Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Protecting the South from Her Enemies

When Father Cleopa Ilie (reposed 1998) was abbot of Sihastria Monastery in Romania, he and his monks were, for a time, continually beset by a gang of outlaws.  Seeking help for their situation, he inquired of Bishop Valerian of Neamts.  The Bishop’s answer?  Read the Akathist Hymn to the Protection of the Mother of God once each week and the entire Psalter each day.  This was done by Abbot Cleopa (and continues to this day at the monastery); the outlaws were brought to justice; and Sihastria ‘has spiritually flourished through the intercessions of the Most Pure Theotokos’ (Archimandrite Ioanichie Balan, Shepherd of Souls, St Herman Press, 2007, pgs. 96-7, quote at 97).

Now, if this is what was necessary to deliver Sihastria Monastery from a band of ordinary outlaws, it is at least just as necessary for us in the South to follow this cycle of readings and chantings if we are to be delivered from those who are attacking us - we who are afflicted by social engineers intent on reshaping man and the world to conform to the image of their master, the devil.

Let there be no delay!  According to the abilities of each, read from the Akathist to the Protection of the Mother of God and from the Psalms every day. 

May our merciful and loving God and Savior Jesus Christ grant the South deliverance from our enemies and spiritual rebirth through the prayers of His Most Holy Mother!  Amen!

The Akathist Hymn may be downloaded here:

Friday, December 26, 2014

‘Christ Is Born! Glorify Him!’ - Holy Nativity 2014

A beautiful hymn celebrating our Lord’s coming to the earth in the flesh:

O Bethlehem prepare, Eden is opened up for all; and Ephratha, take heed, make yourselves ready and prepare; the Tree of Life has bloomed forth from the Holy Virgin; and from her holy womb, spiritual Paradise, wherein is found to grow the divine, rescuing Tree, and as we eat thereof we shall all live, and shall not die as did Adam. For Christ is born now to raise the image that had fallen beforehand.

Source:  ‘Apolytikion of the Forefeast of the Nativity of Christ’, Nancy Takis, trans., 2011, http://www.newbyz.org/nativity_christ_forefeast_troparion.pdf, accessed 22 Dec. 2014

And a sermon given by St John of Kronstadt commemorating this wondrous event begins in this way:

The Word became flesh; that is, the Son of God, co-eternal with God the Father and with the Holy Spirit, became human – having become incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. O, wondrous, awesome and salvific mystery! The One Who had no beginning took on a beginning according to humanity; the One without flesh assumed flesh. God became man – without ceasing to be God. The Unapproachable One became approachable to all, in the aspect of an humble servant. Why, and for what reason, was there such condescension [shown] on the part of the Creator toward His transgressing creatures – toward humanity which, through an act of its own will had fallen away from God, its Creator?

It was by reason of a supreme, inexpressible mercy toward His creation on the part of the Master, Who could not bear to see the entire race of mankind – which, He, in creating, had endowed with wondrous gifts – enslaved by the devil and thus destined for eternal suffering and torment.

And the Word became flesh!...in order to make us earthly beings into heavenly ones, in order to make sinners into saints; in order to raise us up from corruption into incorruption, from earth to heaven; from enslavement to sin and the devil – into the glorious freedom of children of God; from death – into immortality, in order to make us sons of God and to seat us together with Him upon the Throne as His royal children.

O, boundless compassion of God! O, inexpressible wisdom of God! O, great wonder, astounding not only the human mind, but the angelic [mind] as well!

 . . .

Source:  ‘The Word Became Flesh’, http://www.orthodox.net/nativity/nativity-sjok-2.html, accessed 26 Dec. 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Welcoming Winter - 2014

A poem by Dixie’s Scottish cousin Robert Burns.

‘Up in the Morning Early’

Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,
   The drift is driving sairly;
Sae loud and shrill’s I hear the blast,
   I’m sure it’s winter fairly.
Up in the morning’s no for me,
   Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,
   I’m sure its winter fairly.
The birds sit chittering in the thorn,
   A’ day they fare but sparely;
And lang’s the night frae e’en to morn,
   I’m sure it’s winter fairly.
Up in the morning’s no for me,
   Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,
   I’m sure its winter fairly.

Source:  Scottish Poetry Library, http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poems/morning-early, accessed 22 Dec. 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Technology and the Creation in Southern Life and Thought - Part III

V.  The Way of the Saints

The foregoing are much better approaches to the creation and technology than those of posthumanists and their fellow-travellers, but now we must speak of ‘a more excellent way’ (I Cor. 12:31 KJV), the way of the Saints of the Church, those great works of Christ (John 10:37-8) (St Nikolai Velimirovich, ‘A Hundred Points of Ljubostinja’, Missionary Letters: Part 3, ch. 99, p. 187), who, having purified their souls and bodies of every defilement of sin, bear within themselves the grace of the Holy Spirit in an extraordinary measure, which manifests itself in sundry ways for the healing of man and the world:  curing illnesses, receiving prophecies, casting out demons, restoring an harmonious bond with the animals, and so on. 

The enemies of God try to overcome the effects of sin - disease, injury, death, famine, earthquake, storm, and other catastrophes; and all the enmity between the creation and man - through human and demonic knowledge and the technology that comes of it.  For the Orthodox Church’s saints, these have already been overcome by the grace of God and by their ascetic labors in cooperation with His grace, as we see in particular in some of the lives of the English and Celtic saints, the Holy Fathers and Mothers of the South in flesh and blood and in the faith. 

We see it in St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne’s (‘Holy Island’) miraculously harvesting a great store of barley out of season (St Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, p. 258), in the winds, sea, and storms obeying his words and prayers (St Bede, Life of Saint Cuthbert, pgs. 62-3, 72-3, 89-90), in his healings of the sick (e.g., Life, pgs. 84-6), in the kindness rendered him by the otters who warmed him with their breath and dried him with their fur after he spent the night praying in the cold ocean (pgs. 57-8).

