As “black history month” comes to a close, I refer you to “Henry Louis Gates: ‘Exactly How “Black” Is Black America?’” on Steve Sailer’s site. If you do not remember, it was Professor Gates to whom the Cambridge cops “acted stupidly”—in the words of our Padishah. Anyway, Gates has been interested in population DNA analysis for some time, and he has written about it in The Root. Fascinating.
Last month on The Orthosphere, Kristor published “The Production of Righteousness” about the ultimate aim of social policy. The post and its comments are worth reading.
In undergrad., I remember reading various facile distinctions between the legitimate aims of secular society and those of the Church. A common marker was that politics aimed for material well-being while religion aimed for spiritual well-being. A more respectable opinion held that the commonwealth inculcated the natural virtues, while the Church cultivated the theological virtues. I found and continue to find these distinctions bogus. If the ultimate aim—the highest good—of man is God, then all other considerations follow from that. If a king is to consider the good of his people, then he must facilitate their attainment of the highest good, in relation to which all other goods have their place and meaning. If the bishop’s job is to shepherd his flock toward salvation, he, too, must concern himself with their character development and with conditions conducive to living morally. A king and a bishop in a Christian society wear different crowns (figuratively if not literally, thanks to the Turks!), but the common delineations of their duties remain unsatisfactory. One leads the institution of the state, which is simply the organizing power of the whole people for the preservation of society, while the other leads the ecclesiastic institution, which is simply the organizing power of the whole people (in a Christian society) for the salvation of souls. However, measures that preserve society and those that foster spiritual growth largely overlap. It is for this reason that “Church and state” ought to cooperate in a partnership—a symphony—for the good of men.
Earlier in the month, Bruce Charlton posted a short but powerful summary of our contemporary predicament in “The extreme depravity of modern Western leaders.” While I read Charlton’s description of the modern Western elite, I thought of Eliot’s observation from The Cocktail Party:
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm—but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
May the age of self esteem soon become an age of repentence!
I wish everyone who observes Ash Wednesday today a beneficial lenten season. (This year, Orthodox Pascha occurs five weeks after the Western observance. So, it will be some time before Lent begins for us.)
I also ask that you pray for the well-being and salvation of Lawrence Auster. You may know that his health has deteriorated over the last few months (see “A Prayer for Lawrence Auster” from last month). Yesterday evening, he shared very “Bad news on the Auster health front.” It is grim, though the man is displaying admirable equanimity.
I have read Auster’s site almost every day that I have had computer access since I discovered his page in A.D. 2008. The resulting post of that discovery, “Auster’s View from the Right,” was among this site’s early entries. Ever since, View from the Right has provided me many, many hours of enlightenment, entertainment, and even a form of comraderie. On a purely selfish level, I do not want to lose what Auster gives. For he is an irreplaceable treasure, and his readership, his commentators, and the extended network of traditionalists online who have become his friends (including the folks at The Orthosphere and The Thinking Housewife) are without equal on the internet.
Moreover, Auster’s posts have inspired a good deal of Arimathea’s entries. A search for “Auster” on this page yields ninety-eight results. Today’s post will be the ninety-ninth. I expected that number to rise for years to come. It certainly will, God willing, as Auster’s observations, insights, and humor will not be forgotten. I just want the corpus austeri to be ever growing. The Lord, though, may have other plans. Perhaps, Irving Kristol has made even the saints triumphant weary over the last few years, and Lawrence is just the man to set him straight! For the time, though, Irving can wait. We need Auster here. Nonetheless, I cannot complain, as I am grateful to have had the opportunity to read and to correspond with a remarkable man. Many blessings to him!
Agence France-Presse yesterday published a lovely photograph of lightning’s striking the cupola of Saint Peter’s Basilica hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his forthcoming retirement: “Coup de tonnerre sur le Vatican.”
Several media outlets have covered it in tandem with their own papal retirement stories. As usual, I read the articles’ comments for the occasional amusing or insightful note. “Nick” commented on the Skye (AOL Weather) post:
It’s no coincidence that lightning struck the cross on top of the Vatican the day the pope announces his resignation. But people do not want to believe in a higher power so will do anything to write it off as coincidence. Even if God came down and sat on the roof they would say he was a cloud or something.
I smiled at the last line; it is true. Nick’s comment reminds me of “How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In” from The Last Battle. And the parable of the rich man and Lazarus makes the point more bluntly. My friend Andrew often refers to this vivid depiction of spiritual blindness by Lewis, and I think of it whenever I deal with skeptics. How many times have we heard atheists ridicule God as a groundless, superfluous fantasy? They are tragically like Lewis’ dwarfs (dwarves!) who cannot see the abundance of evidence all around them.
