God And Science: Three Responses

In our secular world, belief in God is popularly linked with either delusion or dangerous political agendas.

In the West, it’s normal and “rational’ to say that there is no God since no scientific proof for Him exists.

How is a Christian to respond to such a foregone conclusion? Here are three to consider.



To ask for proof for all things that are essential to life in order to affirm truth or gain certainty is extremely fuzzy logic. Human beings have always understood and dealt with the world in two ways.

Through science which seeks to explain how the world works, and what kind of patterns exist in nature. And through religion which seeks to explain the meaning and significance of reality.

In other words, the minute we start looking for meaning, we have already entered the realm of religion, or the realm of God, that is, we are always in search of significance and meaning.

There are two types of knowledge in the world: naturalist (or scientific) and idealist (or meaningful).

We cannot use the logic of the one to deal with the other.

For example, science can show, prove and study life on the planet. But it cannot answer this question, which each human beings needs to answer for himself – what is the moral purpose of life?

Naturalistic logic fails immediately, and we must turn to idealist logic which alone can explain meaning.

The logic of idealism deals with things not seen, such as, love, empathy, charity, friendship, hope, and goodness.

Man does not live my bread alone.



If God continually showed Himself so people would have proof – could we really look to Him for moral guidance? No, we could not. Why? The idea of morality depends upon another essential idea – free will.

If God continually showed up on earth and stopped both moral and natural evil as a demonstration of His power, what kind of creatures would we be? Would we not be slaves only motivated by fear of being found out? Certainly, such fear lies at the heart much human belief. But fear is not part of the equation in Christianity. This is why neither Hell nor Heaven are clearly defined. Here is true wisdom.

But if God is love, then He must be invisible so that we may have the ability to express our free will without hindrance. If God keeps interfering with our expression of freedom by becoming a looming, controlling presence, He becomes a tyrant, and He cannot love us, and we are not really free.

Perfect love and perfect freedom can only exist when individual will has the opportunity to be expressed unhindered. Therefore, God is silent and seemingly absent, so that we come to understand what a moral life is to be lived, not only through teaching but through practice.



God may choose to be invisible and absent, and yet He is immediately knowable through His structure. What does this mean?

Here we can borrow the logic of science and use it to understand a crucial point. All reality is constructed in a specific way; it has a structure.

There is a grand system, or guidebook to the all life and to the cosmos – something that science is becoming mature enough to understand.

Yes, for the many centuries, science has been childish, and therefore wilful and petulant, happy to rebel and deny God as a delusion.

But things have changed – the complexity of reality, of creation, has forced science to grow up and acknowledge what it has denied – that chaos cannot create order.

There is a grand design to everything. Nothing is random, even if it may at first appear to be so.

From the atom to the largest planets and stars; they all have a structure which gives them not only form and organization but also purpose.

For example, in medical science, the structure of disease must first be mapped; only then can a cure be formulated. And what is a cure? It is a competing structure that unhinges the harmful structure of the disease.

Therefore, nothing that exists is without structure. In other words, being is structure. But notice structure has two aspects: shape and function or purpose.

All things have a shape – and a purpose; they fulfill a role. This twin characteristic of reality is a reflection of God. He has a shape (the structure in which all reality exists – the sum of all life), and He has a purpose (the reason why there is something in the universe when there could be nothing).

The very fact that there is life means that there is God, since life has both shape and function, or purpose.

In these three ways, we see that when people say that there is no “proof” of God, and therefore He is simply a figment of the imagination, they are simply reaching for an easy answer in order to affirm their own moral choices, and these choice are often just emotions. In fact, most atheists are angry at God for some perceived let-down.

The question has nothing to do with God – it has everything to do with what people choose to do with their lives. But such is God’s love that He has generosity of purpose, and room enough in His structure, to permit disbelief and denial.


The photo shows, “The Adoration of the Golden Calf,” by Andrea di Leone, painted ca. 1526-1627.

The Death Of The Liberal Mind

Let us talk of many things, as the Walrus said, but primarily, of Neoreaction. What follows is the start of what I hope to make an extended exploration of this line of thought, for which I have much sympathy. I embark on this project for four reasons.

First, to amuse myself. Second, in order to make my own thinking coherent, for confusion already stalks the land, and why add to it? Third, in the hope that what I say may bring value to others, since a man should not bury his single talent. And fourth, so that in some small way, in a manner yet to be revealed, this combination of analysis of others and thoughts of mine will help to either forge the future, or smash and remake the present.

The projected form of this exploration is an initial series of book reviews, drawn with an eye to weaving them together into a coherent whole that supersedes the reviews themselves. It is important to note that this is an investigation, with an uncertain end. But I expect to come to a definite conclusion, with both a coherent summary and recommendations for a cogent, directed set of political actions. The focus will therefore be practical politics, not pure abstractions, although of necessity there will be much political philosophy, which I will keep as grounded as I can.

To kick off the concretization of things, I will drop the prefix “neo,” for it adds nothing. The term “reactionary” denotes a range of current political philosophies (its only other meaning today is as a generic and content-free term of abuse), and I will save a lot of ink by simply eliminating the prefix.

Of course, even at this early point, numerous overarching problems present themselves that would not present themselves in evaluating more mundane political issues, such as tax policy.

The first is the need to weed out insanity. Fringe political movements, which reaction is for now, tend to attract a dubious cast of characters, and the Internet exacerbates their reach and perceived numbers.

Moreover, insanity divides into two branches – a mere denial of, or departure from, reality, relatively easy to recognize; and a failure to realize that any idea is only useful insofar as it may find fertile ground on which to fall.

Politics is the art of the possible, and hope is not a plan.

A second problem is the undeniable racism (in its actual, not imaginary or accusatory, sense) of a non-trivial percentage of reactionaries. It is not enough for reactionaries to glibly dismiss this problem, just as it is not enough for progressives to coolly dismiss (though they usually rather celebrate) their close association, and long-lasting symbiotic relationship, with the mirror image of racists – their own violent and nasty extremists, such as Communists, or the so-called Antifa.

This problem should not be permitted to dominate or cloud the discussion, or result in any sort of pre-emptive apology or obeisance, as progressives would love to require, but it deserves discussion.

A third challenge, related to but distinct from the second, is that much reaction is profoundly opposed to Christianity, openly or covertly, and therefore its success would pose a risk of fracture to the bedrock of Western civilization.

In the inspired words of Ross Douthat, if you don’t like the Christian right, you really won’t like the post-Christian right.

Thus, in some ways my exploration lies at a tangent to Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, not in that it hopes to expand or clarify his vision, which is complete enough in itself, but to outline political actions that can serve as armed outrider, an implementation of my own Mendoza Option (from the character in the film, “The Mission”), without wholly degenerating into an amoral reboot of society.

A fourth problem, related to the third, is that it is easy to forget that political theory is only helpful so long as, and inasmuch as, it conforms to the underlying reality of things, rather than being a pleasing abstraction, a program that attempts to change the unchangeable.

A theory fashioned in isolation but designed for imposition in and upon the real world is, in a very real sense, the Devil’s craft. I hope to remain sensitive to and directly address each of these problems, as well as others that are sure to arise.
So off we go!

This is supposed to start as a review of Mark Lilla’s The Shipwrecked Mind, a loose collection of essays about reaction, published as a group in early 2016, before the rise of Trump. Certainly, Trump himself is not a reactionary. However, just as certainly, he has been advised by men who are very definitely some brand of reactionary, most notably Steve Bannon and Michael Anton, the latter still serving in the White House.

Until Trump, what little attention was directed at reaction revolved mostly around obscure dead people with ties to twentieth century radical right movements, such as Julius Evola, or around the largely incoherent ramblings of a subset of techno-libertarians, whom I suspect are mostly the kind of people away from whom you edge at cocktail parties.

Lilla was among the first to perceive that there was more to the movement, but post-Trump, reactionary thought began receiving substantial attention. Most of this was a wave of stupidity emerging from both Left and the fat cat Right, but there was also some thoughtful analysis, the best of which was Andrew Sullivan’s April 2017 piece on reaction in New York magazine.

Sullivan’s worthwhile contribution groups reactionaries into three clusters, each with an avatar.

The first avatar is Leo Strauss, who fled Nazi Germany and ended up in California as an obscure and Sphinx-like, but highly influential, political philosopher.

Sullivan does not attempt to directly parse Strauss (unlike Lilla, as we’ll see), but focuses on Charles Kesler, editor of The Claremont Review of Books, as a type of gnomon sub-avatar, revealing the truth cast by the light of Strauss.

In short, according to Sullivan, Straussians think that the modern American political system has wholly lost its way, but that as with the string of Theseus in the Labyrinth, there exists a clear path back to an ideal political system that has, unlike most supposedly ideal systems, actually been tried and found effective.

That is the America of its original Constitution, either as it existed in 1787, or as amended by the post-Civil War amendments. Nobody informed can disagree that today’s American government bears essentially no relation, except in its external forms, to the American government of 1870, no more than the Roman government of A.D. 50 bore to the Roman government of 300 B.C.

Straussians, although they have various internal divisions, believe that the desired end of political history arrived already—and was left behind.  Therefore, today’s Cthulhu State, a multi-tentacled horror of unlimited and unaccountable power, exemplified by the monstrous administrative state that finds no warrant in the Constitution, should be destroyed and the Republic restored by the simple expedient of turning back the political clock.

The second group is represented by the avatar of Michael Anton, and was mostly embodied by the belligerent, now defunct pre-election blog, The Journal of American Greatness, which has a quasi-descendant in the still extant American Affairs, an actual journal published by Julius Krein, who had a prominent role in American Greatness.