We see it in the obedience of a flock of geese to St Werburga of Hanbury, and in her ability to understand a complaint of theirs (Vladimir Moss, Saints of England’s Golden Age, pgs. 167-8).  We see it in the staff of St Etheldreda, which she had placed in the ground one night during a journey while she slept, bearing leaves and growing into an ash tree (p. 160).  In the help St Chad of Lichfield received from an hart in converting the Prince-Martyrs Wulfade and Rufine to the Christian Faith (pgs. 111-6).  Likewise, St Cainnech (Kenneth) of Aghaboe developed such a loving bond with a stag that he held his Bible in his antlers while St Cainnech read from it (Dmitry Lapa, ‘St Kenneth, Abbot of Aghaboe in Ireland’, Pravoslavie.ru).

We see it furthermore in St Colman of Kilmacduagh’s close friendship with a rooster, mouse, and fly (Lapa, ‘St Colman of Kilmacduagh in Ireland, Wonder Worker’, Pravoslavie.ru).  In St Columba of Iona, who foresaw future events (St Adomnán, The Life of St Columba, pgs. 112-52), whose prayers and blessings brought forth water from rock, purified a cursed well, calmed a storm at sea (pgs. 161-3), brought a boy back from the dead (pgs. 179-80), kept the wheels on a chariot despite the linchpins being missing (p. 199), forbad the snakes on Iona to harm man and cattle (pgs 177, 225), conversed with holy angels, and shone at times with the brightness of the uncreated glory of God (pgs. 206-31).

Hundreds of years ago, in the supposed ‘dark ages’ of mankind, Paradise was restored, and Heaven joined the earth (to the extent that these are possible before the general resurrection and our Lord’s coming again) in the lives of numerous saints in the Irish and British Isles.  This they did without much technology or the proud mind of man, but rather through contrary ways:  through almsgiving, humility, love, prayer and fasting, making their abodes in forests, swamps, caves, and in simple stone cells on harsh and forbidding islands, and constant remembrance of God - by which they attained holiness, became pure temples of the Holy Spirit, angel-like men who overcame the passions and surpassed their human nature, and tasted of the life which is to come. 

They are the pinnacle of human achievement, and neither the occult dream of man merged with machine nor any other such devilish monstrosity will be able to surpass the saints in their greatness.

VI.  ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit:  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3 KJV).

Some measure of technology will always be present in the fallen world.  A house, a shirt, a walking stick:  These all come from the mind, will, and hands of man.  So long as we remember our proper end, to seek the Kingdom of Heaven through the difficult labor imposed on us by God after the Fall, no harm will come of our humble use of tools and skills and of the creation of which we are a part.  But when Satanic pride enters our hearts, when we cast aside God’s grace for deification on our own terms, then technology becomes a devouring, destructive beast.

The Orthodox Church calls all the creation to herself for healing, for union with God: 

The history of the world is a history of the Church which is the mystical foundation of the world.  . . .

The world was created from nothing by the sole will of God—this is its origin.  It was created in order to participate in the fullness of the divine life—this is its vocation.  It is called to make this union a reality in liberty, in the free harmony of the created will with the will of God—this is the mystery of the Church inherent in creation.  Throughout all the vicissitudes which followed upon the fall of humanity and the destruction of the first Church—the Church of paradise—the creation preserved the idea of its vocation and with it the idea of the Church, which was at length to be fully realized after Golgotha and after Pentecost, as the Church properly so-called, the indestructible Church of Christ.  From that time on, the created and contingent universe has borne within itself a new body, possessing an uncreated and limitless plenitude which the world cannot contain.  This new body is the Church; the plenitude which it contains is grace, the profusion of the divine energies by which and for which the world was created.  Outside of the Church they act as determining exterior causes, as the constant willing of God by which all being is created and preserved.  It is only in the Church, within the unity of the body of Christ, that they are conferred, given to men by the Holy Spirit; it is in the Church that the energies appear as the grace in which created beings are called to union with God.  The entire universe is called to enter within the Church, to become the Church of Christ, that it may be transformed after the consummation of the ages, into the eternal Kingdom of God.  Created from nothing, the world finds its fulfilment in the Church, where the creation acquires an unshakable foundation in the accomplishment of its vocation (Lossky, Mystical Theology, pgs. 111, 112-3).

If we in the South will humble ourselves and enter into the life of the Orthodox Church and begin the journey toward the ‘consummation of the ages’, we will find that harmony with the creation that our agrarian spirit has expressed a longing for in plantation farm, horse and rider, many a poem, story, and essay, and other ways besides: 

The Christ-like personality, led by Christ to the mysteries of the world of God, sees the Logos and the logic of the universe and every creation as coming from the head of the Creator.  When it is mirrored in the mirror of the soul of such a personality, the creation of sickness and of corruption rises into responsible impeccability and beauty.  Within the Christ-like soul is revealed the final mystery of Creation because it sympathizes with and loves Creation.  The loved always reveals his mystery to that one who loves.  The Christ-like personality observes Creation and nature not as wild predators which must cruelly subdue their prey but instead as weak creatures upon which mercy, compassion, and love must be shown.  For the Christ-like personality, Creation is not matter without a soul to which we must behave with cruelty, audacity, and exploitation, but as a priceless mystery of God upon which we must show compassion and mercy through prayer and love.  “Love every creature of God”, says Dostoievski, “and all the creatures together and every crumb.  Love the animals, love the plants, love every creature.  If you love every creature, you will understand once, then without effort you will begin to understand more and more every day,” (Dostoievski, Brothers Karamazov) (St Justin Popovich, Dostoievski, Belgrade, 1940, quoted in Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, pgs. 206-7).

