armorial trees,
Fling down thy gauntlet to the Huns,
And roar the challenge from thy guns;
Then leave the future to thy sons,

(Note:  Henry Timrod's poems are now part of the public domain.  This poem is from the Nabu Press reprint of Poems of Henry Timrod, with Memoir and Portrait, memorial ed. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899), pp. 141-4.  My thanks to the folks at the web site Poetry and Music of the War Between the States for providing a fairly good transcription of the poem online:

Dialectic As Seen in a Medieval Narrative

By Jacob Aitken

“The critique of religion is the premise of all critique,” or so said Karl Marx.[i]  One understands the irony and difficulty of beginning a traditionalist essay with a positive reference to Karl Marx.  Despite where Marx went wrong, however, there is an important truth in the above statement:  Behind political and social structures lie deep theological issues.  This essay argues that behind much of the Western philosophical and religious tradition is a dialectical understanding of God and the world.  The author will draw heavily from the earlier work of Joseph P. Farrell[ii] and from the great medieval historian Ernst Kantorowicz.[iii]  Specifically, the author will rely on Prof. Farrell's reading of the neo-Platonic philosopher Plotinus as the latter develops “the dialectic,” the dialectic's role in early and medieval Christian thought, and specifically how this dialectical reading of God and society embodies itself, per Kantorowicz's gloss, in a case study dealing with medieval iconography.[iv]

A Few Terms Clarified

This paper will use a number of philosophical and theological terms which do not always have the same meaning when used by different people at different times.   To avoid unnecessary confusion, the author will define how he will use the terms throughout this essay.[v] Unless otherwise indicated, the term “dialectic” will be used in a specifically Plotinian sense.   There is a connection to the later usage by G. W. F. Hegel, and further essays will explore that connection, but that is not the sense in which it is used in this paper. By dialectic one means a “dialectic of opposition.”   Plotinus defines it as clarifying terms by setting them against their opposites.[vi]

One must also say a few words about the discussion of God and the Trinity in this essay.

When the word “simplicity” is used, it primarily denotes the meaning given by St. Augustine:  “to be is the same as to be strong, or to be just, or to be wise.[vii]” In other words, Augustine is identifying God's attributes (wisdom, justice, etc.) with God's essence.  This is elsewhere known as absolute divine simplicity.  It is not the same as divine simplicity when used by men like St. Basil the Great.  As the reader will see below, the dialectic is directly related to absolute divine simplicity. 

Plotinus:   The Dialectic Becomes Visible

Like many other narratives in Western history, this one also begins in ancient Greece.  The ancient philosopher Plotinus represents the high-point of the school known as neo-Platonism.  As Joseph P. Farrell notes, “In Plotinus' system it is precisely the Idea of Good, the simplicity itself, which forms the ontological starting point for the system.  For Plotinus had as his goal not only to demonstrate the Good, but to demonstrate that the demonstrations of the Good are the means of attaining it.[viii]  The last clause in the above sentence is commonly what is known as “the dialectic.”

For Plotinus, perhaps in contrast to later philosophers, the dialectic was not so much a means of “doing philosophy,” but a way to purify the soul and lead the soul into truth.  While that is a commendable goal and should certainly be kept in mind when studying Plotinus, the interest of this essay is in his method. 

At the risk of oversimplification (no pun intended), Plotinus' system faced the temptation to reduce all reality to “the One.”   Plotinus goes on to say, “The One is not something else or in the divisible, nor is it without parts in the sense of the smallest possible.[ix]  This raises a question, though.   It does appear to us that there are distinctions.  Given that the One encompasses all of reality, yet there appear distinctions in our day-to-day experience, how can one account for distinctions?   Let us return to Plotinus' definition of the dialectic:  It is the science of saying what something is and how it differs from its negation.  Therefore, the dialectic is knowing (or reconciling) something by means of opposites. 

This brings us to a tension:  If Plotinus' system tends to reduce all reality to the One, yet there remains the fact that we can speak of distinctions (given that we can even philosophize about the One), we come to the conclusion that in positing the One we also posit the oppositions to the One (keep in mind the nature of the dialectic itself: We know something by its oppositions).  Therefore, if the One, then the Many.  Farrell concludes, “The One needs the Many because it is dialectically dependent on the Many, the Finite, and the Relative, otherwise it will not be the One at all.[x]  Before continuing, one  will advance another conclusion:  Although the One dialectically demands the Many (distinctions), it also tends to minimize or negate these distinctions.  If that sounds contradictory, that is no accident.  The dialectic is the attempt to reconcile opposites; it remains to be seen whether these attempts are successful.  We will return to this point later. 

