The Coronavirus And Providence

The theme of my conversation is, the new scenarios in Italy and in Europe during and after the Coronavirus crisis. I will not speak about this theme from a medical or scientific point of view, as I do not have this competence. I will instead consider the argument from three other points of view: The point of view of a scholar of the political and social sciences; the point of view of a historian; and the point of view of a philosopher of history.

As A Scholar Of The Social Sciences

Political and social sciences study human behavior in its social, political and geopolitical context. From this point of view, I am not inquiring into the origins of the Coronavirus and its nature, but rather the social consequences that are happening and will happen.

An epidemic is the diffusion on the national or world scale (in this case it is called a pandemic) of an infective illness that afflicts a large number of individuals of a determined population in a very brief span of time. The Coronavirus, which has been renamed Covid-19, is an infective illness that began to spread through the world from China. Italy is the Western nation that is now apparently the most afflicted by it.

Why is Italy under quarantine today? Because, as the most attentive observers have understood from the very beginning, the problem of the Coronavirus is not its fatality rate but the rapidity with which the contagion spreads among the population. Everyone agrees that the illness in itself is not terribly lethal. A sick person who contracts the Coronavirus and is assisted by specialized health care personnel in well-equipped health care facilities can heal.

But if, because of the rapid spread of the contagion, which can potentially strike millions of people simultaneously, the number of sick people rapidly increases, there will not be enough health care facilities and personnel – the sick will die because they are deprived of the necessary care. In order to cure grave cases, it is necessary to have the support of intensive care in order to ventilate the lungs. If this support is lacking, the patients die. If the number of those who are sick increases, health care structures are not capable of offering intensive care to everyone and an ever greater number of patients will succumb to the disease.

Epidemiological projections are inexorable and they justify the precautions being taken. “If uncontrolled, the Coronavirus could strike the entire Italian population, but let’s say that in the end only 30% become infected, that would be about 20 million people. Let’s say that out of these – reducing the rate – 10% go into crisis, meaning that without intensive care they will succumb to the disease. This would mean that 2 million people die directly, plus all of those who will die indirectly as a result of the collapse of the health care system and the social and economic order.”

The collapse of the health care system, in turn, would have other consequences. The first is the collapse of the nation’s production system.
Economic crises usually arise from the lack of either supply or demand. But if consumers must remain at home and stores are closed, and those selling goods cannot get their products to market because of logistical breakdown, then the supply chain collapses.

The central banks would not be capable of saving such a situation: “The crisis after the Coronavirus does not have a monetary solution” writes Maurizio Ricci in La Repubblica on February 28. Stefano Feltri in turn observes: “The typical Keynesian recipes – creating jobs and artificial demand with public money – are not practical when the workers do not leave their homes, trucks do not circulate, stadiums are closed and people do not schedule vacations or work trips because they are sick at home or afraid of the contagion. Aside from avoiding liquidity crises for businesses by suspending tax payments and interest payments to banks, the political system is powerless. A government decree is not enough to reorganize the supply chain.”

The expression “perfect storm” was coined several years ago by the economist Nouriel Roubini to indicate a mix of financial conditions that are such that it leads to a collapse of the market. “There will be a global recession due to Coronavirus”, Roubini declares, adding: “This crisis will spill over and result in a disaster.”

Roubini’s forecasts have been confirmed by the drop in the price of oil after the failure of OPEC to agree with Saudi Arabia, which has decided to increase its production and cut prices in defiance of Russia; and Roubini will likely be further vindicated as events unfold.

The weak point of globalization is interconnection, the talisman word of our time, from the economy to religion. Pope Francis’ Querida Amazonia is a hymn to interconnection. But today the global system is fragile precisely because it is so interconnected. And the system of distribution of products is one of the chains of this economic interconnection. It is not a problem of the markets but of real economy. Not only finance but also industry, commerce, and agriculture, that is to say, the pillars of the economy of a nation, can all collapse, if the system of production and distribution enters into a crisis.