The complete severing of the creation from God by Protestant and Roman Catholic theologies, based as they are on the metaphysics of Aristotle, St Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas, which reject the distinction in God between His energies and His essence, will never bring forth the full fruits of the Southern agrarian vision (see Philip Sherrard, ch. 2, ‘Christian Theology and the Eclipse of Man’, The Rape of Man and Nature, pgs. 42-62).  These theologies will bring either atheism (God is completely unknowable in his transcendent essence) or pantheism (the creation is divine, for it partakes of God’s essence).  Only life in the Orthodox Church, which alone has kept safe the doctrine of God’s nearness and knowability in his uncreated energies (grace) that fill all the creation, and his otherness and unknowability in his essence (Jay Dyer, ‘How the West Became Atheist’, Soul of the East). 

The lives of our Holy Fathers and Mothers testify to this.  As befits us as Southerners, let us be obedient and pious children toward their priceless teachings and ensamples.

Works Cited

Saint Adomnán.  The Life of St Columba.  Sharpe, Richard, trans.  New York, Ny.: Penguin Books, 1995.

Saint Bede.  Ecclesiastical History of the English People.  Sherley-Price, Leo, and R. E. Latham, trans.  New York, Ny.: Penguin Books, 1990 [1955].

--.  Life of Saint Cuthbert in The Age of Bede.  Farmer, D. H., and J. F. Webb, trans.  Farmer, D. H., ed.  New York, Ny.: Penguin Books, 2004 [1965].

Dyer, Jay.  ‘How the West Became Atheist’.  Soul of the East.  13 Sept. 2014.  http://souloftheeast.org/2014/09/13/thomism-deism/  Accessed 9 Dec. 2014.

Lapa, Dmitry.  ‘St Colman of Kilmacduagh in Ireland, Wonder Worker’.  Pravoslavie.ru.  11 Nov. 2014.  http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/75046.htm  Accessed 8 Dec. 2014.

--.  ‘St Kenneth, Abbot of Aghaboe in Ireland’.  Pravoslavie.ru.  24 Oct. 2014.  http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/74549.htm  Accessed 8 Dec. 2014.

Lossky, Vladimir.  The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.  Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, trans.  Crestwood, Ny.: SVS Press, 1976 [1944].

Moss, Vladimir.  Saints of England’s Golden Age: A Collection of the Lives of Holy Men and Women Who Flourished in Orthodox Christian Britain.  Etna, Ca.: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1997.

Popovich, Saint Justin.  Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ.  3rd ed.  Gerostergios, Asterious, et al., trans.  Belmont, Ma.: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 2005.

Sherrard, Philip.  The Rape of Man and Nature: An Enquiry into the Origins and Consequences of Modern Science.  Ipswich, Suffolk: Golgonooza Press, 1991 [1987].

Velimirovich, Saint Nikolai.  ‘A Hundred Points of Ljubostinja’.  Missionary Letters of Saint Nikolai Velimirovich: Part 3, Letters 201 - 300.  A Treasury of Serbian Orthodox Spirituality: Vol. 8.  Baltic, Hieromonk Serafim, ed. and trans.  Grayslake, Il.: New Gracanica Monastery, 2011.

By Walt Garlington

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Technology and the Creation in Southern Life and Thought - Part II

III.  The Orthodox Church’s Teachings on Man and the Creation

The Fathers of the Orthodox Church teach us to beware of anything that ties us more closely to the life of the fallen world rather than frees us to ascend to God our Creator, Savior, and Perfecter.  St Ignatius Brianchaninov (reposed in 1867) ‘who had a thorough training in physics, mathematics and engineering’ (Vladimir Moss, ‘Quo Vadis, Science?’, Orthodox Christian Books)  taught that the physical sciences and the knowledge they impart do these very things, entangling us deeply in the world marred by sin, opposing the work of the salvation of our souls.

You ask what is my opinion of the human sciences? After the fall men began to need clothing and numerous other things that accompany our earthly wanderings; in a word, they began to need material development, the striving for which has become the distinguishing feature of our age. The sciences are the fruit of our fall, the production of our damaged fallen reason. Scholarship is the acquisition and retention of impressions and knowledge that have been stored up by men during the time of the life of the fallen world. Scholarship is a lamp by which ‘the gloom of darkness is guarded to the ages’. The Redeemer returned to men that lamp which was given to them at creation by the Creator, of which they were deprived because of their sinfulness. This lamp is the Holy Spirit, He is the Spirit of Truth, who teaches every truth, searches out the deep things of God, opens and explains mysteries, and also bestows material knowledge when that is necessary for the spiritual benefit of man. Scholarship is not properly speaking wisdom, but an opinion about wisdom. The knowledge of the Truth that was revealed to men by the Lord, access to which is only by faith, which is inaccessible for the fallen mind of man, is replaced in scholarship by guesses and presuppositions. The wisdom of this world, in which many pagans and atheists occupy honoured positions, is directly contrary according to its very origins with spiritual, Divine wisdom: it is impossible to be a follower of the one and the other at the same time; one must unfailingly be renounced. The fallen man is ‘falsehood’, and from his reasonings ‘science falsely so-called’ is composed, that form and collection of false concepts and knowledge that has only the appearance of reasons, but is in essence vacillation, madness, the raving of the mind infected with the deadly plague of sin and the fall. This infirmity of the mind is revealed in special fullness in the philosophical sciences (‘Quo Vadis, Science?’).

Man’s relationship to the creation, then, is to be more than one of measurement, classification, and so on, of extracting her secrets by force for the sake of creating new gadgets and creature comforts or of re-creating the world anew in man’s fallen, corrupted image. 

Over against these nightmarish visions is the grace-filled teaching of the Orthodox Church.  The theologian Vladimir Lossky presented some of the Church's main doctrines on man and the creation in his book The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.  He wrote,

Man is not a being isolated from the rest of creation; by his very nature he is bound up with the whole of the universe, and St. Paul bears witness that the whole creation awaits the future glory which will be revealed in the sons of God (Rom. viii, 18-22).  . . .  In his way to union with God, man in no way leaves creatures aside, but gathers together in his love the whole cosmos disordered by sin, that it may at last be transfigured by grace (pgs. 110, 111).