Anton is in some ways a Straussian, in that he admires the Founding, but he is much more what I would, to coin a term, call an “Augustan” – a man who sees some benefit in democratic forms, but little other benefit in democracy, and who therefore focuses on power and its uses.

In an Augustan system, the forms of republican government remain, and even some of its application, but the real power has shifted. Sullivan terms this “Caesarism,” by which he means to refer to Julius Caesar, not Augustus Caesar (Octavian). But this is the wrong historical parallel.

Julius Caesar technically overthrew the Republic, true, but it was already completely fractured by decades of civil war, and Julius Caesar himself manipulated the actual levers of political power for only a brief time.

We remember him for his death, not his rule. It is Augustus we remember for maintaining the forms of republic while making himself “first among equals,” the first emperor. The Roman Empire is dated from 27 B.C., from recognition of the final victory of Augustus over his enemies, not from any action of Julius Caesar.

Anton wrote the famous “Flight 93 Election” essay prior to the election, insisting that Trump should be the choice, regardless of any faults he might have, for the alternative was certain death, metaphysical and perhaps actual. Anton focuses less on the forms of the government and more on who has the power.

At present, the global elites, the “Davoisie,” have the power, and they use it to benefit themselves at the expense of the mass of people of the Republic (perhaps the entire mass, perhaps the virtuous mass—Anton seems deliberately obscure here).

Anton explicitly calls for Caesar, or rather, says that Caesar has already arrived, if not on horseback, so he might as well be the right Caesar. Rollback is not the goal; the goal is seizing the levers of power as they exist now, and overthrowing the great as the opportunity presents itself, casting them into the pit to wail and grind their teeth.  Thus, for Anton, the focus is power guided by virtue, but always power.

The third group, and the one least known to the general public, has as its avatar the computer programmer Curtis Yarvin, often referred to by his pseudonym, Mencius Moldbug.

Whereas Kesler offers an easily comprehensible, if not easily attainable, program; and Anton offers a program that is coherent, if mostly responsive and inchoate (the reader suspects it is not really inchoate in Anton’s mind, though); Yarvin offers the desperation pass with a flaming football, probably one sewn from human skin, and he worships strange gods.

All you really need to know about Yarvin is that he is a self-identified Jacobite – that is, his preferred form of modern government is a restoration in the United States of the Stuart monarchy, via the vehicle first of an all-powerful figure known as the Receiver (a term taken from bankruptcy law), who will smash the Cathedral, the modern all-powerful and unholy alliance of the American elites, whose ax and fasces of power are the combined and interlocking might of the universities and the media.

The Enlightenment will be forgotten as a mistake, and we will have a night watchman state that offers a free press and free economy, true, but which is armed not with a nightstick, but with shoulder-mounted rockets.

While Sullivan draws incisive portraits of each of the three avatars, the rest of his essay is pretty weak. By way of preface, he draws a simplistic contrast between reaction and “real conservatives,” a topic he miserably fails to address with any adequacy (but one which I will on another day address completely).

Next he engages in navel-gazing about his supposed youthful sympathy with reaction, but all he describes is a love for Russell Kirk’s permanent things, and as both he and Lilla point out, reactionaries are not conservatives, so this is mere confusion.

Sullivan then adds his own shallow analysis of reactionary thought, attempting to synthesize his three avatars, or at least to show they share core beliefs. Finally, not digging very deep, Sullivan, as with most critics of reaction, ascribes to it a universal desire across its advocates to return modern society to a supposed past Golden Age – this trope is common to all progressive analysis of reaction.

His analysis strikes me as erroneous from start to finish. As applied to Straussians, there is some thin justice to the claim of desired return, although Straussians would not claim that the Founding inaugurated a Golden Age, merely the best possible political solution for an imperfect world.

But while Sullivan’s other reactionaries see value in the past, and often unfavorably compare the modern world to it, they do not want to return to it, for they are not stupid. They want to get the benefits of the past while keeping the benefits of the modern world; theirs is in many ways a very modern project, open to a changing world and the concept of progress.

It is not for nothing that those who attack reactionaries, such as the increasingly shrill William Kristol, have claimed they resemble the Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt in their thought.

I have no idea of the truth of that claim, knowing nothing about Schmitt, and I do not suggest key parallels otherwise, but the nature of all modern radical “right-wing” reformers, of all stripes, is that they call for a march forward, informed by the past, but not into the past.

They have a different definition of where the march should go than does Sullivan, but in an important sense, they are all progressives. Any references to a Golden Age are purely for propaganda purposes, along with using it to provide object lessons to inform action in today’s very different world today. Sullivan mistakes that gleam for the substance; he is not the first progressive led astray by fool’s gold.

In the same vein, Sullivan complains of reactionaries, specifically of Anton, that “their pessimism is a solipsistic pathology.” In Anton, who says the only things in modernity worthwhile are “nice restaurants, good wine, a high standard of living,” he sees a man “deliberately blind to all the constant renewals of life and culture around us.”

But Sullivan does not specify what those renewals are, and for the life of me, I cannot fathom to what he refers. Certainly, a plausible argument can be made that Anton-style pessimism is the wrong response to modernity, or that nice restaurants and wine are, after all, part of the substance of the good life, and not to be denigrated. It does not follow from that that anything is being renewed; the opposite of pessimism can be just as much a comfortable stagnation as illusory “renewals of life and culture.”

While Sullivan seems to think that to pronounce negativity about the modern world is self-refuting, Sullivan’s next paragraphs offer a clue as to what he believes is better about today than yesterday, and it has nothing to with “renewals of life and culture.”

Here, Sullivan resorts to a hackneyed rhetorical trick beloved of today’s progressives. The trick involves making a sanitized list of modernity’s social accomplishments, while ignoring not only modernity’s horrors, but the strongly equivocal nature of many of the supposed accomplishments.

So, we are told, usually in vague, bilious phrases, that (i) certain aspects of life today are better than life yesterday, and that (ii) the beneficiaries of those improvements are individuals who are sympathetic. We are then informed that it necessarily follows that (iii) any criticism of life today is unsympathetic to those individuals, because yesterday they lived in suffering, so therefore (iv) any criticism of life today is beyond the pale.

The reader can guess, from seeing this spurious chain many times before, that Sullivan adduces as better aspects of life today as “unprecedented freedom for women, racial minorities, and homosexuals,” “increased security for the elderly and unemployed,” and a variety of other stock canards about progress.

There is a grain of truth here, but really Sullivan is talking past the reactionaries, not engaging them. He glides past the reality that few of his “improvements” are in fact unmixed blessings, if blessings at all, for often positive changes are balanced by negatives. Then he skates around any negative aspect of modern life, and finally demands we agree that because some things are better for some people in some ways, we must live in the best of all possible worlds, and any criticism of the modern world is an unforgivable attack on the formerly persecuted.

So, for example, there probably is more “freedom for women” today than in 1950 (in the West, that is – implicit in all progressive discussions of reaction is that we are only talking about the West, and it is best to avert our eyes from other areas of the world).

But a real comparison of 2017 to 1950 would require much unpacking, including distinguishing claims of freedoms such as flexibility of employment and reductions in harassment from false “freedoms,” such as, abortion rights, along with an examination of whether women as a whole are better off in the modern world on other measures – and an honest evaluation of whether what “everybody knows” about the world of 1950, implicit in Sullivan’s brief statement, is actually true.

Sullivan’s purpose is not to engage in such a dialogue, though; it is to end any possibility of dialogue by imagining, like the Manichees, a World of Light and a Kingdom of Darkness, and assigning anyone who does not join the progressive crusade to the latter.

I suppose his line of thought could be even more dishonest – Sullivan does not accuse Anton of objecting to antibiotics and electric light. But none of this sheds any light on whether reactionaries have a point, for it assumes that they do not.

So much for Sullivan. His article is relatively brief, and as with most opinion pieces, does not pretend to be a work for the ages.

Lilla, likewise, is not writing for the ages, though his book is longer and much more polished than Sullivan’s article.

At the beginning, Lilla denies that The Shipwrecked Mind is a “systematic treatise on the concept of reaction.” Instead, it is an examination of several individuals, most of whom have no obvious link to each other, and Lilla does not attempt to draw clear links among them. His purpose is instead to draw a general analogy between reactionaries and revolutionaries, referring to his own earlier book, The Reckless Mind, about men in love with revolutionary tyranny.

Lilla begins by pointing out that “Reactionaries are not conservatives. . . . Millennial expectations of a redemptive new social order and rejuvenated human beings inspire the revolutionary; apocalyptic fears of entering a new dark age haunt the reactionary.”

While this is true as far as it goes, it fails on two points. First, as with Sullivan, Lilla never tells us what conservatives are, other than not reactionaries. If we define something by what it is not, we must know what is the thing it is not.

Second, Lilla’s core parallelism fails, for being haunted by fears about the future is not in any way similar to revolutionary thought. The latter is always a self-contained system for achieving Utopia through following the right steps and killing the right people. Fear about the future, in contrast, is only fear and does not imply a program. While reaction can be an ideology, Lilla’s own definition makes reaction simply a recognition that some things were better in the past, not that the past offers a complete solution for the present, or a path to implement that solution.

Lilla does seem to recognize the failure of his parallel, trying to explain “the enduring vitality of the reactionary spirit even in the absence of a revolutionary political program” by the problem that “to live a modern life anywhere in the world today . . . is to experience the psychological equivalent of permanent revolution.”

