Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Millennials, Astrology, and St Basil the Great

It is reported that astrology/the Zodiac is gaining in popularity among the younger bairn-teams (generations), at least partly as a reaction against the mechanistic tech world in which they are all so deeply immersed.

But the problem is that they are jumping from one mechanistic system into another.  The Zodiac is as destructive of free will as the specialization, division of labor, repetitive work tasks, etc. that are the result of the triumph of technology. 

For those willing to listen, here are a few words of warning from a Holy Father, St Basil the Great (+379), about the Zodiac:

5.  But those who overstep the borders,1582 making the words of Scripture their apology for the art of casting nativities, pretend that our lives depend upon the motion of the heavenly bodies, and that thus the Chaldæans read in the planets that which will happen to us.1583  By these very simple words “let them be for signs,” they understand neither the variations of the weather, nor the change of seasons; they only see in them, at the will of their imagination, the distribution of human destinies.  What do they say in reality?  When the planets cross in the signs of the Zodiac, certain figures formed by their meeting give birth to certain destinies, and others produce different destinies.

Perhaps for clearness sake it is not useless to enter into more detail about this vain science.  I will say nothing of my own to refute them; I will use their words, bringing a remedy for the infected, and for others a preservative from falling.  The inventors of astrology seeing that in the extent of time many signs escaped them, divided it and enclosed each part in narrow limits, as if in the least and shortest interval, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,1584 to speak with the Apostle, the greatest difference should be found between one birth and another.  Such an one is born in this moment; he will be a prince over cities and will govern the people, 85in the fulness of riches and power.  Another is born the instant after; he will be poor, miserable, and will wander daily from door to door begging his bread.  Consequently they divide the Zodiac into twelve parts, and, as the sun takes thirty days to traverse each of the twelve divisions of this unerring circle, they divide them into thirty more.  Each of them forms sixty new ones, and these last are again divided into sixty.  Let us see then if, in determining the birth of an infant, it will be possible to observe this rigorous division of time.  The child is born.  The nurse ascertains the sex; then she awaits the wail which is a sign of its life.  Until then how many moments have passed do you think?  The nurse announces the birth of the child to the Chaldæan:  how many minutes would you count before she opens her mouth, especially if he who records the hour is outside the women’s apartments?  And we know that he who consults the dial, ought, whether by day or by night, to mark the hour with the most precise exactitude.  What a swarm of seconds passes during this time!  For the planet of nativity ought to be found, not only in one of the twelve divisions of the Zodiac, and even in one of its first subdivisions, but again in one of the sixtieth parts which divide this last, and even, to arrive at the exact truth, in one of the sixtieth subdivisions that this contains in its turn.  And to obtain such minute knowledge, so impossible to grasp from this moment, each planet must be questioned to find its position as regards the signs of the Zodiac and the figures that the planets form at the moment of the child’s birth.  Thus, if it is impossible to find exactly the hour of birth, and if the least change can upset all, then both those who give themselves up to this imaginary science and those who listen to them open-mouthed, as if they could learn from them the future, are supremely ridiculous.

6.  But what effects are produced?  Such an one will have curly hair and bright eyes, because he is born under the Ram; such is the appearance of a ram.  He will have noble feelings; because the Ram is born to command.  He will be liberal and fertile in resources, because this animal gets rid of its fleece without trouble, and nature immediately hastens to reclothe it.  Another is born under the Bull:  he will be enured to hardship and of a slavish character, because the bull bows under the yoke.  Another is born under the Scorpion; like to this venomous reptile he will be a striker.  He who is born under the Balance will be just, thanks to the justness of our balances.  Is not this the height of folly?  This Ram, from whence you draw the nativity of man, is the twelfth part of the heaven, and in entering into it the sun reaches the spring.  The Balance and the Bull are likewise twelfth parts of the Zodiac.  How can you see there the principal causes which influence the life of man?  And why do you take animals to characterize the manners of men who enter this world?  He who is born under the Ram will be liberal, not because this part of heaven gives this characteristic, but because such is the nature of the beast.  Why then should we frighten ourselves by the names of these stars and undertake to persuade ourselves with these bleatings?  If heaven has different characteristics derived from these animals, it is then itself subject to external influences since its causes depend on the brutes who graze in our fields.  A ridiculous assertion; but how much more ridiculous the pretence of arriving at the influence on each other of things which have not the least connexion!  This pretended science is a true spider’s web; if a gnat or a fly, or some insect equally feeble falls into it it is held entangled; if a stronger animal approaches, it passes through without trouble, carrying the weak tissue away with it.1585

7.  They do not, however, stop here; even our acts, where each one feels his will ruling, I mean, the practice of virtue or of vice, depend, according to them, on the influence of celestial bodies.  It would be ridiculous seriously to refute such an error, but, as it holds a great many in its nets, perhaps it is better not to pass it over in silence.  I would first ask them if the figures which the stars describe do not change a thousand times a day.  In the perpetual motion of planets, some meet in a more rapid course, others make slower revolutions, and often in an hour we see them look at each other and then hide themselves.  Now, at the hour of birth, it is very important whether one is looked upon by a beneficent star or by an evil one, to speak their language.  Often then the astrologers do not seize the moment when a good star shows itself, and, on account of having let this fugitive moment escape, they enrol the newborn under the influence of a bad genius.  I am compelled to use their own words.  What madness!  But, above all, what impiety!  For the evil stars throw the blame of their wickedness upon Him Who made them.  If evil is inherent in their nature, the 86Creator is the author of evil.  If they make it themselves, they are animals endowed with the power of choice, whose acts will be free and voluntary.  Is it not the height of folly to tell these lies about beings without souls?  Again, what a want of sense does it show to distribute good and evil without regard to personal merit; to say that a star is beneficent because it occupies a certain place; that it becomes evil, because it is viewed by another star; and that if it moves ever so little from this figure it loses its malign influence.