He explained further,

According to St. Maximus, the work of creation contains five divisions, from which are derived concentric spheres of being, at whose centre is man, virtually containing them all in himself.  . . .  It was the divinely appointed function of the first man, according to St. Maximus, to unite in himself the whole of created being; and at the same time to reach his perfect union with God and thus grant the state of deification to the whole creation.  It was first necessary that he should suppress in his own nature the division into two sexes, in his following of the impassible life according to the divine archetype.  He would then be in a position to reunite paradise with the rest of the earth, for, constantly bearing paradise within himself, being in ceaseless communion with God, he would be able to transform the whole earth into paradise.  After this, he must overcome spatial conditions not only in his spirit but also in the body, by reuniting the heavens and the earth, the totality of the sensible universe.  Having surpassed the limits of the sensible, it would then be for him to penetrate into the intelligible universe by knowledge equal to that of the angelic spirits, in order to unite in himself the intelligible and the sensible worlds.  Finally, there remaining nothing outside himself but God alone, man had only to give himself to Him in a complete abandonment of love, and thus return to Him the whole created universe gathered together in his own being.  God Himself would then in His turn have given Himself to man, who would then, in virtue of this gift, that is to say by grace, possess all that God possesses by nature.  The deification of man and of the whole created universe would thus be accomplished.  Since this task which was given to man was not fulfilled by Adam, it is in the work of Christ, the second Adam, that we can see what it was meant to be (pgs. 108-10).

 . . .

Adam did not fulfil his vocation.  He was unable to attain to union with God, and the deification of the created order.  That which he failed to realize when he used the fullness of his liberty became impossible to him from the moment at which he willingly became the slave of an external power.  From the fall until the day of Pentecost, the divine energy, deifying and uncreated grace, was foreign to our human nature, acting on it only from outside and producing created effects in the soul.  The prophets and righteous men of the Old Testament were the instruments of grace.  Grace acted by them, but did not become their own, as their personal strength.  Deification, union with God by grace, had become impossible.  But the plan of God was not destroyed by the sin of man; the vocation of the first Adam was fulfilled by Christ, the second Adam.  God became man in order that man might become god, to use the words of Ireneus and Athanasius, echoed by the Fathers and theologians of every age (pgs. 133-4).

This attitude about God, man, and the created world belonged to our Southern forefathers in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales prior to the introduction of that regrettable amalgam of heathen Greek philosophy and Christianity known as Roman Catholicism by the Norman conquerors in 1066 that has made so many of the evils of modernity possible (Dr Joseph Farrell, ‘Prolegomena’, God, History, and Dialectic, AnthonyFlood.com).  Enough of the Orthodox understanding has remained, however, in some men and women since then that they, together with those who lived before them during the Age of the Saints on the Irish and British Islands (~500 to ~700 A. D.), may be studied with great reward.

IV.  Tolkien and Other Cousins

One of the great treasures of the 20th century is undoubtedly Prof J. R. R. Tolkien.  In his own life, in his various writings, and especially in his sub-creation of Middle-earth we see how a Christian rightly responds to modern technology and how he ought to live with regard to nature.  Bradley Birzer explained about the former in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth,

For Tolkien, modernity was committed to the denial of God as the author of man and the world.  And once man denies God, he denies his true self.  When Harvey Breit of the New York Times Book Review asked Tolkien in 1955 what made him tick, Tolkien responded:  “I don’t tick.  I am not a machine.  (If I did tick, I should have no views on it, and you had better ask the winder.)”  Tolkien was not just being flippant or curmudgeonly.  The question, which reflected modernity’s tendency to mechanize man, deeply bothered him.  Tolkien, on the whole, despised mechanization, arguing that it reflected modernity’s attack on nature, its attempt to dominate and subjugate all aspects of the given world.  “There is a tragedy and despair of all machinery laid bare,” he wrote, and human fallenness “makes our . . . devices not only fail of their desire but turn to new and horrible evil.”  He referred to technology in general as “Mordor-gadgets,” and to fighter planes during World War II as “Nazgul-birds.”  When Tolkien learned of the American dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, he responded with horror.  “The utter folly of these lunatic physicists to consent to do such work for war-purposes:  calmly plotting the destruction of the world!”  Allies of Mordor, he later noted mockingly, had created the atomic bomb, “to use the Ring for their own (of course most excellent) purposes.”

Though Tolkien especially disliked the machines of war, he frequently complained about the machines that were increasingly coming to be associated with everyday life in the twentieth century.  He had once owned a car, but in his later life he refused to own one after he saw what the planners did to change the city of Oxford to accommodate automobiles.  Once, when Clyde Kilby was visiting Tolkien, a motorcycle passed by.  “That is an Orc,” Tolkien proclaimed.  . . .  Tolkien’s disdain for machines reveals itself throughout Middle-earth works.  Along with the Orcs, Sauron and the corrupted Saruman design and employ machines frequently, a fact that for Tolkien adequately served to symbolize their corruption (pgs. 110-1).

We may learn of the latter by looking at how the peoples of Middle-earth lived in relation to the created world.  Tolkien’s description of the forest-city of Lothlórien in The Two Towers serves as a good illustration:

Suddenly they came out into the open again and found themselves under a pale evening sky pricked by a few early stars.  There was a wide treeless space before them, running in a great circle and bending away on either hand.  Beyond it was a deep fosse lost in soft shadow, but the grass upon its brink was green, as if it glowed still in memory of the sun that had gone.  Upon the further side there rose to a great height a green wall encircling a green hill thronged with mallorn-trees taller than any they had yet seen in all the land.  Their height could not be guessed, but they stood up in the twilight like living towers.  In their many-tiered branches and amid their ever-moving leaves countless lights were gleaming, green and gold and silver.  Haldir turned towards the Company.