At that high level of generality this is true enough, and it sounds like Zygmunt Bauman’s “liquid modernity.” But it says nothing about whether reactionaries themselves have an ideology or system of thought that is revolutionary in nature. It merely explains why neoreaction has an attraction for some people.  And Lilla himself concludes that reaction “is unsure how to act in the present.”

A system of thought unsure how to act is essentially the antithesis of an ideology, and thus in no way establishes the parallel for which Lilla is reaching.

But enough definitional games. Let’s examine the core of this book, which is the thought of men Lilla identifies as relevant to reactionary thought.

He begins with one truly obscure, Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1929), a theologian of German Jewish extraction, who, raised indifferently religious, nearly converted to Christianity and then returned to devout Judaism. He seems like an odd choice, for Rosenzweig is mostly known for a difficult mystical tome, The Star of Redemption.

Lilla argues, elliptically, that in Rosenzweig’s linkage of Christianity and Judaism as bound together eternally, “the Jews are a people that see the light but [are] unable to live in it temporally, while Christians live in an illuminated world but cannot see the light itself.”

Quite fascinating, but what it has to do with reaction is not clear. Rosenzweig apparently did not see a past Golden Age, other than that Judaism is true, always has been, and always will be, nor did he maintain a political program.

Lilla next turns to Eric Voegelin (1901–1985), another German. He was the author of the phrase “immanentize the eschaton,” used as a criticism of modern Utopian political schemes, and one of the first to enunciate the truism that twentieth-century radical politics was religious in inspiration and form.

Voegelin was an intellectual polymath, so it is hard to say that he had a single focus, but according to Lilla, one of his focuses was the relation between religion and politics. He said, accurately, “When God has become invisible behind the world, the things of the world become the new gods.” His views led him to attack the Nazis as precisely such idol worshippers, and unsurprisingly, he was forced to flee to the United States, where he stayed.

Lilla’s main purpose in including him here is to note that while for most of his life Voegelin hewed to a narrative of modern decline resulting from the rise of political religions, in his final years he “rejected” this. But in Lilla’s description, it sounds more like Voegelin went off the rails into incoherent mysticism combined with even more splintered focus than before.

On little evidence, at least that he offers, Lilla concludes that “It takes a good deal of self-awareness and independence of mind to renounce the bittersweet comforts of cultural pessimism and question the just-so narratives of civilizational decline that still retain their allure for Western intellectuals.”

Maybe, but as with Sullivan, this seems a weak response to an illusory narrative by offering conclusions without reasoning. Lilla keeps banging on about “cultural pessimism,” but rather than showing why and how this matters, instead concludes that anyone who is unhappy about any aspect of the modern world necessarily beclowns himself in a way not needing demonstration.

Moreover, Voegelin seems put in this book not so much as an example of a reactionary as to lecture Americans that smart people turn away from narratives of decline.

The author then profiles Strauss (1899–1973), yet another German émigré to the United States. Strauss is notoriously oblique in his thought. He is often accused of deliberately introducing layers of gnosis into his philosophy, including a hidden call for instrumental use of religion by philosophers and rulers, and endorsing undemocratic governance by an educated elite.

According to Lilla, “Strauss and Heidegger shared one large assumption: that the problems in Western civilization could be traced to the abandonment of a healthier, ur-mode of thought from the past. . . . [He] spent much of his career trying to establish the decisive point when the great deviation took place.” Strauss found it in Athens, specifically Plato, with a nod to Jerusalem.

All interesting, but what does this say about American politics, a topic on which Strauss never focused at all? One of Strauss’s seminal works was the 1953 Natural Right and History, in which Strauss identified where modernity broke the world.

“Strauss claimed that, properly viewed, there had been a single coherent tradition of ‘classical natural right’ running from Socrates to Thomas Aquinas.  This tradition made a strict distinction between nature and convention, and argued that justice is that which accords with the former, not the latter.  Whether the rules of nature are discovered through philosophy or revelation, whether one account of nature is more persuasive than another, all this is less important, according to Strauss, than the conviction that natural justice is indeed the standard by which political arrangements must be judged.”

And it was Machiavelli who destroyed this tradition, which should be restored by returning to classical thought as the lodestone of political action. Strauss’s philosophy was, after his death, picked up by a variety of his students and molded into a claim, as far as I can tell, that the Founders based their construction of America on classical philosophy and natural right, and that, largely as a result, what they created, either initially or as modified after the Civil War, is the ideal political system.

But again, this is not a Golden Age program – it is a prescription for political structure.

Lilla’s next essay is an attack on Catholicism, in general and especially inasmuch as it provides an incubator for reactionaries. It’s pretty clear throughout the book, in fact, that Lilla is hostile to Christianity as a whole, for reasons not really clear, though this is the only section in which his prejudice is made explicit.

He claims, without example, that the usual Catholic practice is to adapt doctrine to radical change by, after a period of resistance, “declaring that such innovations had been continuous with Catholic doctrine after all.”

Then, he denigrates formal Catholic thought as merely “a stream of papal encyclicals that reflect the shifting moods of this or that pontiff,” with any relevant thought being provided by lay intellectuals (here, as elsewhere, Lilla seems to be only dimly familiar with any pre-Enlightenment history or thought).

No doubt the Catholic Church is a bastion of reaction; it is in its nature. It offers a coherent world view developed over two thousand years, one that necessarily opposes many aspects of modernity. But as with a great deal of what Lilla says, his conclusions don’t follow from the listed facts.

Lila’s purpose here is to attack the supposed philosophy of “The Road Not Taken,” in which a variety of Catholics over the past five hundred years have complained that the (Western) world took a wrong turn, with a radical break from the medieval tradition in which Catholic, and therefore Western, thought was developed to a peak.

In other words, although Lilla does not say this, Strauss points to Athens, and these thinkers point to the High Middle Ages, as the time when political thought reached its point of maximum refinement.

Among such thinkers are Étienne Gilson, who wrote Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Henri de Lubac.

Lilla makes a positive nod to the thought of these men, but mostly in order to create a contrast to his attack on two more recent thinkers, Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and Brad Gregory, currently a professor of history at Notre Dame.

The goal here is to identify these authors as agents of the Vatican eager to impose retrogression on modern man. Lilla’s is merely a more glossy version of Sullivan’s bogus chain of reasoning, identifying prospective victims of a proposed reaction whose terror at moving backwards gives them moral superiority and a hall pass from reasoning.

Lilla does write better than Sullivan, though (my favorite line is when Lilla, referring to Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation, says “But the deeper you delve into this book, the more you begin to feel that you are watching a shadow-puppet play on the wall of some Vatican cave”).

Lilla complains Gregory’s book is not, as it should be, a “straightforward history,” but rather “a sly crypto-Catholic travel brochure for the Road Not Taken.” Those tricksy Catholics!  (I bet Lilla would react with displeasure, though, if somebody referred to “a sly crypto-Jew.”)

Lilla’s basic point about Gregory is another mess of confused reasoning – he identifies claims Gregory makes about the past that are summary in nature, such as that before Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, “traditional Christian metaphysics” dominated Western thought, and then Lilla waves his hands about “centuries of disagreement,” claiming “it is hard to know . . . . how such a metaphysics manifested itself at a popular level,” and finally concluding that we can’t know anything, and therefore Gregory is a chump to claim any coherency about the past, that he lives in “a narcotic haze.”

None of this is convincing, in part because although Lilla is addicted to using Christian metaphors, he appears to know next to nothing about actual Christianity, except what he learned in Steven Pinker books.

If he did, the various terms that befuddle him would have obvious meaning and content, but that would require engaging with a religion for which he has a clear distaste.

Gregory may not be right, but even in Lilla’s summary, he is very much logical and plausible. For Lilla, though, any summaries of the past that are offered to inform the present are just “an imaginative assemblage of past events and ideas and present hopes and fears.” As with so much Lilla says, there is some truth in this (not that Lilla offers anything other than his bare statement), but he uses it to serve his own philosophy (very much in evidence in his most recent book, on identity politics, The Once and Future Liberal), that any system of thought that offers any type of ultimate answers, or suggests that civilizations have peaks and valleys, is the sandbox of fools.

True, Gregory and MacIntyre are thinkers who actually do talk a lot about a Golden Age, unlike the other philosophers Lilla discusses. But Lilla is wrong that their project is “escaping full responsibility for the future;” he only says that to support his own philosophy – that the past is largely irrelevant, because “we are destined to pave our road as we go.”

Lilla ends with two essays, one on current events, the other on a fictional character.

The current event was the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, which Lilla uses as a springboard to discuss two French reactionaries, Éric Zemmour and Michel Houellebecq.

Here Lilla has interesting things to say about what an ideology is, including the keen insight that “they are first developed in narrow sects whose adherents share obsessions and principles, and see themselves as voices in the wilderness. . . .But for an ideology to really reshape politics it must cease being a set of principles and instead become a vague general outlook that new information and events only strengthen.”

Zemmour, in Lilla’s description, offers just such a shotgun approach to politics, combining controversial, but factual, claims with various wild allegations and fringe, yet flexible, positions.

Houellebecq is profiled mostly for his novel Submission, about a near-future France that turns to Islam as Western culture peters out (although, oddly, Lilla says the title is “shockingly blunt,” apparently unaware that the literal translation of “Islam” is “submission,” i.e., to Allah).

Lilla offers the insight that “Houellebecq’s critics have seen the novel as anti-Muslim because they assume that individual freedom is the highest human value – and have convinced themselves that the Islamic tradition agrees with them.

