Tuesday, October 28, 2014

III. Liberty

THE ORIGINAL TEXT on liberty from Christianity is Paul's: Do not allow your liberty to be an excuse for sin. All other texts are similar: All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial and I shall be enslaved by none. Juxtaposed is a position of extreme liberty with extreme discretion; liberty from the basic principles of this world (GNON) comes with a heavy price - responsibility to not misuse it.

THIS BASIC RESPONSIBILITY is not legal. The character of the liberty is itself extralegal; it is a setting aside of all rules and regulations that were set upon us. Discretion is required where no rules hold sway; but this is not so much a doing-away with rules, as a doing away with legal obligations. Discretion is itself a set of rules, but ones more subtle and adaptable than "if you don't do X you're getting stoned."

LIBERTY, like equality, cannot be an absolute. Liberty is always in reference to something; and the very question of what liberty is in reference to is the question which consumes most post-enlightenment debate. There is a certain fear that if liberty is defined positively; i.e. 'freedom to become X', 'freedom to do Y', it gives license to social engineers to take away all freedoms which do not tend towards that end.

A MAN WISHES TO SAIL THE SEA, but in order to do so, he must be confined in a boat. The freedom to cross the ocean is a real freedom, but so is the freedom to move about freely on foot. These freedoms contradict one another. Thus people argue endlessly about 'freedom' when what they really have in mind, the telos, differs. Because of this, they can without conflict claim others' ideas of freedom are in fact slavery, and vice versa.

THE CATCH on the Christian definition of liberty however, is that such liberty is in the Spirit. This is a peculiar expression, but indicates that mankind in general, as a rule, is not in a state of liberty from GNON post-incarnation. It indicates that Christians (specifically, baptized Christians) may be, but that such freedom comes through the Spirit itself, and not as some mental revelation.

BECAUSE OF THIS, the discussion of liberty must be one of potency; all human beings are potentially able to become baptized Christians, ergo, they are potentially able to be in complete liberty. But complete liberty, as we have noted above, simply means the freedom to will anything, not necessarily the freedom to fulfill it (since freedoms can contradict.) Thus we are, in the post-lapsarian state, not merely unable to fulfill what we wish, but often unable to wish what we wish.

IF LIBERTY IS in reference to something, we must ask 'what'. If man is granted freedom, what is this freedom for? Those who argue no purpose for such freedom realistically have little ground to stand on for arguing that it is even freedom at all. Thus such a position is self-closing; we can consider it answered by its own conditions.

MERELY ACKNOWLEDGING that we do not precisely know the purpose for our liberty does not call into question the existence of a purpose; unless we assume that because we did not know precisely of the New World in Europe prior to Columbus' journey that it probably didn't exist. There is a tendency to hold the tension of the unknown falsely; to make lipservice of admitting the mystery while in our minds making a series of unwarranted assumptions.

HUMAN FREEDOM, therefore, is attached to human being. To understand the purpose of human freedom requires understanding what a human being is, what it is for, and so on. Obviously therefore, if one does not believe that a human being is 'for' anything, human liberty must not be 'for' anything in particular.

GIVEN THIS STIPULATION we can only talk about freedom, meaningfully, in terms of ends. The first end of human beings is quite obviously to perpetuate themselves. Now, it is not the case that human beings exist to perpetuate 'humanity' - but rather, their own bloodlines. In the long run this fulfills the original command "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth."

PROLONGATION is the first end of man, And given man's abilities and nature his prolongation does not end with the body, but continues with the mind, the soul, the spirit. However, as men die, in order to meet their purpose, they must continue to live somehow. Different religions have proposed different solutions to this enigma, some even falling so low as to believe that men, like animals, are only prolonged through their descendents. Others have speculated that the soul transmigrates, which allows man to persist but destroys his psychosomatic identity, and yet others thought the soul itself to partake of life and thus continue after, without the body.

CHRISTIANITY proposes a different notion, that the dead shall be raised to life, and in that life the psychosomatic identity will be prolonged into the everlasting. All things resurrected must both be made new but also be the same thing they were before, else man's basic purpose go unfulfilled. As God is immortal, men being prolonged into the everlasting is being in likeness to him.

BUT IF THE RESURRECTION is of the body, then the life of the body is meaningful, and cannot be disregarded. Further, given that man is living, (his basic purpose) his purpose is then to glorify God. But what can this mean? People who attend church services think they know what it means, because they attach the words to certain events. But let us examine the concept more carefully.

TO EXALT GOD would mean to show forth the goodness of him; and in the example above we noted that as God is immortal, so man is meant to be immortal. And if immortality in man is shown to be glorious, then the Immortal One is shown to be glorious. Likewise with all things that God has impressed upon man; inasmuch as man exercises them rightly, they glorify the one whom they are taken from, the original.

IN THE GRAND SCHEME of things, praise and worship songs are small change in the glorification of the Infinite God. Therefore we think it not unreasonable to say that not only is man only truly able to be free in God, but that this freedom is directed towards the magnification and perfection of all of the characteristics that God placed of himself in man.