‘Welcome to Caras Galadhon!’ he said.  . . .

They went along many paths and climbed many stairs, until they came to the high places and saw before them amid a wide lawn a fountain shimmering.  It was lit by silver lamps that swung from the boughs of trees, and it fell into a basin of silver, from which a white stream spilled.  Upon the south side of the lawn there stood the mightiest of all the trees; its great smooth bole gleamed like grey silk, and up it towered, until its first branches, far above, opened their huge limbs under shadowy clouds of leaves.  Beside it a broad white ladder stood, and at its foot three Elves were seated.  They sprang up as the travellers approached, and Frodo saw that they were tall and clad in grey mail, and from their shoulders hung long white cloaks. 

‘Here dwell Celeborn and Galadriel,’ said Haldir.  ‘It is their wish that you should ascend and speak with them.’

 . . .

As he climbed slowly up Frodo passed many flets:  some on one side, some on another, and some set about the bole of the tree, so that the ladder passed through them.  At a great height above the ground he came to a wide talan, like the deck of a great ship.  On it was built a house, so large that almost it would have served for a hall of Men upon the earth.  He entered behind Haldir, and found that he was in a chamber of oval shape, in the midst of which grew the trunk of the great mallorn, now tapering towards its crown, and yet making still a pillar of wide girth.

The chamber was filled with a soft light; its walls were green and silver and its roof of gold.  Many Elves were seated there.  On two chairs beneath the bole of the tree and canopied by a living bough there sat, side by side, Celeborn and Galadriel (Chapter 7, ‘The Mirror of Galadriel’, The Lord of the Rings, pgs. 353-4).

Such a way of life was known to earlier generations in England.  A great linguist in his own right, and master of other arts besides, who preceded Tolkien by nearly an hundred years, the Rev William Barnes, and his home, were once described in this way by Arthur Quiller-Couch in an 1881 letter:

The house straw-thatched - rioted over by creepers - was set around with trees.  Swallows populated its eaves; bees hummed in its garden.  I am painting you (however you suspect it) no nook of fancy, but the residence of an actual man, whom you will find at once idyllic, shrewd and solid.  He is just past eighty, but hale yet, white bearded with an aspect which suggests what you can recollect of Saint Mark from any number of stained glass windows.  His hair, too, is white and he wears it patriarchally long so that it touches his shoulders.  He is dressed in a long black coat, knee-breeches, black stockings, stout buckled shoes . . . (Fr Andrew Phillips, The Rebirth of England and English, pgs. 20-1).

Unsurprisingly, he like Tolkien stood firmly against the Industrial Revolution and the mechanization of life that came with it (pgs. 69-74).

The South, inheritor of much of the English tradition exemplified in men like Rev Barnes and Tolkien, has carried forth such a regard for nature.  John Crowe Ransom gave a classic statement of it in ‘Reconstructed but Unregenerate’ (1931).  Remarking on the European conservatism present in the South, he wrote,

I have in mind here the core of unadulterated Europeanism, with its self-sufficient, backward-looking, intensely provincial communities.  The human life of English provinces long ago came to terms with nature, fixed its roots somewhere in the spaces between the rocks and in the shade of the trees, founded its comfortable institutions, secured its modest prosperity—and then willed the whole in perpetuity to the generations which should come after, in the ingenuous confidence that it would afford them all the essential human satisfactions.  For it is the character of a seasoned provincial life that it is realistic, or successfully adapted to its natural environment, and that as a consequence it is stable, or hereditable.  But it is the character of our urbanized, anti-provincial, progressive, and mobile American life that it is in a condition of eternal flux.  Affections, and long memories, attach to the ancient bowers of life in the provinces; but they will not attach to what is always changing (I’ll Take My Stand, p. 5).

Wendell Berry, another traditionalist Southern Agrarian writing some 50 years after Mr Ransom, expanded on his ideas in ‘Two Economies’ (1983):

Any little economy that sees itself as unlimited is obviously self-blinded.  It does not see its real relation of dependence and obligation to the Great Economy; in fact, it does not see that there is a Great Economy.  Instead, it calls the Great Economy “raw material” or “natural resources” or “nature” and proceeds with the business of putting it “under control.”

But “control” is a word more than ordinarily revealing here, for its root meaning is to roll against, in the sense of a little wheel turning in opposition.  The principle of control, then, involves necessarily the principle of division:  one thing may turn against another thing only by being divided from it.  This mechanical division and turning in opposition William Blake understood as evil, and he spoke of “Satanic wheels” and “Satanic mills”:  “wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic/Moving by compulsion each other.”  By “wheel without wheel,” Blake meant wheel outside of wheel, one wheel communicating motion to the other in the manner of two cogwheels, the point being that one wheel can turn another wheel outside itself only in a direction opposite to its own.  This, I suppose, is acceptable enough as a mechanism.  It becomes “Satanic” when it becomes a ruling metaphor and is used to describe and to organize fundamental relationships.  Against the Satanic “wheel without wheel,” Blake set the wheels of Eden, which “Wheel within wheel in freedom revolve, in harmony and peace.”  This is the “wheel in the middle of a wheel” of Ezekiel’s vision, and it is an image of harmony.  That the relation of these wheels is not mechanical we know from Ezekiel 1:21:  “the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.”  The wheels of opposition oppose the spirit of the living creature.

What had happened, as Blake saw accurately and feared justifiably, was a fundamental shift in the relation of humankind to the rest of creation.  Sometime between, say, Pope’s verses on the Chain of Being in An Essay on Man and Blake’s “London,” the dominant minds had begun to see the human race, not as a part or a member of Creation, but as outside it and opposed to it.  . . .