Blessed Augustine:   The Dialectic Christianized

It is tempting to dismiss large parts of St. Augustine's theology as simply “Christianity in a neo-Platonist form.”  Several scholars today have challenged the contrast popularly drawn that Augustine began his theology with abstract reasoning concerning the Divine Essence, whereas the Greek Fathers began with the Three Persons.[xi] Certainly, there are facile stereotypes of both Augustine and the Cappadocian Fathers concerning the Trinity, but one must still argue that there is a grain of truth in these stereotypes.  Augustine's triadology seems to lean heavily towards the priority of the Divine Essence over the Three Persons:  Given the fact that Augustine phrases his understanding of the Divine Essence as “absolutely simple essence,[xii]” and notwithstanding the fact his system resembles the neo-Platonist system on many fronts, one must argue at least on some level that Augustine shared key assumptions with Plotinus.  

But how is this “the dialectic?”  Space prevents a larger examination, and if an Augustinian scholar responds that I have ignored key passages in St. Augustine, he would be correct.   However, most summaries of Western Trinitarianism would concur with the above passage, even if they would disagree with the conclusions elsewhere.   One example will suffice.  Remember what was said about the dialectic earlier:  given both the absolute unity of the One, and also the fact that we can speak of the one (which seems to posit a “many”), we explain this unity by a dialectic of oppositions.  Western theology will pick up on this Plotinian move and add a different one:  relation of oppositions.  Augustine writes, speaking of the Father's relation to the Son, “Therefore, He subsists relatively, as he begets relatively.[xiii]

Nameless Detour: The Filioque and Theological Precision

As above, it is also debatable to what degree St. Augustine actually taught the Filioque as would be understood by later theologians.  Certainly, there is a strong movement in On the Trinity which points to the “double-procession.”  I will assume, along with what appears to be the standard position in Trinitarian scholarship, that Augustine did teach the Filioque.   Whether he did teach the Filioque is beside the point.  What remains is that the Filioque is seen as an implication of Augustine's (neo-Platonic) view of absolute divine simplicity.  Given the unity of the One, and that we can only know the One via oppositions, we must ask the question how can there be personal distinctions in the Godhead if the essence is “absolutely One?”  Augustine answers:  by relations of opposition.   This is where the Filioque comes in:  the Father begets a Son (relatively) and the Father and Son beget a third term, the Holy Spirit.[xiv]

Unfortunately, there arises an immediate problem for the Christian tradition.  Ancient triadology had always distinguished the persons of the Godhead by their operations: we know the persons by what they do.  For example, the Father is Father because he begets, and so on.  Ancient triadology had a specific term for the Father's action:  causation.   The Filioque, however, places causation in the field of two persons.   Therefore, the hypostatic distinctions between Father and Son are blurred.   It is more difficult to identify them.[xv]

Case Study:  The Aachen Gospels

The above argumentation is no doubt abstract, and some will wonder if it is merely speculation and inference.  Perhaps it is, but the great medieavalist Ernst Kantorowicz came to a similar conclusion even if he did not always identify the theological issues involved.  Kantorowicz resumes his discussion of medieval political theology by noting the artwork surrounding the copy of the Gospel of John located in Aachen, Germany, circa A. D. 973. Kantorowicz will contrast this with the “Reichenau painter.”  The Aachen front-piece has a picture of Emperor Otto III whose throne is placed in mid-air.  The political connotations, while interesting, are beside the point.  What concerns the reader here is the Christological appearance of the Emperor, and whether the Emperor is representing God the Father or God the Son, or neither. 