THE QUESTION OF FREEDOM as ensconced in the desire for liberation is irrelevant; actual liberation can only happen in the context in which the divine characteristics in man can be exercised and made excellent. Any liberation outside of this is an illusion or worse, a kind of bondage which sells itself as freedom - the very libel perpetuated against the Church by revolutionaries.

IF MEN ARE NOT FREE to become gods, then they are not free. They are brute beasts, whose fate it is to be torn to pieces.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

II. Equality

CONCERNING EQUALITY it seems that many, even those who ought to otherwise know better, have accepted the 'good' of 'human equality'. Unlike the Enlightenment and its revolutionaries, Christianity's relationship with human equality is not simple.

FIRSTLY, Christianity is not an ideology, which is to say, simply a system of ideas. Humans almost always have ideologies, and without fail they will take anything they come into contact with and integrate it into their ideology. Simpletons, while liable to being tricked and walking into danger unawares, rarely have the problem of trying to fit the faith into their preconceived structure. The tradeoff of low intelligence means fewer erroneous constructions.

GIVEN THIS TENDENCY, it is not surprising that humans of a given era might not merely stress aspects of the faith that fit that era's preoccupations, but in fact make assertion that those aspects are the faith, or even worse, are the Gospel itself. In the late 19th century with the rise of scientific socialism, many became obsessed with material welfare, especially of the poor. We could, without knowing any other facts, determine by reason that there must exist Christians - whether we mean errant sects or merely individuals - that made something like what we call 'the Social Gospel'.

EGALITARIANISM is no less a problem in this regard. Concerning the religion of The Cathedral, we would expect a Pope to come along mouthing its platitudes even as the faithful scratch their heads in confusion. This problem affects weak monarchs and any monarchical system will be forced to weather it and MUST be able to survive it if it is truly to be anti-fragile. This Gospel of Human Equality we would expect to have a form such as this "The Christ calls us to love all equally."

SUCH A PERNICIOUS DISTORTION is par for the course (let us recall Anselm's reduxion of all the various types in the crucifixion to merely 'offense of honor') for these form of 'Green Apostasies'. Met. Hilarion has said that like the different Martyrdoms, there are different Apostasies. In this case, we merely mean the gradual, organic adoption of STRANGE GODS which gradually, imperceptibly draw the Christian away from the Church. Usually these gods are mundane things like family, polite society and money, things which are goods in themselves and thus a mildly perverse relationship with them could go unnoticed for a long time.

THE COMPLEXITY HOWEVER, is this. There are ways in which humans ARE equal, but there are ways in which humans ARE NOT equal. Indeed I have said elsewhere that equality is also much simpler than inequality, since determining if things are equal is as simple as quantifying them and seeing if they are level. And then if not, leveling them out. Inequality involves more difficulties and more understanding of nature, both human and otherwise.

THE DIGNITY OF MAN is where man has equality; we understand these things to be 'the image of God' - freedom of will, uniqueness and relation. All human beings possess these properties and are thus 'equal' in their possession. The other way in which men are equal is in that they are all deserving of condemnation. That is another topic, but suffice it to say that death is the most effective equalizer. It is not surprising that egalitarians so often resort to it.

THE COROLLARY to this is that men may demonstrate these three properties in lesser or greater degrees and thus be more or less human. Indeed, we must acknowledge that those who have ceased to have freedom entirely, have ceased to be in any way unique, or have ceased to be capable of relationship (of which the primary expression is love) have at least in part ceased to be human.

WE MAKE FORBEARANCE for those in whom such things are still nascent, namely, children; an immature apple tree is not regarded as unfruitful or false if it bears no apples. We also do likewise for those in whom such properties are temporarily suppressed, namely the sick. But those who demonstrate that they have abandoned these aspects have rejected our natural equality.

IT IS ARGUABLE that second to delivering men from death, Christ came to foster the real virtue (real active goodness) in human beings. Virtue is difficult to quantify and is not the subject of equality, as virtues are several and humans bear them differently and in different degrees, naturally. Women are not naturally courageous, and men are not naturally sympathetic. And while courage certainly is the greater virtue (as the virtues do not have equality among them) it still follows that a particular inequality rules.

ALL INEQUALITY IS PARTICULAR, since while the only number to equal 1 is 1, there are countless numbers that do not equal one. Thus if we are to say 'what is unequal to one?' We must then ask, 'which'? Whereas if we were to ask 'what is equal to one?' there is only a single, universal answer: one. Such is an interesting way to view the difference between a generally universal property (inequality/equality) and a true Universalism (equality.) For the latter there is only one right answer, but for the former, there are BOTH right AND wrong answers. Note this well.

THE ACQUISITION OF VIRTUE necessarily entails inequality, for if one rises and another does not, the one who does not becomes inferior to the one who does. Humility says that we look on the precarious situation even great virtue is in first, before we congratulate ourselves for good habits and superior abilities. And of course none of these differences, no matter how important they may be whether in the world or in the world to come save one from needing to die; the first concern is to ensure that death does not stick.