But there is another point that becomes evident – there is not only the collapse of the health system; there is not only a possible crack in the economy; but there can also be a collapse of the state and public authority – in a word, social anarchy. The riots in Italian prisons indicate a trend in this direction.

Epidemics have psychological consequences because of the panic that they can provoke. Between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, social psychology was born as a science. One of its first exponents was Gustave Le Bon, the author of a famous book, entitled, Psychologie des foules (Psychology of Crowds, 1895).

Analyzing collective behavior, Le Bon explains how in a crowd the individual undergoes a psychological change by which feelings and passions are transmitted from one individual to another, “by contagion,” like that which happens with infectious diseases.

The modern theory of contagion, which was inspired by Le Bon, explains how, protected by the anonymity of a crowd, the calmest individual can become aggressive, acting at the suggestion of others or in imitation of them. Panic is one of those feelings that is spread by social contagion, as happened during the French Revolution in the period that was called the “Great Fear.”

If a health crisis is compounded by an economic crisis, an uncontrolled wave of panic can trigger the violent impulses of the crowd. The state is then replaced by tribes and gangs, especially in the outskirts of large urban centers. Social war has been theorized by the São Paulo Forum, a conference of Latin American ultra-leftist organizations, and is practiced in Latin America, from Bolivia to Chile, from Venezuela to Ecuador, and may soon expand to Europe.

Someone might observe that this process corresponds to the project of the globalist lobbies, the “masters of chaos,” as Professor Renato Cristin defines them in his excellent book. But if this is true, it is also true that what emerges defeated from this crisis is the utopia of globalization, presented as the great road, destined to lead to the unification of the human race.

Globalization actually destroys space and pulverizes distances: today the key to escaping the epidemic is social distance, the isolation of the individual. The quarantine is diametrically opposed to the “open society” hoped for by George Soros. The conception of man as a relationship, typical of a certain school of philosophical personalism, dissipates.

Pope Francis, after the failure of Querida Amazonia, focused heavily on the conference dedicated to the “global compact,” scheduled at the Vatican for this coming May 14. This conference however has been rescheduled and has become more distant, not only in time but in its ideological presuppositions.

The Coronavirus brings us back to reality. It is not the end of borders that was announced after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Instead, it is the end of the world without borders, the end of the “global village.” It is not the triumph of the new world order: it is the triumph of the new world disorder. The political and social scenario is that of a society that is disintegrating and decomposing. Is it all organized? It’s possible. But history is not a deterministic succession of events.

The master of history is God, not the masters of chaos. The killer of globalization is a global virus called the Coronavirus.

As An Historian

At this point, the historian will step in to replace the political observer, seeking to see things from the perspective of a greater chronological distance. Epidemics have accompanied the history of humanity from the very beginning, and all the way to the twentieth century. And they are always intertwined with two other scourges: Wars and economic crises.

The last great epidemic, the Spanish Flu of 1918, was closely connected to the First World War and the Great Depression that began in 1929, also known as “the Great Crash,” an economic and financial crisis that convulsed the economic world at the end of the Twenties, with grave repercussions which extended well into the 1930s. These events were followed by the Second World War.

Laura Spinnay is an English scientific journalist who has written a book called Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World. Her book informs us that between 1918 and 1920 the virus which infected approximately 500 million people, including even inhabitants of remote islands of the Pacific Ocean and of the glacial Arctic Sea, causing the deaths of 50-100 million individuals, ten times more than the First World War.

World War I contributed to the flu’s virulence, helping the virus spread throughout the globe. Spinnay writes: “It is difficult to imagine a mechanism of contagion more effective than the mobilization of enormous quantities of troops in the height of the autumn wave, who then reached the four corners of the planet where they were greeted by festive crowds.

In essence, what the Spanish flu taught us is that another influenza pandemic is inevitable, but whether it will cause ten million or one hundred million victims depends only on what the world will be like in which it spreads.”

In the interconnected world of globalization, the ease with which contagion can spread is certainly greater than it was a century ago. Who can deny it?