It does not, and neither does Houellebecq.” (This panicked exaltation of extreme individual freedom, and the claimed need for immigrants to conform to it, is largely the topic of Rita Chin’s recent The Crisis of Multiculturalism, and is the key to understanding the modern European mindset).

This essay sheds little light on America (Lilla seems to much prefer talking about Europe and Europeans, although if he wanted to talk about a focus on a past Golden Age, he would have done well to throw Confucianism into the mix), but it does penetrate closer to what reaction actually is.

Finally, we are treated to a discussion of Don Quixote. The Ingenious Nobleman’s undoubted desire to return to a Golden Age is supposed to show, again without reasoning, that any person who today sees value in the past (which is basically how Lilla defines reactionaries) is a fool who tilts at windmills.

Most of the discussion here is not about Western reaction, though, but Muslim reaction and Golden Age thinking. In essence, but without naming him, Lilla summarizes the philosophy of Sayyid Qutb, accurately. But this has nothing to say about the West, except as it threatens the West.

So often in this book, Lilla talks about how Western reactionary thinkers want to return us to a Golden Age, but every time he reaches for a concrete example, he can only offer fringe Muslims, relevant purely because of their willingness to use violence.

Lilla seems to think that Don Quixote is, like Strauss, an avatar of reaction who represents what real people believe in the real world. Someone is living in a fantasy world, but it’s not Don Quixote, because he’s not real.

While sonorous, this essay is gloriously free of both reasoning and substance, and adds nothing to Lilla’s core argument, which is (probably because all these essays were first published separately), ultimately laughably incoherent and weak, and even the biographies and history in The Shipwrecked Mind are neither original nor illuminating.

The photo shows, “The Menin Road,” by Paul Nash, painted in 1919.
Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

Stalin Wasn’t Alone

Do dictators ever stand alone? A dictator is defined as a one who has total power over country, but is that even possible? Can one man ever have total control of a nation, even if he wields, say, Stalin’s iron fist?

When we think of Stalin’s USSR, we tend to imagine a totalitarian world that resembles Orwell’s 1984. At the head of the state is Stalin. Directly below him is a hierarchy of mindless henchmen. And of course, below them is the constantly terrorized multitude which is under constant watch by the regime. This narrative is a myth of history.

This narrative completely deprives anybody any agency besides Stalin. Like many myths of history, it is an oversimplification which meets a political agenda. The truth is far more complicated.

I am not doubting the brutality of the Stalinist Regime. The historiography on the Stalinist era is riddled with horrors (often down-played by contemporary leftists). There was the mass famine created during collectivization in the Ukraine that killed at least 3.3 million people.

Mass paranoia and accusations swept across the land in the Great Purges of the 1930s. After show trials in kangaroo courts, the accused would be evicted from their homes and exiled to Siberian Gulags, if lucky – and immediately shot, if not.

None of these horrors are in doubt. There is a lot of bloodshed and violence to be accounted for, but was it all done at the behest of one man alone?

There is a lot of bloodshed and violence to be accounted for, but was it all done at the behest of one man alone?

Stalinism went beyond Stalin. The historiography shows that large portion of the population was more than willing to participate in Stalinism. There is a lesson to be learned here, if we wish to fight the dictatorships of the present.

Collectivization was big task. Such economic reform was the push to get citizens of the USSR to nationalize their possessions, farmland, and estates into a single collective.  Many Ukrainians refused to yield to be part of collective farms.

In fact, “activists” and others aided the state in the forced collectivization of the countryside.

Hundreds of devoted communists came down from the cities to terrorize the peasantry.

These “progressives” were aided by peasants who believed in the creation of the collective farms for political and personal gain. Those under Stalin acted on their own initiative in this very anarchic part of Ukrainian history.

Collectivization couldn’t have happened without the mass support of communists on the ground.

Where did these communist supporters, the communards, come from? Before Stalin even took power, there was a massive push by students to form collectives and inspire workers and peasants to do the same. The seeds of communism were grassroots before they blossomed into atrocities.

The Great Purge is another example of a Soviet catastrophe that transcends Stalin’s “total” power, fueled by an active engagement of the population.

Starting with Stalin eliminating right-wingers in his inner circle, the purge spirals off into a nationwide frenzy.

Colleague purged colleague, co-worker purged co-worker, and neighbour purged neighbour in a chaotic slew of accusations.

People on the ground had much to gain from participating in the witch-hunt, including wealth, power, and fame. Worst of all, many believed that purging those around them was an act of patriotism.

The blood of these victims is shared by the citizens of the USSR.

If we say that Stalin had all the power, then we deprive the accusers and activists of any agency. And if the accusers had no agency over their actions, then how can they share in the guilt of these heinous deeds?

If Stalin was a totalitarian (meaning that he wielded total power), then we deprive the citizenry of the Soviet Union any agency. The fact is, the Soviet citizenry hosted Stalinism, or at least participated in it.

How could they be guilt-free from the atrocities of the Stalinist regime? To believe so would be an injustice to victims of famine who died in collectivization, and the victims silenced and exiled by the purge.

Well then what is Stalin’s dictatorship? If it’s not total power, then what is it? Stalinism was the true enemy of the people, not Stalin himself. Dictatorship is the control of information. It is the

manipulation of minds though coercion and deceit. Dictatorship is a belief, not a person. Insomuch as people use force, they are believers in dictatorship. Insomuch as people pollute the air with their own dishonesty, they are believers in dictatorship. It’s not Stalin you have to worry about, it’s the Stalinists.

The historiography reveals a great sense of belief in Stalinism amongst the people. Diaries reveal how a great deal of their authors were “progressives” who were repulsed by “backwards” conservatives.

Sons of kulaks (nebulous term for farmers who were deemed unprogressive) would join the State in the witch-hunt against their own kinsmen, so that they could fit in to the new social order by doing away with the old.

The citizenry constantly engaged with the state to settle personal problems, from marriage advice to bad blood between friends (these were all former functions of the Russian Orthodox Church). Stalinism was, in fact, a secular theocracy, full of ardent believers.

There are some lessons to be learned from understanding the nature of dictatorship. When you hear about a dictator on the news, don’t assume that his people are all plotting against him. Shockingly, the opposite is more likely to be true. Also, most professors and students at universities aren’t against the dictatorship of their nation either, they’re just rebels without a clue.

Most importantly, when your neighbours start charging each other with meaningless accusations, know that a purge is knocking at the door. And if you survive the witch-hunts, console yourself with the knowledge that the madness can’t last forever, not if we take a stand.

We must continually counter tyranny, with the greater assertion of our freedom.


The photo shows, “The Glorification of Stalin,” or “Stalin Among the Workers,” by Yuri Kugach, painted ca. 1950.

The Curious Death Of Canada

Is it right for a state to legally sustain and promote a social experiment, based upon an idea now thoroughly derided and debunked, and implemented by political will rather than the will of the people? Is it ethical to have a law that permanently binds race to culture? Is it good for people to live in politically defined structures of abnegation so that various expectations of an ideology may be met?

Sadly, Canada is the only state in the world that can firmly answer, “Yes,” to all three questions. Why? Because it is multicultural by law. (Australia is as well, but its implementation of this ideology is different).

Other western nations have flirted with multiculturalism, but they have had the wisdom not to sanction it by law). And even more sadly, Canada sees multiculturalism as its defining characteristic, its very identity as a state, so that it cannot help but fall into absurdity, with its mantra, “unity” through “diversity.”

An entire country defined by one social experiment – and a failed one at that? Is this the best that Canada can do to overcome Voltaire’s observation that it is nothing more than “quelques arpents de neige…a few acres of snow?”

Indeed, Canada has evolved into a place where all its hopes and even all its fears are placed upon political parties. What has Canada become?

First and foremost, it is a state. It is no longer a nation. That is an important distinction, because the state and the nation are not synonymous, despite the amalgam, “the nation-state.”

By way of political philosophy, a nation is defined as one community, with a shared history and culture – or, in the words of Ernest Renan, the nation is “a soul, a spiritual principle.”

The state, on the other hand, is a political alliance of individuals who share one geographical space defined by borders.

Canada has no community with a shared history, and therefore it has no culture, for culture is a consequence of history – culture cannot, and certainly should not, be created by governments through and by political means. And, Canada certainly has no soul, no spiritual principle which might define why it must exist as a nation.

Therefore, Canada is a state, in which the government aggregates people through immigration for its own ends – to sustain a tax base, because the population within its borders can no longer renew itself through biological means.

As Kant points out, such an aggregation cannot make a community, cannot build a nation – because a nation must be a moral community. And there cannot be diversity in morality. Is Canada, therefore, becoming a failed state whose only raison d’être is economics?

Of course, the very idea of a nation is a moral one (in that a nation should be greater than the sum of its economic capability and its geography). Nations embody values and therefore specify morality.

This is why some nations are better than others – this is why the flow of immigrants is westwards – millions of Canadians do not seek to migrate to other parts of the world. Why? Because the western world embodies a set of ideas and principles of morality that have historically proven to yield not only the best social results, but also the best economic results. Good ideas and good morality do create wealth, prosperity, freedom, happiness. Bad ideas do not.

A few years back, the philosopher, Marcello Pera established multiculturalism as the political version of a failed ideology, namely, relativism.

Briefly, relativism insists that history is useless because we are better than the past – because we have benefited from progress.

History is filled with our benighted ancestors who followed regressive ideas that we now have to fix and make right, while shaking a scornful finger. We are smart; they were dumb; and there is nothing they can do about it. Since we are progressive, we will build a much better world by getting rid of all the tired-old notions.