 . . . As Blake foresaw, and as we now know, what we turn against must turn against us.  Blake’s image of the cogwheels turning in relentless opposition is terrifyingly apt, for in our vaunted war against nature, nature fights back.  . . .  I do not mean to imply here that, by living in harmony with nature, we can be free of floods and storms and drouth and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions; I am only pointing out, as many other have done, that, by living in opposition to nature, we can cause natural calamities of which we would otherwise be free (The Art of the Commonplace, pgs. 231-2).

That the things they wrote of have truly manifested in the South is borne out well in a description - found in Robert Beverley’s 1705 book The History and Present State of Virginia - of the summer house of Col William Byrd I of Virginia, a description which should now appear quite familiar:

Have you pleasures in a Garden?  All things thrive in it, most surpriseingly [sic]; you can’t walk by a Bed of Flowers, but besides the entertainment of their Beauty, your Eyes will be saluted with the charming colours of the Humming Bird, which revels among the Flowers, and licks off the Dew and Honey from their tender Leaves, on which it only feeds.  It’s size is not half so large as an English Wren, and its colour is a glorious shining mixture of Scarlet, Green, and Gold.  Colonel Byrd, in his Garden, which is the finest in that Country, has a Summer-House set round with the Indian Honey-Suckle, which all the summer is continually full of sweet Flowers, in which these Birds delight exceedingly.  Upon these Flowers, I have seen ten or a dozen of these beautiful Creatures together, which sported about me so familiarly, that with their little Wings they often fann’d my Face (Lewis P. Simpson, The Dispossessed Garden, pgs. 15, 16; quote at 16).

One also catches glimpses of this Orthodox spirit in the later life of the South:  in Gen Robert E. Lee’s special relationship with his horse Traveller and in the concern shown by the Southern Army for their work animals during the War.

In a letter to his daughter Agnes, Gen Lee wrote on 6 Feb. 1863 of the latter.  In the midst of so many woes and cares, see where his thoughts were dwelling:

Here you will have to take me with the three stools—the snow, the rain, and the mud. The storm of the last twenty-four hours has added to our stock of all, and we are now in a floating condition. But the sun and the wind will carry all off in time, and then we shall appreciate our relief. Our horses and mules suffer the most. They have to bear the cold and rain, tug through the mud, and suffer all the time with hunger (Capt R. E. Lee, Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee; bolding added).

Of Gen Lee and Traveller (and of Gen Lee’s appreciation of the beauty of the creation besides) we have this note from Lee’s son:

My father's affection for his horses was very deep and strong. In a letter written from the Springs one summer, to his clerk in Lexington, he says:

"How is Traveller? Tell him I miss him dreadfully, and have repented of our separation but once—and that is the whole time since we parted."

I think Traveller appreciated his love and sympathy, and returned it as much as was in a horse's nature to do. As illustrative of this bond between them, a very pretty story was told me by Mrs. S. P. Lee [Daughter of General W. N. Pendleton, Chief of Artillery of the A. N. Va., and widow of Colonel Edwin Grey Lee, C. S. A.]:

"One afternoon in July of this year, the General rode down to the canal-boat landing to put on board a young lady who had been visiting his daughters and was returning home. He dismounted, tied Traveller to a post, and was standing on the boat making his adieux, when some one called out that Traveller was loose. Sure enough, the gallant gray was making his way up the road, increasing his speed as a number of boys and men tried to stop him. My father immediately stepped ashore, called to the crowd to stand still, and advancing a few steps gave a peculiar low whistle. At the first sound, Traveller stopped and pricked up his ears. The General whistled a second time, and the horse with a glad whinny turned and trotted quietly back to his master, who patted and coaxed him before tying him up again. To a bystander expressing surprise at the creature's docility the General observed that he did not see how any man could ride a horse for any length of time without a perfect understanding being established between them. My sister Mildred, who rode with him constantly this summer, tells me of his enjoyment of their long rides out into the beautiful, restful country. Nothing seemed to delight him so much (Capt R. E. Lee, Recollections and Letters).

(Concluding sections to follow.)

Works Cited

Berry, Wendell.  ‘Two Economies’.  The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry.  Wirzba, Norman, ed.  Berkeley, Cal.: Counterpoint, 2002.

Birzer, Bradley J.  J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth.  Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2009.

Farrell, Dr Joseph.  ‘Prolegomena’.  God, History, and Dialectic:  The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes and Their Cultural ConsequencesAnthonyFlood.com.  9 Sept. 2009.  http://www.anthonyflood.com/farrellghdprolegomena.htm  Accessed 8 Dec. 2014.

Lee, Captain Robert Edward.  Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee.  Originally published 1904.  EBook #2323 published Sept. 2000; updated 4 Feb. 2013.  http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2323/2323-h/2323-h.htm  Accessed 4 Dec. 2014.

Lossky, Vladimir.  The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.  Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, trans.  Crestwood, Ny.: SVS Press, 1976 [1944].

Moss, Vladimir.  ‘Quo Vadis, Science?’  Orthodox Christian Books.  http://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/articles/322/quo-vadis,-science/  Accessed 25 Nov. 2014.

Phillips, Father Andrew.  The Rebirth of England and English: The Vision of William Barnes.  Norfolk, England: Anglo-Saxon Books, 1996.

Ransom, John Crowe.  ‘Reconstructed but Unregenerate’.  I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition.  Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 2006.

Simpson, Lewis P.  The Dispossessed Garden: Pastoral and History in Southern Literature.  Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1975.

Tolkien, J. R. R.  The Lord of the Rings.  Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

By Walt Garlington

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Technology and the Creation in Southern Life and Thought - Part I

I.  The New God

The trinity recognized by Wendell Berry as ‘science-technology-and-industry’ is ascendant across large parts of the world today (Life Is a Miracle, pgs. 16, 19, 33).  Quantity, matter, force, the abstract, the utilitarian, and all the fruits of that triad dominate over quality, spirit, eloquent speech, the historical, and the traditional.  This is often touted as progress by Chambers of Commerce, universities, and government officials.  But this is not the way man was meant to live.  His relationship to the creation is meant to be one other than domination and exploitation.  By exploring the South’s Old English and Celtic roots, the Church Fathers, as well as the Southern tradition itself, we hope to put forward a better way of life grounded in unchanging Truth.