Before proceeding, one must clarify a few presuppositions regarding both iconography and theology:  In iconography the Son is identified by having a halo superimposed by a cross, along with the words (in Greek) “ho own,” he who is.  Commenting on the art of the Aachen Gospels, Kantorowicz notes, “All this results from a philosophy of state which is very different...[while] there is a relationship between the ruler on his throne and the remote Father in heaven; Christ is absent from that scene...Nothing could have been more contrary to the Reichenau painter.  His emperor is in the place of Christ, and the hand stretching down from above is surrounded by a cross-halo,” connoting the hand of the Son.[xvi]

Understandably, the above paragraph is confusing, and without access to the artwork it will likely remain so.  In explaining the above paragraph and how it relates to the essay, one will also begin to introduce some conclusions.   In the Reichenau painting one could identify God the Son quite clearly: given the constant reference to the Old Testament narratives to justify monarchy, and given that the Emperor was seen to be an imitator of Christ, these Old Testament narratives, indeed the Old Testament itself, was a revelation of God the Son.    God the Son is clearly identifiable in history.  He is identifiable by his actions in history.  Following Kantorowicz one must infer that the art of the Aachen gospels did not have these identifying characteristics.   It is harder to distinguish God the Father from God the Son.  Kantorowicz concludes:  “The 'Lord' who dwells in the king and decrees justice through the king, is God the Father rather than God the Son, although admittedly in the later Middle Ages it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish clearly between the first and second persons of the Trinity.[xvii]


Conservatives and traditionalists rightly want to combat the forces of Marxism, secularism, and other villains of Western culture.   One must wonder, however, if they proceed from a faulty understanding of the doctrine of God—indeed, an understanding which posits a dialectic within the heart of the Godhead—how successful can their defense of “Christian culture” be.  St. Gregory of Nazianzus makes a pointed observation regarding this:  “The three most ancient opinions concerning God are Anarchia, Polyarchia, and Monarchia.  The first two are the sport of the children of Hellas and may they continue to be so.  For Anarchy is a thing without order and the rule of many is factious, and thus anarchical, and thus disorderly. For both these tend to the same thing, namely disorder; and this to dissolution.[xviii]  Gregory's point is this:  Political positions flow from theological presuppositions (note Gregory's use of the word arche in Greek, which has political connotations).   Per our discussion, if there is a dialectical point within one's religious views, one can ultimately expect this dialectic to manifest itself in one's political views.[xix]  In this context Socrates' maxim to “know thyself” takes on new meaning:  Examine thy presuppositions.

Works Cited

Augustine, On the Trinity, Post-Nicene Fathers vol. 3 (First Series), Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologica.  Great Books of the Western World vol. 19 Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952.

Ayres, Lewis.   Augustine and the Trinity, Cambridge, MA:  Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Farrell, Joseph P.  God, History, and Dialectic: The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes.  Seven Councils Press, 1997.

Gregory of Nazianzus, The Third Theological Oration, Post-Nicene Fathers vol. 7 (Second Series), Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Kantorowicz, Ernst. The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Medieaval Political Theology, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, [reprint 1997].

Marx, Karl.  Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, ed. Joseph O'Malley. New York: Cambridge University Press, [reprint 1982].

Saint Photios, The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, trans. Joseph P. Farrell,  Brookline, MA:  Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1987.

[i]  Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, ed. Joseph O'Malley. New York: Cambridge University Press, [reprint 1982], 131.
[ii]  Joseph P. Farrell, God, History, and Dialectic: The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes.  Seven Councils Press, 1997.
[iii]  Ernst Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Medieaval Political Theology, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, [reprint 1997]. 
[iv]  The author should immediately confess the coming inadequacies of this paper.  Numerous scholars have studied this issue (and similar others) for their entire lives; this paper is simply summarizing the key points and crystallizing the debate, pointing out key arguments, and hopefully facilitating future discussions.  
[v]  One hopes the definitions are not merely arbitrary.   To ensure that, the author will quote from standard, scholarly sources when possible.  
[vi]  Plotinus, The Enneads, I.III.6, in Great Books of the Western World vol. 17, Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952.
[vii]  Augustine, On the Trinity, Post-Nicene Fathers vol. 3 (First Series), Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 100.
[viii]  Farrell, God, History, and Dialectic, p. 92.
[ix]  Plotinus, The Enneads, VI.IX.6.
[x]  Farrell, God, History, and Dialectic, 94.  I have simply summarized a few of Farrell's conclusions.  The reader is strongly urged to consult this section of God, History, and Dialectic for Farrell's larger argument. 
[xi]  Cf.  Lewis Ayres, Augustine and the Trinity, Cambridge, MA:  Cambridge University Press, 2010.
[xii]  Augustine, On the Trinity, 100ff.
[xiii]  Ibid., 111.  This form of argumentation hardens radically when one approaches Thomas Aquinas, cf. Summa Theologica, I. qu. 28. a. 3. 
[xiv]  While Augustine would reject Plotinus's “Chain of Being,” the structure of his thought is quite similar, at least on the surface level.
[xv]  Saint Photios, The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, trans. Joseph P. Farrell,  Brookline, MA:  Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1987, 66.
[xvi]  Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies, 77.  Kantorowicz is not arguing that the Emperor takes the place of Christ, like in some secular papal theory, but that the Emperor is imitating Christ and that Christ is clearly identifiable.
[xvii]  Ibid., 159.
[xviii]  Gregory of Nazianzus, The Third Theological Oration, Post-Nicene Fathers vol. 7 (Second Series), Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 301.
[xix]  This assumes, of course, that people always act logically, which they do not.