But let us pass on.  If, at every instant of duration, the stars vary their figures, then in these thousand changes, many times a day, there ought to be reproduced the configuration of royal births.  Why then does not every day see the birth of a king?  Why is there a succession on the throne from father to son?  Without doubt there has never been a king who has taken measures to have his son born under the star of royalty.  For what man possesses such a power?  How then did Uzziah beget Jotham, Jotham Ahaz, Ahaz Hezekiah?  And by what chance did the birth of none of them happen in an hour of slavery?  If the origin of our virtues and of our vices is not in ourselves, but is the fatal consequence of our birth, it is useless for legislators to prescribe for us what we ought to do, and what we ought to avoid; it is useless for judges to honour virtue and to punish vice.  The guilt is not in the robber, not in the assassin:  it was willed for him; it was impossible for him to hold back his hand, urged to evil by inevitable necessity.  Those who laboriously cultivate the arts are the maddest of men.  The labourer will make an abundant harvest without sowing seed and without sharpening his sickle.  Whether he wishes it or not, the merchant will make his fortune, and will be flooded with riches by fate.  As for us Christians, we shall see our great hopes vanish, since from the moment that man does not act with freedom, there is neither reward for justice, nor punishment for sin.  Under the reign of necessity and of fatality there is no place for merit, the first condition of all righteous judgment.  But let us stop.  You who are sound in yourselves have no need to hear more, and time does not allow us to make attacks without limit against these unhappy men.

Source:  The Hexaemeron, Homily VI, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf208.viii.vii.html, opened 29 Jan. 2018

Holy Basil, pray for us sinners!  (Holy icon from https://www.bostonmonks.com/product_info.php/cPath/27_50_78/products_id/195, 30 Jan. 2018)


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Hierarchy: The American Founding Fathers vs the Orthodox Church Fathers

We had just begun to speak of the importance of hierarchy in the last post.  God no more created men and women as disconnected, atomistic individuals (i.e., sovereign individuals) any more than He did the holy angels.  Both exist within hierarchy; both are actually part of one great hierarchy that includes all the created world, seen and unseen.

Dr Clark Carlton, a native Southerner, quoting Archbishop Alexander Golitzin, defines hierarchy this way:

A hierarchy is therefore a community, a single corporate organism, bound together by the exercise of a loving and mutual providence, whose origins and enabling power come directly from God.  This corporate element means that the given creature, angel or human being, discovers its salvation and deification as the member of a community.  The path to union lies through and within hierarchy, not outside of it.

Archbishop Alexander, quoting St Dionysius the Areopagite, says further about hierarchy,

Hierarchy, in my opinion, is a sacred order, and knowledge, and activity, assimilated, so far as possible, to the divine likeness, and led up in due degree to the illuminations given it from God for the imitation of God (p. 163)

The deiform hierarchy is filled with sacred justice, and administers that which each deserves in a saving manner, granting in due time and sacred manner each one’s share in divine things in accordance with due measure and analogy (p. 166).

This is the all-holy law of the Thearchy, that [the beings of the] second [rank] are to be led up to its most divine radiance through [the beings of the] first [rank] (p. 168).

The purpose . . . of a hierarchy is the assimilation to, and unity with, God, possessing him as guide of every sacred science and activity, and looking as unswervingly as possible to his most divine beauty, both conforming and perfecting its participants as divine images, most transparent mirrors, and unspotted recipients of the primordial light’s Thearchic ray who, being filled in sacred manner with the radiance thus bestowed, unselfishly illumine in their turn those who follow [them] in accordance with the divine ordinances (pgs. 173-4).

The difference between the American/Western social compact composed of discreet, completely disconnected atom-citizens who are related to one another like marbles in box, and the Orthodox hierarchy of interconnected men and angels could not be more striking.  The telos or end of the first is the freedom of the individual from as many constraints as possible.  But as others have asked, ‘Freedom to do what?’  Whatever fits into his definition of ‘life, liberty, and property/pursuit of happiness’.  Therefore, the goal of the first is nihilism dressed up as freedom.  But the telos of Christian hierarchy is salvation:  attaining ‘the likeness of God and union with him’ (St Nikodemos of Mt Athos, A Discourse in Praise of the Archpriesthood, The Orthodox Word, No. 285, 2012, p. 169).  From the first comes the darkness, chaos, and conflict of hell; from the second, the light, beauty, and harmony of heaven.