Concerning the lightning bolt at the Vatican yesterday, Humean skepticism has a point. Lightning happens, and men appear to impose interpretations on this rather regular occurrence when it is in their minds to do so. In other words, we only see meaning when we are looking for it. However, that does not rule out inherent meaning. If the world is intelligible, then I do not find it absurd that seemingly “independent” phenomena would intersect in ways that we recognize as “signs.” Coincidence? Well, coincidence is a way of describing events that appear unrelated to us, though no events are truly unrelated. It is just that our human perspectives are quite limited. I deal with a similar idea in “Meyer’s Intelligent Design,” and I elaborate further in “Is God an Accident?”:
I marvel at how clever creatures can draw explanatory principles from the empty well of chance. Chance does not explain; chance merely signifies the complicated levels on which intentional agents experience reality. With apologies to Aristotle, allow me to talk about my fictional pals, Bob and Matt. Bob the bartender owes Matt the Maytag repairman money that he intends to pay him when he sees him again. One day, Bob goes to Best Buy to buy his belle, Betty Sue, a microwave oven. Matt happens to be at Best Buy trying to catch up on the latest developments in the laundry machine trade. Bob sees Matt and pays him. We can say that Bob’s paying Matt when he did was the result of chance. There was agency by both men, but the result of their intended ends was not intended by either one of them. Chance explains an element in the story.
Yet, note that chance only indicates how the intended actions of two agents interelated in a wider theater than their own perspectives. When we consider a theater as wide as reality, what role does chance play? Is it not simply what we might call the order of being’s manifesting itself in motion? When people speak of chance, they often mean random and unpredictable. Yet, we observe everywhere the tendencies of nature and the probability of phenomena that betray an order. The universe has a structure that is intelligible. It has patterns that human reason perceives and understands. When we attribute causality to chance, we simply admit that we remain ignorant of the whole as was Bob of all the facts. Yet, Bob and Matt both acted as agents with will and ends, and they acted so in an orderly universe.
Coincidence, as a species of chance, is how we in our ignorance perceive simultaneous events when their relationship is not obvious. However, if the ideas interrelate as the eternal intelligible structure of reality, in the mind of God, then the manifestations of those ideas in time and place—in becoming—would expectably interrelate on the “horizontal” level, as well. Moreover, everything that happens in time has a causal relationship with everything else on the timeline; everything is part of that river. I suspect that pagan divinization and astrology originate in recognizing this aspect of the world. It is a metaphysically respectable point that has been besmirched by soothsayers’ capitalizing on ignorant man’s desires and fears.
Yesterday, Lawrence Auster expressed his disgust at the moronic, shortsighted leadership of the Republican Party in their thoughtless embrace of leftist policies—this time, “comprehensive immigration reform”: “GOP drinks the Kool-Aid.” As Auster notes in the comments thread, American conservatives’ surrender to their enemies is nothing new. Indeed, Auster frequently argues that the chief role of “conservatives” in American society has been to be the token, ineffective opposition.
Myself, I would enthusiastically support a certain kind of comprehensive immigration reform—namely, the re-institution of Immigration Act of 1924, though perhaps even that legislation is no longer adequate to save the nation. It is a shame that Congress did not pass such a law in the 1880’s. It is more of a shame that the nation wreckers replaced it in A.D. 1965. Not only has such foolishness stagnated the wages of the lower and middle classes for forty years, which thereby depressed native fertility (as large scale immigration almost always does), but it has also ensured the ultimate undoing of the American republic. Balkanized democracies cannot last long. What fiends!
The “intellectual” Right, if that is what we deign to call the remnants of William F. Buckley’s coalition, is no better than the politicians. Vdare has two recent articles about the cluelessness of both the Republicans and their “conservative” media and policy foundation cohorts. James Kirkpatrick reviews the sorry state of the ”National Review Institute Summit: Conservatism Inc. Stunned—But Not Stunned Enough To Consider Patriotic Immigration Reform,” and John Derbyshire comments on a recent speech by Eric Cantor to the American Enterprise Institute: “John Derbyshire Says Eric Cantor Made A Point—Conservatism Inc. Is Done. He Just Didn’t Mean To.” (Vdare needs to improve the quality of their posts’ titles.) The stories make for a dispiriting read.
However, my inner agitator wonders if the capitulation of the worthless Right may be better for the society in the long run according to the Chernyshevskite principle, “the worse, the better.” The flimsy and fraudulent house of cards must fall. Shouldn’t we just face the catastrophe honestly rather than waiting for the darkness to consume us as fire on both ends of the wick quickly melts the remaining wax of our social order? Let the G.O.P. pass away, and let another political movement replace it—one that acknowledges the oft stated plans and goals of the enemy.