Wednesday, November 16, 2022

‘The Southern Gestell’


One of those thoughtful, deep essays about the South that still come along every now and then, this one by Dr Robert Peters:

The controversial German philosopher Martin Heidegger transformed a common German word  “Gestell” or “lattice work” into a metaphysical paradox which, on the one hand, is that which motivates or underpins the will, as if an inner drive, but which, on the other hand, is something “outside” which draws out the will and gives it form.

Is there a peculiar Southern Gestell: that which motivates from within but also that which draws from without?   The word “peculiar” gives the question a unique flavor because is denotation is “that which is special or particular” and its connotation is “that which is odd.”  The South presents itself as both: special and odd.  The etymology of “peculiar” reveals a deep agrarian foundation.  It is an ancient term “peculium” which means “property in cattle,” the very foundation of wealth.

This peculiar Southern Gestell can be apprehended, if not fully comprehended, by those who have the requisite sensibilities or the metaphorical apophenia for such insight.

Southerners, at least the remnant who are still “Southern,” understand that there is a transcendent metaphysical Reality which draws to Itself (one side of Heidegger’s paradox) and demands a response in duty, obligation and responsibility.  It is not a coincidence that Robert E. Lee understood “duty” to be the most sublime word in our language.  It is the counterpose to the Enlightenment notion of “rights.”  The Southerner understand that the Cosmos is a tragedy, a tragedy which begins with the hamartia of the Fall and which finds it resolution in the catharsis of the crucified Christ.   Our lives are lived out in this tension field between the Fall and Redemption. We know intuitively that God’s wrath, curse and judgment are working their way through the cosmic timeline while His grace, mercy and redemption are making their way on the same course, both vortexing onto the suffering Christ who embraces the Cross.  The Southerner understands that, as the poet stated in “The Dream of the Rood,” the Cross is both Victory-Beam and Doom-Beacon.  For the thief on the right of Christ who embraced His righteousness, the Cross was a Victory-Beam; for the thief on the left who rejected His righteousness, the Cross was a Doom-Beacon.  Although this metaphysical orientation gets weaker with each generation, Flannery O’Connor comment is likely still valid: the South is at least Christ-haunted.

A corollary to the apprehension of the Divine is hierarchy which means “holy order” and not “pecking order.”  The Cosmos manifests itself in hierarchy, from galaxies to bee hives, right down to chickens where it can indeed become a “pecking order.”  . . .

The rest is at


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

Anathema to the Union!

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