It is obvious how thoroughly ingrained relativism has become, for it passes for much of popular thinking. Perhaps progress is the most damaging legacy of eighteenth century Enlightenment, whereby everything modern is better – because it is not old.

We have only to look to one of its gravest consequences – hyper-capitalism and the devastation it has wrought not only socially, but environmentally. Each year is divided into four quarters, and each quarter must be more profitable than the last.

Relativism also maintains that there is no such thing as truth, because truth is what you make it. So, things like morality, or values, simply become personal choices, expressed as individual rights, because no one truth, morality, or value is better than any other.

Thus, there can be no universal (transcultural) morality or set of values which may be considered as being better than another because there is no point of reference. Paul Feyerabend succinctly summarised all this in a catchy phrase, “anything goes.” It is all a matter of lifestyle, everyone’s opinion is valuable and important – because personal opinion is all that we are capable of.

Aside from the immediate contradiction that relativism falls into – that what it says is actually “true” (a transcultural moral principle) and that this “truth” is good for everyone on this planet (a universal judgement). Therefore, it ends up doing precisely what it denies. But there are far graver deeper fallacies.

First, there is social paralysis. If all cultures are the same, then an evil culture cannot be denied, let alone criticized or defeated.

Second, there is paralysis of judgement. If all cultures have equal value, then there must be an external value system, which must be true to be applicable – but such a system, relativism says, does not exist.

Third, if all cultures are valid, then change itself is denied, since abandoning one culture and moving to another does not lead to any change at all.

Fourth, if all cultures are valuable and worth preserving (by government intervention), then cultures become prisons, from which escape is impossible – your DNA , not your mind, determines who and what you are – forever.

Why? Because you can never say that one culture is better, and more preferable, than another. This is the reality of multiculturalism – a relentless, grim determinism – precisely what relativism supposedly sets out to destroy.

It is often argued that multiculturalism builds tolerance, that it neutralizes the perceived harmful effects of religion, that it strengthens secularism, that it sustains democracy by promoting individual freedom.

Such statements are typical of ahistorical diktats. Tolerance is not a consequence of multiculturalism; rather, it is a virtue deeply embedded in the very fabric of the West’s (ignored) history – Christianity. Multiculturalism cannot explain a very basic fact – that religions create culture.

But by promoting all cultures, multiculturalism legitimizes all religion. Therefore, multiculturalism cannot further secularism (whatever that may be) because it entrenches and promotes all religions – and all world religions are religious at very core.

As for the relationship between multiculturalism and expressions of individual freedom, it is simply an illusion. How can an ideology, which imprisons people (because of their DNA) into their geographical places of origin, claim to be a liberator?

This is a tragic deception – because multiculturalism demands a total submission of the individual to his/her culture. This deception becomes clearly obvious if we consider a recent example. There was much uproar over women fully hiding their faces in veils.

Relativism in all its splendour was invoked – with reminders of personal freedom, the right to choose (if women can legally be topless, then they can legally go about fully veiled), and so forth.

But no one wanted to ask the much harder question – why does a fully-veiled woman refuse to change? Because she does not wish to participate in a non-Muslim world – she will be forever absent from the non-Muslim public sphere.

However, she is simply following the expectations of multiculturalism by fully submitting to the demands of her culture (as she interprets it), not as an individual – but in accordance to the expected behaviour of her sex in her culture.

Thus, multiculturalism does not mean freedom, democracy, individuality for everybody – it is simply a method to help Canadians with British DNA to overcome their own guilt of being historically Christian – because good relativists that they are, they imagine that are not yet free enough, secular enough, individual enough, progressive enough.

Quebec, of course, fully understands that if it starts playing the multicultural game, it will have to abandon its narrative of being historically unique in North America and learn to accept that it is just like any other culture carried over by immigrants. This is why Quebec has always been a fellow-traveller on the great culture experiment.

In effect, the larger, British culture of Canada is expected to be multicultural. The various immigrant communities (which behave like mini-nations) are firmly expected to be mono-cultural.

Perhaps it is now time to ask a fundamental question – why must Canada continue to cling to multiculturalism? Is it simply to say that because of it Canada is not like the “melting Pot” of south of the border?

Is Canada really as fragile as that? Is it simply to demonstrate to the world that Canada is a “world-leader” when it comes to being on the “cutting-edge” of modernity? Is it to assert that it is profoundly post-Christian and entirely secular?

The fact remains, no country in the world wants to be multicultural. They want to be nations. They do not want to lose their spiritual essence, their soul.

In a very strange twist, multiculturalism spawns that which it sets out to dismantle – cultural superiority. Government-endorsed propaganda expounds “pride” in one’s DNA-ingrained culture, and people are avidly encouraged to be “proud” of however they want to romanticize “the old country.”

The old moral concept of humility has long been replaced by the strident political one of “pride.” Whoever dare say that he is truly humbled to be a Canadian?


The photo shows, “The Death of Jane McCrea” by John Vanderlyn, painted in 1804.

The Great God Pan Is Dead: Classicism And Modernity

Is the West’s deep debt to the Classics at an end? Do the Greeks and the Romans have no further use in the twenty-first century, where people are interested only in “living each moment to the fullest.”

If true, this would mean that the ancient Greeks and Romans (aside from keeping otherwise unemployable academics in harness) only offer us nostalgia, which embodies the entire of industry of keeping in harness otherwise unemployable academics. Such nostalgia is the shiny side of nihilism – which is continue to teach while believing in nothing. But then nihilism is the currency of the Academy.

There are different versions of this nostalgia, where the hows and the whats are efficiently encountered and taught – but the more important question of, why, is often neglected. Why the Greeks? Why do they keep haunting us?

The title of this presentation comes from a story told by Plutarch, in his dialogue entitled, “On the Failure of Oracles:”

I have heard the words of a man who was not a fool nor an impostor. The father of Aemilianus the orator, to whom some of you have listened, was Epitherses, who lived in our town and was my teacher in grammar. He said that once upon a time in making a voyage to Italy he embarked on a ship carrying freight and many passengers. It was already evening when, near the Echinades Islands, the wind dropped, and the ship drifted near Paxi. Almost everybody was awake, and a good many had not finished their after-dinner wine. Suddenly from the island of Paxi was heard the voice of someone loudly calling Thamus, so that all were amazed. Thamus was an Egyptian pilot, cnot known by name even to many on board. Twice he was called and made no reply, but the third time he answered; and the caller, raising his voice, said, ‘When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead.’ On hearing this, all, said Epitherses, were astounded and reasoned among themselves whether it were better to carry out the order or to refuse to meddle and let the matter go. Under the circumstances Thamus made up his mind that if there should be a breeze, he would sail past and keep quiet, but with no wind and a smooth sea about the place he would announce what he had heard. So, when he came opposite Palodes, and there was neither wind nor wave, Thamus from the stern, looking toward the land, said the words as he had heard them: ‘Great Pan is dead.’ Even before he had finished there was a great cry of lamentation, not of one person, but of many, mingled with exclamations of amazement. As many persons were on the vessel, the story was soon spread abroad in Rome, and Thamus was sent for by Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius became so convinced of the truth of the story that he caused an inquiry and investigation to be made about Pan; and the scholars, who were numerous at his court, conjectured that he was the son born of Hermes and Penelope.

One of the pioneers of Greek studies, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, in his famous work, The History of Art in Antiquity (1764), also speaks of nostalgia:

Already here I have overstepped the limits of art history, and when I have meditated on its decline I have occasionally felt like a historian, who, in telling the story of his native country, is forced to allude to its downfall, of which he himself was the witness. And yet I could not refrain from following the fate of the artworks as far as my eyes were able to see, just like a young girl standing at the shoreline, watching, with tear-filled eyes, the departure of her beloved, without hope of ever seeing him again, and in the distant sail believes she can recognize his image; precisely for this reason we feel an even stronger yearning for what has been lost, and we contemplate the copies of the original images even more attentively than if we had been in possession of them.

For Winckelmann, the ancient Greeks are the very origin of the modern world, without whom there can be no understanding of why society must exist in sacred unity – sacred because it sees order as divine, in that order must constantly stand against chaos. Thus the classical age is a normative process, one that structures our thinking and our reality.

Further, Winckelmann warns against a slavish imitation of the simplified paradigms of the Greeks, for to do so would mean the neglect of the very purpose, the why, of the Greeks in any sense of modernity.

Thus, those who would point us to quotations in popular culture, or to architectural features even in contemporary buildings as a justification for allowing the Greeks to exist in modernity, fail to see the purpose of these “quotations” in their ancient context – which was to present that sacred unity.

In fact, nostalgia cannot be a wistful gaze backwards; rather, it is a process through which to think of the future. The past cannot help but be wistful, because it comes to us in fragments, never as a whole. And when we encounter these fragments from antiquity, we beginning to think of origins, and by thinking of origins, we begin to think what must come after.

If we are to entirely abandon the Greeks, as Greenblatt concludes, because they are no longer valid for the concerns of today, what becomes of our origins – the very DNA of our thinking? And when an understanding of origins is neglected, then, it is not long before the link between mythos and logos, mythology and reason is broken, and we fall into idle romanticism, where each one must find his/her own origin, in a personally constructed etiological narrative.

Is this not the fundamental problem facing the world today – the clash of mythologies, of personalized narratives that demand not simply a hearing, but a vanquishing of all others – and more tragically, each of these narratives is also a utopian fantasy for the individual fantasist, and harrowing dystopia for the outsider.

