Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Offsite Post: ‘Mankind Has Only Two Vocations – Magician or Priest’


Life is often presented to young men and women as offering a multitude of paths that may be taken – husband, wife, monk, nun, electrician, engineer, farmer, soldier, priest, etc.  But ultimately all of these choices will fall into one of two vocations, the magician or the priest.  The dividing line is how one chooses to approach the created world in which the All-Holy Trinity has placed him.

The magicians are those who wish to control nature for selfish purposes.  They may alternatively be called scientists.  Robert Kmita explains:

‘ . . . it must be plainly said that all of the mechanical ‘arts’ that led to the creation of engines and machines belong to the realm of what the Middle Ages and the Renaissance called ‘natural magic.’ Seeking to conceal their interests—which sometimes even extended to divination or demonic magic, and exceeded the lawful boundaries accepted by Christian theologians and secular leaders—some thinkers created new languages intended to disguise the magical and alchemical sources of their ‘science.’ Their identities may be a surprise: René Descartes (1596–1650), interested in achieving immortality; Robert Boyle (1627–1691), interested in communicating with the angelic world; Isaac Newton (1642–1727), interested in transmuting base metals into gold. And the list could go on.

‘At the root of such ‘occultist’ pursuits is always a thirst for power and immediacy, described by Tolkien as seeking “speed, reduction of labor, and reduction also to a minimum (or vanishing point) of the gap between the idea or desire and the result or effect.” It is precisely this thirst for power, in the form of an unrestrained desire to dominate nature, which permeates all the sciences of the modern world, something that Tolkien viewed with great concern.’

Dwight Longenecker continues this theme, writing,

‘Tolkien’s distinction elucidates the dilemmas we face as technology snowballs and threatens to blow up in our face. Put simply, the magic of Mordor is the machinery of murder. It is the pursuit of power for its own sake, and as such it constantly perceives the natural world merely as a raw material to be exploited, distorted, and destroyed. In Peter Jackson’s film version of Tolkien’s masterpiece, we see this machinery of murderous magic in full display as the twisted wizard Saruman destroys Fangorn—chewing up the forest to fuel his machines of war.’

Mr Longenecker then begins to reveal the opposite of the magician, whom J. R. R. Tolkien calls an artist,

‘He then goes on to explain the difference: “Their [the elves’] ‘magic’ is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations: more effortless, more quick, more complete (product, and vision in unflawed correspondence). And its object is Art not Power, sub-creation not domination and tyrannous re-forming of Creation.”’

And whom C. S. Lewis calls a miracle-worker,

‘In his book on miracles, C.S. Lewis made a similar distinction—not between elven magic and machines, but between magic and miracles. Magic is always a prideful attempt to distort or dominate nature for the magician’s own uses. Lewis’ thought is illustrated in the Narnia volume, The Magician’s Nephew. Digory’s uncle Andrew is the “minor magician” who uses magic to manipulate the children and to cause havoc which, Aslan warns, may lead to total annihilation. Miracles, Lewis asserts, never distort or destroy nature. Instead, they lead to a restoration, healing, or completion of the natural order. So, a healing miracle corrects what went wrong or what had become diseased. Our Lord’s nature miracles bring abundance and peace: A storm is calmed or bread and fish are multiplied. The miracles are “Elvish magic” because they are artful and creative, not manipulative and exploitative.’

But the better word is ‘priest,’ as Fr. Alexander Schmemann writes,

‘The first, the basic definition of man is that he is the priest.  He stands in the center of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God—and by filling the world with this eucharist [i.e., thanksgiving—W.G.], he transforms his life, the one that he receives from the world, into life in God, into communion with Him.  The world was created as the “matter,” the material of one all-embracing eucharist, and man was created as the priest of this cosmic sacrament’ (For the Life of the World, SVS Press, Crestwood, NY, 1973, p. 15).

This act of uniting the matter of creation with the Grace of God can happen in any number of ways, through prayer and ascetic exercises (as with monastics) or through an art like writing icons, which changes ordinary matter – wood, paint, etc. – into objects that transmit the Grace of God through images of Himself and His saints and angels to those who look upon and venerate those represented thereon.

But the highest fulfilment of this priestly act of transformational eucharist is the offering of the bread and wine, symbolic of all of man’s labors, to God upon the holy altar during the Divine Liturgy, Who in His kindness changes them through the action of the Holy Ghost into the Body and Blood of Christ.  This is the supreme miracle, the most sublime art and un-magic – this Holy Food – which is then distributed back to the people who supplied the elements that they may be woven together with God (to borrow St John Chrysostom’s words).  And having received this greatest of gifts, they then go out into the world once again, leaving the church, leaving heaven, spreading the Grace of God abroad to all the creatures they meet.

We are left again with this stark choice:  Either one offers everything to God as priest, or he sacrifices all the world to himself, as magician, to serve his own fallen, infernal desires.

Yet these two types do not have significance for individuals only.  They are also applicable to nations.  And the two nations who most closely resemble each of these types are the United States (magician) and Russia (priest).  This conclusion may be supported by considering the most representative objects and people of each country.

 . . .

The rest is here:


Or here:



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

Anathema to the Union!

No comments:

Post a Comment