The South, thanks be to God, had the idea of hierarchy in mind from her beginning:

In seventeenth-century Virginia, order was fundamentally a hierarchical conception.  The classical expression of this idea was the Anglican Homily of Obedience, which was read in the churches of the colony:

Almighty God hath created and appointed all things in heaven, earth and waters, in a most excellent and perfect order.  In heaven he hath appointed distinct and several orders and states of archangels and angels.  In earth he hath assigned and appointed kings, princes and other governors under them, all in good and necessary order. . . .  The sun, moon, stars, rainbow, thunder, lightning, clouds and all birds in the air do keep their order.  The earth, trees, seeds, plants, herbs, corn, grass, and all manner of beasts keep themselves in order. . . .  And man himself hath all his parts . . . members of his body in a profitable, necessary and pleasant order.  Every degree of people in their vocations, calling and office, hath appointed them their duty and order.  Some are in high degree; some in low, and every one have need of the other (David H. Fischer, Albion’s Seed, Oxford UP, 1989, p. 398).

And this ideal still holds some sway in the South, though not nearly as much as at first, because of the inroads the modern mindset has made since the end of the War, which preaches the destruction of all hierarchy (always described ominously as ‘oppressive’).  Amongst the common people, it is manifested in the careful use of proper titles, like Doctor, Pastor, Coach, etc.; in saying Yes, sir, and Yes, ma’am; and such things.

Southern leaders continue to uphold it, too.  Wendell Berry, for ensample, a Southerner of the present day of high rank, warns mankind not to forget that he belongs to an orderly Chain of Being (an image of hierarchy used since ancient times, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_chain_of_being), that doing so imperils him and the creation (see e.g., ‘Poetry and Place’, Standing by Words, Counterpoint, 1983, p. 180).

The most well-known expression of Southern hierarchy, though not the only one (it was present also, e.g., in the extended family and in one’s neighborhood), was slavery (or paternalism, warrenteeism, or whatever name one wants to give it).  It began as something akin to a caste system, with permanent lords and underlings, which is a corruption of true hierarchy (something we shall see in a moment), coming into being as a way for the Southern planters to enjoy the life of contemplation and good fellowship, focus on governance, and so on.  But it would grow in likeness to a hierarchy as the system was influenced by Christian thought, though it never quite got there (efforts were made to enlighten the slaves with the Christian faith, which is most important, but other knowledge like reading and writing was more or less withheld).  This likeness is illustrated quite clearly by the statement of the slave Tom to his master Porgy in William Gilmore Simms’s novel Woodcraft (published in 1852):

Ef I doesn’t b’long to you, you b’long to me! . . . You b’long to me Tom, jes’ as much as me Tom b’long to you; and you nebber guine git you free paper from me long as you lib.

Source:  Lewis P. Simpson, The Dispossessed Garden, U of Georgia Press, 1975, p. 59.

This reflects the Orthodox vision of hierarchy as described by St Dionysius (paraphrased by Pachymeres), in his writing of the angelic hierarchy, in which the Seraphim are at the highest level, the ones closest to God (http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/11/angels-according-to-orthodox-tradition.html):

Some say that the lowest angel is also called Seraphim, according to the same principal of communion spoken of above, for the lowest ones participate in the highest, and the highest in the lower, although the latter do so totally, while the former partially and in a more obscure manner.

Source:  Fr Dumitru Staniloae, The Experience of God, Vol. 2. The World: Creation and Deification, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2000, p. 145.

In both cases, the various orders from lower to higher are not totally separate as in a caste but mingle with one another without destroying the identity and integrity of the orders.  This again is a reflection of Trinitarian life (ibid.), wherein each Person, in His boundless love for and humility towards the other Two, is interpenetrated, indwelled, by the other Two, thereby confirming the unique identity of each Person (i.e., perichoresis: http://www.blackwellreference.com/public/tocnode?id=g9781405185394_chunk_g978140518539418_ss1-18).

In all of this we see that it is not the sovereign individual of Mr Mussomeli, Jefferson, et al., whose ties to others are largely voluntary and revocable at any time, who lives a good life in a just society.  Rather, it is the man (and angel) who lives in God-created hierarchy.

The Earthly Hierarchy.  Tsar Alexander III of Russia receives his sceptre during his coronation ceremony.  Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronation_of_the_Russian_monarch, 24 Jan. 2018

It is true that man has the gift of free will, but this does not mean that he must use it like an alchemical power to create and re-create his reality to suit his whim - to dissolve and co-agulate a government, a belief system about God, etc. in order to prove his likeness to God.  Indeed, when the heart has been enlightened by God’s uncreated Grace, it will have no desire for ‘choice’ - only a deep longing for the Holy Trinity, a longing to be a slave of Christ, of man, and of all the creation.

Man is part of a hierarchy, whether he wishes it or not.  He cannot change this by making a decision with his discursive reason.  The South has too often, since her break with the Mother Country, tried to have it both ways, to affirm both hierarchy and the sovereign individual.  But such a system is a chimera, a monster, that will only destroy Dixie (and anyone else who tries to implement it) in due time.  And the beast is pretty near to being full grown here in the South.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!