In other words, to lose sight of the Greek origin of our habit of mind, is to become open to division, which is euphemistically referred to as, “diversity,” which in turn becomes a tragic tyranny.

To be Greek-less is to be world-less, and to be word-less is to descend into an intense solipsism, where things exist for the self alone. It is Alexandre Kojeve who reminds us that becoming an animal is becoming modern, and such is the future of modernity. To live only for the present is to live without origins. In a famous passage in The Use and Abuse of History, Nietzsche tells us this fable:

Observe the herd which is grazing beside you. It does not know what yesterday or today is. It springs around, eats, rests, digests, jumps up again, and so from morning to night and from day to day, with its likes and dislikes closely tied to the peg of the moment, and thus is neither melancholy nor weary. To witness this is difficult for man, because he boasts to himself that his human condition is better than the beast’s and yet looks with jealousy at its happiness. For he wishes only to live like the beast, neither weary with things nor in pain, and yet he wants it in vain, because he does not desire it as the animal does. One day the man demands of the beast: “Why do you not talk to me about your happiness and only gaze at me?” The beast wants to answer, too, and say: “That comes about because I always immediately forget what I wanted to say.” But by then the beast has already forgotten this reply and remains silent, so that the man keeps on wondering about it.

To live without memory is also the abandonment of memory, which is the abandonment of humanity. Nietzsche will answer this abandonment with his notion of the Superman, the Overman, who becomes Shaw’s greater defender of the “Life Force.”

And notice, too, here, that by neglecting our origin, we must separate sensuality from thinking. For the Greeks, art was philosophy because it was sensual, because thinking and sensuality could never be separated – is this not what the story of Pygmalion and Galatea all about?

Reality as the undistinguished unity of sensuality and thinking. The name “Galatea” is rooted in the Greek word for “milk.” By joining sensuality and thinking humanity nourishes itself. In his essay on Parmenides, Martin Heidegger observes: “never would it be possible for a stone…to elevate itself toward the sun…and move like a lark.”

Galatea only becomes the nourisher, the milk-giver, if you will, when Pygmalion (the etymology of whose name is lost to us) beckons her with his desire and his wish – the translation of the ideal into reality.

The human must be more than the object, because reality must possess more than blind purpose – it must also possess meaning. Galatea, not simply as stone-cold, but a warm, beautiful woman. The inchoate quality of nature is finally and fully completed in mankind, and only in human apprehension, and therefore the creation, of beauty.

The rather mysterious, and famous essay, dating from perhaps 1796, or 1797, entitled, “The Oldest Systematic Program of German Idealism,” which might have been written by Hegel, or Hölderlin, or Schelling, or perhaps someone else, states:

Finally, the idea which unites all [previous ones], the idea of beauty, the word understood in the higher Platonic sense. I am convinced now, that the highest act of reason, which—in that it comprises all ideas—is an aesthetic act, and that truth and goodness are united as sisters only in beauty. The philosopher must possess as much aesthetic capacity as the poet. The people without an aesthetic sensibility are philosophical literalists [Buchstabenphilosophen]. Philosophy of the spirit is an aesthetic philosophy.

Beauty, in effect, makes sensible ideals that would otherwise be unattainable, which therefore give to mankind a destiny that is higher than individual perceptions or concerns.

In other words, beauty provides us with the understanding that our individuality stems from something greater and higher – a “grand physics,” in the words of this anonymous essay. And this grand physics, this essay says, “will survive all other arts and sciences.” Beauty, then, as origin of human thought.

It is here that the question of classicism in modernity becomes crucial; for who but the Greeks have given us the habit of mind to align beauty with humanity, with the merging of the transcendent with the mundane?

We see this play out in the work of the Greek tragedians. Why tragedy? Why the need to show the fall of human endeavour into failure? Why the need to show human dignity in the midst of utter despair and suffering?

All these questions may be answered in a succinct way – that humanity alone is marked by natural moral law, and that all the despair and the ensuing destruction cannot negate this law – it alone is pervasive and eternal. The expression, the consequence of natural moral law is beauty.

If we are to look for a definition of what is meant by “classicism,” then it is here – classicism is the expression of natural law as beauty. And in the very word “beauty” is summarized the entirety of Greek thought, which seeks to understand virtue, wisdom and reason. Without the Greeks, beauty is lost in purpose, in necessity.

Thus to suggest that the Greeks are dead and useless is to abandon the human project. This suggestion may even signal the end of humanity and the beginning of “animality,” where the world can only be a battlefield, where only the will to power holds sway.

To abandon the Greeks, means also the abandonment of all notions of civilization and barbarity, because the play of power can only lead to dominance and subservience, because power has no need for natural moral law.

Greece, then, is more than a geographical location, more than a historical name. It is our mirror image, upon which we can speculate – that is, contemplate ourselves, for the root meaning of “speculate” is the Latin speculatio, that is, observation, contemplation, as in a mirror – a speculum. Greece is this mirror, because it is our ancient ancestor, for as the Greeks themselves said, to think like a Greek is to be Greek. Through them we have our being, and without whom we cannot be.

We are like Odysseus, erring and wandering, but ever mindful of our return home, our nostos, the true root meaning of “nostalgia.” And it is the memory of this origin, this spiritual homeland, that awakens in us a great and painful yearning (algos) to keep venturing farther away, and yet also to keep returning home. The future is therefore always the past.

Greece builds us, because it is only through Greece that we come to possess history as the amassed consequences of ideas and actions, which in turn bring us to modernity, which is often marked by despair, in that transcendence is irreversibly lost. Modernity as a Greek tragedy.

To lose the Greeks is to lose the very idea of transcendence – wherein the individual places himself in something greater than his own existence, which simply means that there exists an innate link to destiny in each of us.

To lose that link means the loss of meaning itself, for how can we live without meaning? At the end of Sophocles’s The Women of Trachis, Hyllus, just as he is about to place the body of his father, Heracles, on the funeral pyre, says: You have seen new and terrible deaths, many woes and new sufferings, and there is none of these that is not Zeus.

All things have meaning only through transcendence. To think of a future without the Greeks, is not to think at all – rather, it can only be an abandonment to despair, from which there is rescue – the crisis of modernity. To say goodbye to the classical world is also to say goodbye to morality, justice, and the good.

And what is left? That is the question that leads to modern despair. What is truly left, when the Greeks are finally and irretrievably gone? Is it possible to live without an origin, a goal, a telos? And since rationality is always goal-directed, how shall we think?

Simone Weil asks this question in another way, in one of her notebooks: “Would a society in which only gravity reigned be able to exist?” By gravity she means what Nietzsche said in the Genealogy of Morals – that “since Copernicus man has been on a steep slope rolling towards nothingness.”

Thus, gravity is that which forever pulls us down. But humanity also needs a force that pulls it upwards. A good society must have an equilibrium of both ascent and descent; and this movement of up and down, becomes a barrier against evil (that which destroys humanity).

To have a society controlled by gravity is to have a society in which opposites cannot exist, for there is only a one-way movement, downwards. Injustice could never be expiated; evil could never be countered by the good, because the good has been questioned away as “anything goes.”

And individuals fail to set themselves apart from society, and society fails to close itself to harmful individuals. Weil goes on to call such a society, “The Great Beast.” This she gets from Plato, who in his Republic says:

It is as if a man were acquiring the knowledge of the humors and desires of a great strong beast which he had in his keeping, how it is to be approached and touched, and when and by what things it is made most savage or gentle, yes, and the several sounds it is wont to utter on the occasion of each, and again what sounds uttered by another make it tame or fierce, and after mastering this knowledge by living with the creature and by lapse of time should call it wisdom, and should construct thereof a system and art and turn to the teaching of it, knowing nothing in reality about which of these opinions and desires is honorable or base, good or evil, just or unjust, but should apply all these terms to the judgements of the great beast, calling the things that pleased it good, and the things that vexed it bad, having no other account to render of them, but should call what is necessary just and honorable,1 never having observed how great is the real difference between the necessary and the good, and being incapable of explaining it to another.

And such descending individuals learn to develop a personalized structure of behaviour in order to live with such a beast. Acts of criminality become ordinary and therefore acceptable, since such acts are simply another version of personalized behaviour.

Indeed, Durkheim soon realized that there could never be an end of hierarchies, where even the criminal has a vital role to play in society.

In other words, without the Greeks, all we are left with is nihilism, where there is no end to entropy, the endless fall into dissolution. Only the descent, never an ascent.

The character of Lord Darlington, in Oscar Wilde’s play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, utters this famous line: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

The final thing left in Pandora’s box was hope, Hesiod tells us:

Only Hope was left within her unbreakable house,
she remained under the lip of the jar, and did not
fly away. Before [she could], Pandora replaced the
lid of the jar. This was the will of aegis-bearing
Zeus the Cloudgatherer.

What is hope, if not transcendence, to think beyond the present, and into the future, by way of the past?

The Great Pan is dead, said the voice in lamentation, because modernity is the refusal to look up from the gutter at the stars.

To lose the Greeks, is to lose our humanity.

W.H. Auden concludes his poem on the death of W.B. Yeats, with this quatrain:

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.


The photo shows, “Pygmalion and Galatea,” by Louis Jean François Lagrenée, painted in 1781.

Morality In Psychology: An Assessment of Benjamin Libet’s Thought

The neurophysiological work of Benjamin Libet coalesces the methodology of physics with an important philosophical question – namely, a description, or map, of consciousness.

Thus, through his investigation of neurophysiological behavior, Libet strives to determine not only the properties, but the role, of consciousness itself. Consequently, his investigation extends firmly into the realm of philosophy, especially since it involves questions of the mind and the brain, space and time, and ethics.