Jacob Aitken is an educator in Monroe, Louisiana.


By Roger Busbice

“Globalisation” is the term now used to describe what some optimists call a “coming together” or “practical unification” of the world in regard to economic systems, transportation, communication, electronic technology, education, and, to an unprecedented degree, political “cooperation”.  It implies shared values in the area of economic growth, education, environmental concern, and human rights.  Theoretically, globalisation benefits wealthy countries because it creates new markets and supplies natural resources for them and benefits poor countries because it provides them increased employment and modernisation.  The reality is decidedly different.

Globalisation has been made possible by a world-wide acceptance of “unbridled free trade” as the planet's governing economic principle and, importantly, by the continuing urbanization of human society.  Significantly, globalisation has benefited from the revolution in electronic technology and communications.  The internet, and associated resources, has enabled corporate businessmen, investment bankers, and upwardly-mobile politicians in London, New York, or Sao Paulo to communicate instantly with their counter-parts in Beijing, Tokyo, or Nairobi.  For the first time in human history, individuals, companies, and governments can act and react to economic developments and crises as soon as they occur.  Whether these crises are genuine or whether they are self-generating and self-serving is another question.

Globalisation has resulted in the creation and expansion of massive corporations and the “culture of prosperity and expectation”.  It has supposedly helped establish an awareness of environmental problems and dangers (many of which are a direct result of globalisation itself); and an awareness of basic human rights pertaining to employment, marriage, political participation, and civic responsibility.  It has brought millions of people in developing countries into an ever-expanding workforce that, while temporarily increasing prosperity in the Third World, has actually embraced crime, indifference, and authoritarianism.  Again, reality interferes with suppositions:  Globalisation leads not to environmental concern or human rights but to spoilage and slavery.

Because the origin of globalisation lies in large-scale and unlimited corporate-dominated “free trade”, international agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which unites the United States, Canada, and Mexico economically; the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) which may similarly unite the United States with impoverished Central American republics in basic economic matters; the European Union (EU) which has gone beyond economic cooperation into the realm of possible, and disastrous, political unification; and many other similar “associations” throughout the world have become prominent.  These power-groupings have, in fact, proved to be of greater benefit to their poorer members than to the wealthier nations which have traditionally guided the association process.  Worldwide, many once-poor countries, such as China and India, are becoming prosperous and powerful because of the economic security created by the development of technology-based businesses and government-protected corporations.  The World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank provide uniform rules, regulations, and requirements which control international and inter-governmental loans and financial obligations.  These economic organizations and institutions are determined to enhance, and exploit, the poorer nations at the expense of nations in the First World.  They boast that a “leveling” of the world economy will bring equality and mutual wealth while ignoring the obvious results of mega-capitalism in countries where governments are routinely bought by corporations, and of state socialism where dictatorial government is, in fact, the corporation (1).

It is, indeed, painfully obvious that globalisation inevitably leads to a soul-destructive urbanisation which weakens traditional rural societies, threatens environmental stability, and attacks the fundamental values of western civilisation.  Small towns and farms fall victim to the growth of corporations and the inevitable spread of poisoned cities and bland materialistic suburbs.  Giant super-stores replace “Mom and Pop” groceries and “development” destroys fields, forests, and historic landmarks. Tradition is swept aside in the name of progress.  As a “progressive” character in Saul Bellow's novel Mr. Sammler's Planet indicates, “Roots are a peasant concept.  Roots are going to disappear”(2).  In a way, globalisation could be described as a war of the imagined future against the stability of the past, or more simply, a war of the mechanised and soulless city against the countryside.