THUS IN CHRISTIAN TERMS equality seems a rather bestial thing; certainly humans are equal in their ability to absorb nutrition, to grow, and to die. But because men are free, some will refuse to rise up for whatever reason they choose. To realize equality would mean to cut down men of great virtue on account of those who do not have it; and it is hubris to think that the world, though good in itself, is equally and completely safe for all human beings, and that survival is not part by skill, part by the mercy of God.

HUMANS ARE MULTIPLE, as we had learned from our basic texts, and their basic relationship is complementary and not identical. Given this we understand that man's created HUMAN state is in inequality - inequality with God, inequality amongst his brethren. It is when he falls that he comes both under equality (death) and gross inequality (the results of sin.) What we wish for is man's natural equality and natural inequality - his dignity and immortality on the first, and his differing roles, his complementarity and his varying greatness on the last.

IT IS WORTH NOTING that the icon of the Trinity (a representation but not a depiction) by Andrew Rublev shows this odd complexity; all of the members acknowledge one another with a bow, but the bows are not equal; both the middle and right figure are bowing deeply to the figure on the left, who acknowledges their submission. An equality of love and nature, but an inequality of rank and order. (To the members of the table, facing us, the superior figure is to the right.)

HIERARCHY'S ESSENCE is this: a common ground and a rank ordering. In some ways the things must naturally be equal (same) for their inequality to exist; and apple is neither equal nor unequal to a fork, unless they be denatured down to the point of mere mass. Such a thing has been done to men in the modern world.

WE HAVE BOTH LOST our natural equality and our natural inequality; and this is why people clamor for both.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I. An Introduction.

WHILE IT IS TRUE that I have had personal blogs from time to time, since they amount to a kind of intellectual journal, I have never settled on a format for my journal-as-such; my web-logs consisted mostly of collections of notes that intrigued me.

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEAD, however, represents the authorized voice of E. Antony Gray, speaking mainly on the topic of traditionalist new-reaction. (I will prefer the use of OE/Germanic terms over others where reasonable and applicable.)

EPHREM ANTONY GRAY, whose first name comes from the holy father Ephrem the Syrian, a poet and philosopher of the antique middle east, will focus his words mainly on the topic of Orthodox Christianity - that is, the so-called 'Eastern Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church' - and its connexion to new-reaction.

RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS, particularly Christians, are entering a period of terrible trial much like that which was experienced by the Russian Christians under the communist yoke. There is a great temptation for our leaders to subtly if not overtly acquiesce to the world, whether it be to adopt the program of the One World Religion and Government (elsewhere named The Cathedral) or to assent to its categories and framing.

THIS MATTER is especially pressing, given that the master-teachings of Christianity: freedom from thoughts, renunciation of worldly goods, love of enemies, estrangement from the world, absolute abasement, death of the passions, and others, will become inaccessible to anyone if things continue. And if inaccessible, the fruits of these practices also must become not merely inaccessible to those who are 'modern', but completely inaccessible to all men.

IT IS OUR BELIEF, though not dogmatized, that the world persists but for the prayers of certain nameless holy men in each generation. And though we certainly look forward to the Last Day, we are also aware of our own need to repent further (and our inability to do so after death) - the fact is that neither we nor those of our generation who dwell in darkness can be expected a second chance.

A TRUE PHILANTHROPY must therefore not include what is ephemeral, namely, immediate gratification, but what is enduring, namely, the victory of the soul over death, which we understand is not guaranteed. While it is true that all will have eternal being, not all will have eternal well-being, says the great Maximus. This means that though all of the corruptible bodies shall be raised, some shall be raised unto eternal death, a manner of being which befit the soul. Thus any who loves his body must first love his soul, for his body depends on it.

TO LOVE ALL MEN, even those who hate us, is not the subject of personal abasement. Instead, it is doing what is best, within our power, to move that soul toward repentance, towards God, towards truth, towards beauty, towards goodness. There are cases where an example of humiliation can help the soul of a man, but it must be real humiliation, a real sacrifice salted with fire.

HOLINESS SIGNALING, something I have mentioned before, is pharisaical, and forms of it that involve intentionally breaking the 'rules' to show that you are 'a sinner' as well as 'being an example of humility' in a broad sense are often nothing more than examples of pride, vainglory and self-esteem. "Publicanism" is pharisaism for the counter-culture. Narcissists and borderlines cannot properly humiliate themselves to benefit themselves and others.

RECOGNIZING THE FUTILITY of raising the dead with my own words, I will attempt instead to analyze and comment on things, as well as make connections and synthesis with Orthodox thought and new-reaction. The impossibility of doing anything more should chasten us. If more happens, it is by the will of God.

THIS BLOG is called 'Sympathy for the Dead', a saying which can have more than one interpretation. To love all men certainly means to love the dead, for most men are dead.