The question of consciousness implies determining what things real therefore exist in the world, and how we perceive, interact with, define, and understand these things. As well, consciousness concerns knowing those things that exist beyond appearance (such as ideas). Consequently, consciousness implies that the realm of reality is knowable on both the perceptual and cognitive levels.

It is within the dual concepts of cognition and perception that Libet grounds his investigation; however, his procedure is neither strictly phenomenological nor metaphysical. Rather, he deploys the methodology of quantum physics in order to gauge and record the workings of human consciousness.

This means that both time and phenomena play crucial roles in not only the process of consciousness, but also in the explanation of it. Libet contends that an action in time brings about an awareness only after we become aware of it. Thus, a specific mechanism in the brain determines the protrusion of the event into space and time. For Libet this double projection is the delay-and-antedating hypothesis/paradox.

Libet’s work involved two sets of experiments, which centered on the question of an act, or external stimulation, and its conscious awareness. In other words, how does the brain internalize external reality? Thus, Libet’s concern was with knowing the features and attributes of the space of time within which an external stimulation was converted into an internal experience by the brain.

His first experiment involved the stimulation of a brain region until the subject felt a tickle in the left hand. At the same time, the subject’s right hand was stimulated. Thus, the subject had to determine in which hand the stimulation was felt first; or was the stimulation evident in both hands simultaneously. Much to his surprise, Libet found that the stimulation of the brain, and the stimulation of the skin were both experienced simultaneously, if the stimulation of the brain began half a second earlier.

As a result, Libet calculated that there was a delay of 500 milliseconds before a conscious response was triggered. In other words, our conscious mind subtracts half-a-second from the stimulation, and predates the subject’s experience of that stimulation by that amount of time, thus affecting a balance between experienced consciousness and realized consciousness.

Because of this predating, we end up experiencing the world in an accurate way, since our conscious mind allows us to think that we experience the world at the temporally correct moment.

Embedded within this experiment was the essential concept of Readiness Potential (RP), which is the correlation between bodily movement and electrical activity in the brain. In effect, there is electrical activity in the brain one full second a bodily movement or action is effected.

Thus, before an action takes place, the brain prepares us for it. Given this delay, at what time does consciousness come into play? In other words, when do we consciously decide to act?

What ramifications does this delay have in regards to free will, because our conscious decision to act is determined before we carry out the act? From the neurophysiological realm, Libet’s investigation launched into a philosophical one, with the correlation between free will and consciousness – and even the freedom of our will.

Libet’s next experiment sought to determine the connection between timing and decision-making.

The premise of this experiment was to investigate when it was that individuals thought or believed that they made their decisions as opposed to when activity in the brain occurred that led to these decisions.

The experiment gauged electromyogram of muscles (when the subject actually performed an action), when the subject believed or thought that the action was performed, and what electrical activity occurred in the brain during this time.

Libet found that the cortex became active, with a Readiness Potential 350 milliseconds before the subject reported awareness of a desire to perform the action. This suggested that our subjective awareness of decisions takes place much later than the actual process of decision-making.

The brain, then, unconsciously sets off a voluntary action, which begins as an unconscious process. And it takes 200 milliseconds for the Readiness Potential to become an action. Thus, our consciousness is untrue; perhaps even deceptive, because once the volitional process begins, do we have enough time to consciously stop an action? Again, we are in the realm of free will and consciousness.

This latter experiment demonstrates that we only have 100 milliseconds in which our consciousness can change or stop the final outcome of the volitional process. For Libet, this is enough time to stop or veto the final progress of the volitional process. In his experiments, he found evidence for this veto, since his subjects reported that they had a conscious wish, which they curbed, or vetoed.

In other words, Readiness Potential proceeded the veto, and while the subject made ready for the action, even though the action itself was vetoed and aborted by the subject.

What this suggests is that consciousness is not a higher authority that determines the final implementation of an action. Rather, consciousness is a process of selection – the determination of what is the best of various and perhaps equal potentialities suggested by unconscious processes.

In this regard, the veto is a control mechanism, which is entirely different from a conscious desire to act. Consequently, conscious free will does not implement a voluntary action; instead it controls whether this action will take place or not. This means that there is an ethical connotation, as well.

These investigations provide insight into the structure of consciousness. Libet shows that a Readiness Potential that takes place 500 milliseconds before the action itself takes place, and some 200 milliseconds before the conscious recording of an action precedes voluntary acts. In effect, then, consciousness is primarily a construct, and its construction comes markedly after the event.

This calls into question the ultimate relevance of consciousness itself. Libet, however, suggests a relevance when he states that the role of consciousness is not to initiate action – but rather to control and influence actions.

Thus, consciousness remains in its traditional, or classical, role as arbiter of ethical actions, in that the function of consciousness is to veto actions that are unconsciously initiated.

We are not far from what the philosophers understood as Moral Natural Law.


The photo shows, “The View of Krivooserski Monastery,” by Isaac Levitan, painted in 1890.

Organic Food Is A Myth

Organic food is a myth. When people talk about “organic” food, they believe that “organic” food is free of pesticides and chemicals – or worse, that it is wonderful for the environment. They could not be more wrong.

Organic food uses pesticides and chemicals – and it harms also harms the environment.

Although it’s true, organic farming does restrict the use of some pesticides, however it does allow others. Therefore, this does not make organic food particularly better than food grown on a “conventional” farm. After all, the organic food program doesn’t address food safety.

Thanks to the environmentalist movements of the 1960’s, farmers have had to update their chemical pesticides – thus leaving a negligible difference in the pesticides used in “organic” food and “conventional” food. For example, the pesticide Rotenone has danced in and out of being a legally “organic.”

As a general pesticide, it kills more organisms then the intended pest causing a great deal of collateral ecological damage. Worse of all, Rotenone is linked with the development of Parkinson’s in human beings and other vertebrates.

It’s important to remember that just because a pesticide is naturally occurring doesn’t mean that it’s not toxic and harmful. Tobacco is natural, but is far from healthy.

But then why is it called organic food? If these “conventional” foods are so good, then why don’t they get certified as “organic” food, seeing that they’re of equal quality?

The answer is the soil.

The popular alternative to organic food by “conventional” farmers is bombarding their crops with man-made fertilizer. When artificial fertilizer is applied, many of the microbes in the soil get killed off. This lowers soil fertility, but we compensate by just dumping more nutrients.  It is important to understand that crop yield is greater under the artificial system.

But this system is also far from perfect.

The problem with this is that, meanwhile, contemporary organic farms are inefficient – very inefficient. So, to compensate we rapidly expand our “organic” farmland by tearing down forests, draining wetlands, and clearing other ecosystems.

In fact, organic farms leave a larger carbon footprint. Not only because we tear down more ecosystems to compensate for their smaller yields, but because we need cattle dung to nourish organic farms. Those microbes love natural fertilizer (i.e. dung). As you may have guessed, we get that dung from cows. As any vegan will tell you, cows make a lot of carbon. Thus, organic farms not only chop down forests that would get rid of CO2, but they also require CO2 producing animals.

There isn’t any easy answer as to how we solve our agriculture problems, but one thing is certain. When the label says organic, it’s not talking about the apple. Organic foods are not that much healthier, and they are arguably worse for the environment.


The photo shows, “The Collective Farm Market,” by Fedot Vasilievich Sychkov, painted in 1936.

The Early American Republic

The two-party system that is at the heart of the American political structure, in which the Democratic party has consistently played an important role, in that it has always sought and won the support of working people, since it claims to be a party of the common man. This claim has a long pedigree, and its roots lie in the election of Andrew Jackson, in 1828.

The years immediately preceding Jackson’s election saw the granting of voting rights to white males of all classes; as was customary at the time, women and slaves were excluded from the political process.

This was an important step forward, since previous to 1810, only men with property had the right to vote. Thus, by the time Jackson ran for the presidency, his voter-base was significantly increased, and his during the election some 54 percent of the voters turned out to cast their votes.

Thus, when Jackson won, his victory was seen as a triumph of the common man, and it also highlighted the importance of public opinion in a democratic government.

But this victory also served to heighten the profound differences between the industrialized north and the slave-economy of the south. Thus Jackson’s election brought crucial issues of class, labor, and federal power into greater focus.

Jackson’s politics depended upon a fundamental belief that the average person should run politics, rather than a few, patrician families. And Jackson saw himself as just such a common man, given his great experience in the army, and his stress on being in tune with the needs of the ordinary man.

In fact, many saw him as the personification of the rugged, American frontier spirit, which was seen as the spirit of American democracy, and inherently superior to European culture.

Jackson was viewed as an agrarian, which was the condition of the majority of Americans at the time, and his loss of his parents at an early age was used in his favor, as a tough, man of the people. As well, with Jackson, the Democratic Party came into its own, and became an important player on the political stage; in fact, Jackson’s was the party’s first president.

He initiated the first labor reforms by establishing a ten hour work day for federal shipyard workers; he was in favor of the abolition of debtors’ prison, where those who owned money were put in jail, until they paid their dues; and more importantly, he championed the mechanics’ lien law, which tackled the widespread abuse of bankruptcies laws by businesses, which previously could go out of business in order to pocket the back-wages of their workers.

Jackson’s vision of America also involved his notions of freedom and power. He believed in negative liberalism, inn that he believed that government power was in fact interfering to individual, person liberty.

He believed that individuals have to be independent, and that political independence only comes as a result of economic independence. Therefore, governments had to be restricted to a minimum, so they would not interfere with the wishes of the people.