The strongest opposition to globalisation naturally comes from those who sense they have the most to lose:  Farmers, blue-collar workers, small town merchants, and social and religious traditionalists all know that their world of family, church, and community—and the “sense of place” it has provided—is likely to be destroyed, or greatly weakened, in the name of growth and greed.  In France, farmers destroy a fast-food restaurant because they believe it to be a symbol of the globalised economy which threatens them; in the United States, factory workers justifiably worry about their jobs and their families as industries abandon their own employees and shift operations to Mexico; in Russia, voters endorse authoritarian rulers, often former communists, who promise state-sponsored security rather than the competition of the genuine home-oriented free market; and in Greece  radical anarchists seek the destruction of a society which they equate with corporate indifference (3).

Perhaps the most prescient statements  regarding the perils of globalisation can be found in the writings of the early twentieth century Catholic Distributists who, in large part, based their beliefs on the actual, not the supposed, words of the great free enterprise economists such as Adam Smith and the dedicated Christian advocates of social justice such as Pope Leo XIII:  Every living soul should seek to own real property—land, a house, or even, nowadays, a condominium—and should seek to be truly part of a positive community where trees, gardens, shared beliefs, and shared traditions abound and learning is encouraged (4).  Fairness, hard work, faith, and honesty, not the accumulation of excessive wealth, should ideally be the governing principles.  Individual ownership of property, and its proper stewardship, would mean that prosperity could be “distributed” within the community without creating anonymous or indifferent corporations.  Service to God, not wealth, would and should be the ultimate goal (5).

Citizens of the community should acknowledge the sacred stewardship of the land and, if possible, work on, or inside, their own property, citizens should buy needed goods and services from the small businessmen and businesswomen in their own community, and educators and members of the clergy should defend and promote the values and the traditions of both the Founding Fathers of the Republic and the early Church Fathers (but, of course, within the framework of the Constitution in this country).  Economic transactions should be small enough to be comprehensible and should be an exercise in cooperation with citizens supporting each other through genuine person-to-person free enterprise (6).  In such a community, citizens in every walk of life should be acquainted with one another:  whether teachers, policemen, doctors, or clergymen; whether craftsmen, labourers, or farmers. For communion is the goal, not isolation.  The “culture of prosperity” would be replaced by a culture of quiet contentment.  The Distributists believed that no human being should want, or seek, the paternal hand of government to provide for him or her, nor should any human being desire wealth beyond his or her actual needs or the appropriate comfort level of his or her family.  Most importantly, such a society would be based on tradition and universal natural rights, not on coercion.

The Distributists and their allies included G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Peter Maurin, Englebert Dollfuss, as well as the Southern Agrarian writers such as Donald Davidson and Andrew Lytle, and a host of others.  They believed that “small is beautiful” as a concept is not a fad or a cliché but a way of life; that true independence means true liberty; and that technology should not govern but should serve.  Neither Right nor Left, it is a simple philosophy, simply capable of saving the world.


1.  Wallach, Lori and Michelle Sforza.  The WTO:  Five Years of Reasons to Resist Corporate Globalization, Seven Stories Press, 1999 (pp. 13-15)
2.  Bellow, Saul.  Mr. Sammler's Planet, Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1970 (p. 224)
3.  Georgakas, Dan.  “Hell No, We Won't Pay:  Uprisings in Greece”, Fifth Estate, Fall, 2011 (pp. 29-30, 32)
4.  Belloc, Hilaire.  The Essential Belloc, St. Benedict Press, 2010 (pp. 145-147, 151, 153)
5.  Belloc. Ibid. (pp. 156-160.)
6.  FINCA fund-raising letter, Fall, 2011 promoting low-cost loans to poor, would-be entrepreneurs

Roger Busbice, a lifelong educator and historian, served as the Archivist and Historian of Louisiana's Old State Capitol from 1992 through 1995.  He was one of the founders and directors of Louisiana's independent teachers' organization and he has been active in conservative and constitutionalist efforts for more than forty years.  The author of numerous articles, he is currently an instructor of history for the LSU Lagniappe Program.