II.  Deceptive Beauty

The Southern Agrarian writer and rhetorician Richard Weaver wrote in ‘Forms and Social Cruelty’,

It must be conceded that some of the creations of modern technology are triumphs of form.  Their lines are so eloquent and so much ingenuity has gone into them that they seem “beautiful.”  They appear endowed with a life and a reason for being of their own.  The sleek body of the new-model car, the outline of an air transport against the sky—these can be pleasing to the aesthetic sense.  Such beauty and utility as they have can easily encourage the feeling that these killers are indispensable.  These are examples of tyrannical forms right in our midst, which we find easy to accept and make sacrifice for, even while we deplore the humanly expensive institutions of other cultures (Visions of Order, p. 84).

J. R. R. Tolkien, the great defender of the traditional ways of Old England and Northern Europe in general, wrote in a similar vein in a letter of his:

In a letter written in September 1954 my father said:  ‘At the beginning of the Second Age he [Sauron] was still beautiful to look at, or could still assume a beautiful visible shape – and was not indeed wholly evil, not unless all “reformers” who want to hurry up with “reconstruction” and “reorganization” are wholly evil, even before pride and the lust to exert their will eat them up.  The particular branch of the High Elves concerned, the Noldor or Loremasters, were always vulnerable on the side of “science and technology”, as we should call it:  they wanted to have the knowledge that Sauron genuinely had, and those of Eregion refused the warnings of Gil-galad and Elrond.  The particular “desire” of the Eregion Elves – an “allegory” if you like of a love of machinery, and technical devices – is also symbolized by their special friendship with the Dwarves of Moria (‘The History of Galadriel and Celeborn and of Amroth King of Lorien’, Unfinished Tales, note 8, p. 254).

The tie between the beautiful and the good has been sundered since the Fall.  We must now be on our guard against evil masked in a false, deceptive beauty, against Satan and his servants who masquerade as angels of light (II Cor. 11:14).  Father Sergius Bulgakov, who went astray with his sophiology, seems nevertheless to be on the right path when he wrote,

Beauty in nature is the breath of the Holy Spirit over the world.  Beauty is immanent to creation and clothes it.  Beauty is paradise in nature, whose traces are preserved in nature’s memory as a reflection of heaven, although in the fallen world beauty finds itself torn away from holiness.  This natural beauty is revealed to man, who is called to receive its revelation not only naturally but also spiritually, in the entirety and fullness of his spiritual being, directed at God.  For man, therefore, beauty is inseparable from holiness; it is not only natural but also “spiritual” beauty.  Beauty has its own laws; it is free of morality in the capacity of norm or law, but inwardly it is not independent of the integral human spirit.  Spiritual beauty is not a particular form of beauty or a place different from the world.  On the contrary, spiritual beauty consists of spiritual eyes that perceive the spiritual content of beauty and judge it.  There is no external criterion here, only an inner one.  For spiritual beauty, beauty and sin are incompatible, and the sinful reception of beauty or the reception of sin clothed in natural beauty (and in general the kind of abstract aestheticism that has sometimes found a place for itself in Orthodoxy, e.g., in Leontiev) is a contradiction. Evil that is clothed in natural beauty is not beautiful but grotesque, and not all things that appear to be beautiful are truly so.  For man, the most powerful and dangerous enchantments of nature are those that reside in beauty.  To reject beauty, to blaspheme it, is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, who is the source of beauty.  To be blind to beauty is to close oneself off from the breath of the Holy Spirit in nature.  To surrender oneself blindly to beauty, to abolish one’s spirituality for its sake, is to chase a phantom, for true beauty is spiritual, although it is revealed in nature.  Herein lies the tragedy, not of art, but of the artist, who in his creative activity is called to climb the mountainous path of ascent between two abysses – that of aestheticism and that of demonism (The Lamb of God, pgs. 155-6).

As Prof Weaver has just shown us, much of modern technology falls into this realm of deceptive beauty, being a type of art or craft informed by an evil spirit.  And these words are not used simply for effect.  In Dr Stanley Monteith’s book Brotherhood of Darkness we find the following written about the inventor Thomas Edison:

Thomas Edison was one of Madame Blavatsky’s most famous disciples.  By following her teachings, he learned to meditate, and during his periods of contemplation he accessed the occult power she promoted.  That was the source of his genius and the force behind his amazing career.  Because of his dedication to Madam Blavatsky’s teaching he changed the world in which we live (p. 80).

Indeed, Michael Hoffman II wrote that it is the desire and goal of the devil’s followers to transform humanity and all the creation through human will alone (i.e., technology), without God.

In the opposite corner from Church and Throne, is the philosophy which describes itself as "The Rite of Perfection." This is the alternate name for the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, the most powerful masonic order in the world. This is the occult philosophy of not only the Novus Ordo Seclorum--the so-called New Order of the Ages—but also of the Elizabethan Age and long before it as well.

This is the intellectual conceit that the universe—God's natural Creation—is going to be "perfected" by the god-like intervention of the omnipotent human intellect, symbolized by the pentagram.

This is the belief which informs the entire occult project from the Pythagorean to the Enlightenment and is made all the more astonishingly pathological when one recalls that this mission was approached at a time in history when the earth was abundant with vast tracts of virgin forests, oceans and jungles, organic soil and produce and pure air and water. Yet in the midst of this pinnacle of throbbing natural, pristine beauty and purity the Rosicrucian initiate Robert Fludd dedicated himself to the "regeneration of the (natural) world."

The standard disinformation intended for the uninitiated has always been that Fludd was speaking metaphorically, about the spiritual plane. Actually, Fludd was doing both: addressing himself to the literal manipulation of nature by human brain power as well as to the consequences of such "regeneration" in the realm of "magic" and spirit.