This meant that Jackson favored a strict construction of the Constitution, strong rights for the states, and drawing support from government projects that did not benefit all of the people.

Henry Clay and the Whig Party held an entirely different view. They believed in “positive liberalism,” in which the government could actively make society better through institutional reforms.

Economic progress of the nation was seen to depend on government help, and private businesses were to be supported by the government. Thus, for the Whigs, there was a need for a strong, centralized government, a loose construction of the Constitution, especially the use of the “necessary and proper” clause that would fit any situation in order to advance the power of the government.

The Whigs also believed that men were entirely in charge of their own destinies, and therefore government of the people had to make a positive difference in the lives of the people.

This strongly federalist view was embodied in Henry Clay’s American System, which was ultimately a nationalist program. It sought the establishment of a national bank; it advocated a special tariff that would promote and protect domestic industry, and it promoted internal improvements, financially backed by the Congress.

The Whig vision of America called for a nation in which economic development was promoted and greatly diversified; in which dependence on imports would be significantly reduced; in which the various parts of the nation would come together and work harmoniously.

Thus, a Whig America would one in which the industrial future would be fully embraced, which would allow America to become a great manufacturing and commercial power.

In fact, Henry Clay’s, and the Whig’s, vision was largely accomplished, in that many of the elements of the American System were brought into practice by the Republican Party, which succeeded the Whigs.

The photo shows, “Young America,” by Thomas Leclear, painted  in 1863.

Organic Farming As Alchemy

The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.
Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
~Newton’s translation of the Emerald Tablet


In 1924, the philosopher and mystic, Rudolf Steiner gave a series of lectures that advocated a radical method of farming, which he called, Biodynamic Agriculture, whereby the “cosmic forces” of the land would be harmonized for the best outcome in food production.

The alchemical processes that he advocates to enable this harmony of the farm with the cosmos are indeed very similar to the methods followed now by the entire organic farming industry.

Steiner sought to combine occultist, mystical, and scientific reasoning, which he hoped would formulate a system of practical knowledge, in which the farmer’s work on his fields would be the equivalent of a sixteenth-century alchemist’s investigation into the transmutation of lower substances into higher ones.

Thus, Steiner suggested that farmers view their land as a living organism, and thereby work to strengthen the cosmic forces in the earth and focus on nourishing the spiritual energies of the farm.

One such suggestion involved stuffing a bull’s horn with manure, herbs, and minerals depending on the time of the year. The horn was then to be buried in the field, where it would become a sort of “Horn of Plenty” and imbue the soil with energy, or nourishment for growing things.

Once the mystical frill is trimmed off, Steiner’s suggestion are not all that crazy. In fact, most of his suggestions easily transmute into principles of organic farming. How?

Very simply, because the root concern of organic farming is the care and husbanding of the soil. In fact, organic farming is all about caring for the soil.

This is because soil is more than just dirt. Soil is a vast organic complex, an intricately linked ecosystem, very much like a forest, which is full of life, namely, microbes, most of which are extremely beneficial to crops.

These microbes in the soil help keep plants healthy by preventing disease, and they further aid the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Thus, as Steiner advocated, organic farmers focus on soil health. They earn their “organic” label because they maintain (and ideally raise) the health of their soil.

In fact, Steiner conceptualized the necessity of natural practices in the 1920s, years before Lord Northbourne outlined organic farming in his book, Look to the Land.

Steiner was ahead of the scientists of their day. (Paull, John. “Biodynamic agriculture: The journey from Koberwitz to the world, 1924-1938.” Journal of Organic Systems 6, no. 1 (2011): 27-41.)

The reason for this was that scientist made the classic rationalist mistake – they focused on the little things and forgot the big picture. Scientists saw large crops that they could quantify and measure by using artificial fertilizer. Thus they really had little conception of the harm they were doing to the soil. They focused on the rewards, which allowed them to ignore the risks.

On the other hand, Steiner was a mystic. Mystics and alchemists focus on the big picture. Steiner knew that the practices he advocated would strengthen the growing cycles of the soil. He didn’t know how, and he didn’t really know why. But in the end his method of agriculture proved to be more sustainable than the system created by the rationalists of his day. This is another example of how the narrow focus of scientific is ultimately harmful.

When Steiner says that the farm is an organism, a living thing, he is using another label to describe the same reality – that the soil is an interconnected ecosystem.

In order not disturb the soil, because it was a living thing, Steiner advised farmers to avoid tilling. By not tilling their fields, he said, farmers would preserve the microbes that were beneficial to plant growth. This practice of minimizing tillage and focusing on soil health is a cornerstone of organic farmers. The whole purpose of organic farming is to preserve the microbiome of the soil.

Steiner also recommended harmonizing the “cosmic” forces and cycles of the farm. For this reason, he advised farmers to feed their cows with crops grown on their own land, and then to use the manure of their own cows back on the land.

Cows eat plants, then plants eat up cow manure. This is one of the many cycles that occurs on the farm.

Steiner argued that the crops, cows, and farmers would benefit by strengthening this cycle. He wasn’t wrong. This tactic strengthens the microbes in the soil and is used by organic farmers today.

Ideas about cosmic forces in the soil sounds a bit loopy, but Steiner wasn’t far off. Microbes, such as, mycorrhizal fungi and node bacteria, engage in a mutualistic cycle within the plants that host them.

The microbes give the plant nutrients, and the plant gives the microbes food. This microscopic process parallels the cycle between the cows and the plants above the ground.

The ecological laws that govern the macro-ecological world above are the same that govern the micro-ecological world below.

This is equal to the alchemical principle of like-to-like, or what is above, so below – in that all creation is intricately linked, and that we have to understand and manipulate these linkages. The macrocosm is governed by the same laws as the microcosm.

The belief in such linkages is central to organic farmers, who seek to strengthen the organic forces of the soil.

Steiner also believed in sympathetic magic, or magic governed by the two laws of similarity. First, that like produces like, so that effects resemble their cause. Second, that things which have acted on one another continue to do so after they have been separated.

Of course, these principles aren’t true in a proper mechanistic view of science. But microbiology does embody these principles to an extent. Microbes do reproduce, species for species, like for like. Moreover, microbes are contagious. If soil infected with a blight is put in a new field, it will contaminate that field with the blight.

Contemporary organic farmers will go out of their way to buy probiotics for their fields. This would make perfect sense to an alchemist like Steiner. He advocated the avoidance of artificial fertilizers.

It turns out that dumping artificial fertilizer on crops obliterates the soil microbiome. Many of the farmers who buy probiotics are trying to recover their land’s microbiome because it has been destroyed by artificial fertilizer.

Steiner’s theory that artificial fertilizer destroyed harmonic cycles in the soil wasn’t completely incorrect. One may find fault with his occult mysticism, but in many ways, he was ahead of his time.

Most importantly, Steiner saw farming in terms of the big picture. Human society was part of the agricultural equation. Quality mattered over quantity. This meant a focus on healthy crops, healthy cattle, and healthy people. After all, like produces like.

Many organic farming movements see organic farming as a way of fighting the greed of larger mechanized farms (regardless of the fact that contemporary organic farms are not too different from the farms they claim to oppose).

In similar fashion, Biodynamic agriculturalists saw their farms as an alternative to greedy big business. Both organic farming and biodynamic agriculture sought to counter big business and reckless mechanization of farmland.

Today more than ever, science is seen as a separate and better alternative than the arts. Steiner’s ideas undermine the misunderstanding that science is greater than the arts, or that science is independent of the arts. Thus, Steiner’s “pseudo-science” was, in fact, ahead of the “proper scientific” methods of his time.

Indeed, biodynamic agriculture can hardly be said to be “behind” the pollution, ecological devastation, and agricultural imbalance that is the result of dumping artificial fertilizers on the land.

More importantly, Steiner’s focus on the soil turned the farmer’s attention to the natural forces and rhythms of the earth, which is the larger goal of organic farming today.

Thus, the idea that modern scientific agriculture (now dominated by organic farming practices which had an earlier advocate in Steiner) was developed independently of the arts is baseless. Science and the arts have always worked closely with each other for centuries. Remember that it wasn’t all long ago that scientists preferred to be called natural philosophers.


The photo shows, “The Field,” by Joseph Evstafievich Krachkovsky, painted ca. 1880s.

Two Sonnets


You sit besplendoured midst celestial spheres,
To bebass you is thus fit heaven’s joy:
Just as the mists play upon placid meers
And hearts in love must first wisdom employ.

How is the tree in just one seed embowed?
How comes the earth to conceal each bright face?
What silence emblazons the drifting cloud?
Why yearns the soul for the fire’s embrace?

It is you alone that bestir the heart
And give the eye grand Promethean light;
In your limbs is found the highest of art
To kneel ‘fore which is supernal delight.

When Now grace and reason are wedded in you,
When As the fresh day’s herald is dawn’s soft dew.



Like lightning that strikes through the mighty oak
To find the arcane, dark richness of earth,
So does the patience of reason invoke
Grand gestures of both sadness and high mirth.

I reach forth in silence the joy of you
Which bepens your name upon my blank soul;
It is the mark of you, the purest hue,
The very urge that makes the sea to roll.

How halting the tongue that seeks to extol
The consummation found hidden in you,
The charter of which is read by but few
Like slow plaintiff birdsong that must condole.

When Like leaves and flowers true Nature convoke,
When So are my scanty words for you bespoke.


The photo shows, “Waiting By The Window,” by Carl Holsøe, date not known.