This philosophy emerged in the open in Europe with the Renaissance and it is also true, as historian Frances Yates writes, "...it was in its origins that the occult philosophy of the Renaissance had inspired some of the most exquisite productions of Renaissance culture." In other words, in the majestic incense of Renaissance art there is also the whiff of the sulfurous (Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, pgs. 27-8).

We may be seeing the fruition of this infernal vision in the emerging field of ‘synthetic biology’:

A Switzerland based company called Evolva has developed a synthetic vanilla that is set to be released in 2014. The vanilla is created using a process of genetic engineering called synthetic biology.

Synthetic biology, according to a 2005 European Commission paper is “…the engineering of biology… the synthesis of complex, biologically based (or inspired) systems which display functions that do not exist in nature.” Unlike the older science of splicing genes from different species together, synthetic biology is seeking to create whole new organisms that do not exist on earth.

 . . .

Synthetic biology goes well beyond engineering our food. Geneticist Craig Venter is a pioneer in the field of synthetic biology. In 2010 the media hailed his team’s success in creating “the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”

Currently, companies cannot patent naturally occuring DNA. Synthetic biology will allow syn-bio companies a loophole through patent laws. “One could theoretically upload a DNA sequence onto a computer, “print out” an exact copy of that DNA sequence, and patent the synthetic DNA sequence as an invention,” Gene Watch reports.

Google founder Larry Page met with Craig Venter in California at the Edge billionaires meeting in 2010. Also present were representatives from the State department, Bill Gates, Anne Wojcicki, Bill Joy and dozens of other tech company CEO’s and scientists.

The Edge Billionaire meetings have discussed the future of genetic engineering, biocomputation and re-designing humanity in a transhumanist era. Physicist Freeman Dyson described the individuals leading this group as having god-like power to create entirely new species on earth in a “New Age of Wonder”. He describes them as:

“…a new generation of artists, writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses, might create an abundance of new flowers and fruit and trees and birds to enrich the ecology of our planet.”

 . . . (Daniel Taylor, ‘New Form of GMO Sneaking into Food Supply This Year’, Infowars.com).

In the movement known as ‘posthumanism’ we see the same powers of darkness at work:

The posthumanist movement sees the age of transition as an acceleration of history towards technological explosion, whose culmination is to be expected no later than the year of 2050, when, it is predicted, the singularity is to finally commence. The term has many meanings, but posthumanists usually apply two among them. The first, made possible by one of the inciters of digital revolution, John von Neumann, says the singularity is a moment in history when a torrent of technological progress becomes so strong, so quick and so pervasive that human life in turn becomes irrevocably transformed. Contemporary posthumanists join this to a fully developed artificial intelligence immeasurably stronger than that of man and the final assimilation of not only human beings, but the universe in toto, with intelligent machines.

Singularity’s second meaning, brimming with religious pathos for posthumanists, is a hypothetical construction taken from the field of theoretical physics: singularity is a point in which the curve of time/space vectors becomes infinite, thus creating the point of infinite mass and, consequently, infinite gravity field. What happens in singularity remains hidden from the outside observer, because gravity annihilates any movement contrary to it, and so light cannot escape it once in its field. In that sense, physical singularity can be visualized only by analogies, because the witness passing over its threshold can never return to relate what he has seen. This threshold is termed event horizon. Singularity denies return to anything that enters it, and this means we can talk about it only in mathematical constructions or images, outside observers blind to its shape and form, but certain of its existence in all its magnificence. Bearing in mind the necessity of light for perception as well as the construction of metaphors, this phenomenon is also known as a black hole.

 . . .

Why compare the acceleration of technological growth with the properties of cosmic monstrosities, frequently the inspiration for creators of science fiction? Namely because there exists a strikingly correct analogy between them, and the posthumanists are all too eager to exploit it. The idea is that the absolute peak of technological progress is not merely a contingency. It is a moment in the future acting as causa finalis, transforming everything “moving” towards it; it is the endpoint of evolution, and not only of biological life, but of the universe as a totality. Man is the being through and by which the discarding of biology is coming to pass, because he is capable of creating technology and, by dissolving his biological foundation, integrating himself into the world-system. He is able to assume a form perfectly appropriate for dead infinity – that of the machine (Branko Malic, ‘A Perfect Murder’, The Soul of the East).

The danger of such works and theories is confirmed by the Church.

(Further sections to follow.)

Works Cited

Berry, Wendell.  Life Is a Miracle: An Essay against Modern Superstition.  Berkeley, Ca.: Counterpoint, 2001.

Bulgakov, Father Sergius.  The Lamb of God.  Jakim, Boris, trans.  Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2008 [1933].

Hoffman II, Michael A.  Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare.  Dresden, Ny.: Wiswell Ruffin House, 1992.

Malic, Branko.  ‘A Perfect Murder’.  The Soul of the East.  26 Nov. 2014.  http://souloftheeast.org/2014/11/26/transhumanism-genocide/  Accessed 1 Dec. 2014.

Monteith, Dr Stanley.  Brotherhood of Darkness.  Crane, Missouri: Highway, 2000.

Taylor, Daniel.  ‘New Form of GMO Sneaking into Food Supply This Year’.  Infowars.com.  17 March 2014.  http://www.infowars.com/new-form-of-gmo-sneaking-into-food-supply-this-year/  Accessed 1 December 2014.

Tolkien, J. R. R.  ‘The History of Galadriel and Celeborn and of Amroth King of Lórien’.  Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth.  Tolkien, Christopher, ed.  Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1980, pgs. 228-67.

Weaver, Richard M.  ‘Forms and Social Cruelty’.  Visions of Order: The Cultural Crisis of Our Time.  Wilmington, Del.: ISI, 2006 [1964], pgs. 73-91.

By Walt Garlington