But the historian’s perspective goes even further back in time. The twentieth century was the most terrible century of history. But there was another terrible century, “The Calamitous Fourteenth Century,” as Barbara Tuchman calls it in her book A Distant Mirror.

I would like to focus on this historical period that marked the end of the Medieval era and the beginning of the Modern era. I do so by basing myself on historical works that are not Catholic but serious and objective in their research.

The Rogations are processions convoked by the Church in order to implore the help of Heaven against calamities. The Rogations contain the prayer “A fame, peste et bello libera nos, Domine:” – from famine, plague, and war, deliver us, O Lord.

As the historian Roberto Lopez writes, the liturgical invocation present in the Rogation ceremonies “unfolded with all of its drama over the course of the fourteenth century… Between the tenth and twelfth centuries,” Lopez continues, “none of the great scourges that mow down humanity seem to have raged in any great measure; neither pestilence, of which there is no mention during this period, nor famine, nor war, which had a greatly reduced number of victims. Moreover, the expanse of agriculture was widened by a slow softening of the climate. We have proof of this in the retreat of the glaciers in the mountains and of the icebergs in the northern seas, in the extension of wine growing into regions like England where today it is no longer practical, and in the abundance of water in regions of the Sahara that were later reconquered by the desert.”

The picture of the fourteenth century was much, much different, as natural catastrophes combined with serious religious and political upheavals.

The fourteenth century was a century of deep religious crisis – it opened in 1303 with the famous “slap” of Anagni against Boniface VIII, one of the greatest humiliations of the papacy in history. Then, it saw the transference of the papacy for seventy years to the city of Avignon in France (1308-1378). And it ended with forty years of the Western Schism from 1378 to 1417, in which Catholic Europe was divided between two and then three popes. A century later, in 1517, the Protestant Revolution lacerated the unity of the Christian faith.

If the thirteenth century was a period of peace in Europe, the fourteenth century was an era of permanent war. We need only think of the “Hundred Years’ War” between France and England (1339-1452) and of the assault of the Turks against the Byzantine Empire with the conquest of Adrianople (1362).

In this century Europe experienced an economic crisis due to climatic changes caused, not by man, but by glaciation. The climate of the Middle Ages had been mild and gentle, like that era’s customs. But the fourteenth century experienced an abrupt harshening of climatic conditions.

The rains and floods of the spring of 1315 led to a general famine that assailed all of Europe, above all the northern regions, causing the death of millions of people. The famine spread everywhere. The elderly voluntarily refused food, in the hope of enabling the young to survive, and historians of the time write of many cases of cannibalism.

One of the principal consequences of the famines was agricultural de-structuring. In this period there were great movement of agricultural depopulation, characterized by flight from the land and the abandonment of villages; the forest invaded fields and vineyards. As a result of the abandonment of the fields, there was a strong reduction of soil productivity and a depletion of livestock.

If bad weather causes famine, the subsequent weakening of the body of entire populations causes disease. The historians Ruggiero Romano and Alberto Tenenti show how in the fourteenth century the recurring cycle of famines and epidemics intensified. The last great plague had erupted between 747 and 750; almost six hundred years later it reappeared, striking four times in the space of a decade.

The plague came from the Orient and arrived in Constantinople in the autumn of 1347. Over the next three years it infected all of Europe, all the way to Scandinavia and Poland. It was the Black Plague, of which Boccaccio speaks in the Decameron. Italy lost about half of its inhabitants. Agnolo di Tura, the chronicler of Siena, lamented that no one could be found to bury the dead, and that he had to bury his five sons with his own hands. Giovanni Villani, the chronicler of Florence, was struck by the plague in such a sudden way that his chronicle ends abruptly in the middle of a sentence.

The European population that had surpassed 70 million inhabitants at the beginning of the 1300s was reduced by a century of wars, epidemics, and famines to 40 million; it shrank by more than one third. The famines, plague, and wars of the fourteenth century were interpreted by the Christian people as signs of God’s chastisement.

Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444) admonished: Tria sunt flagella quibus dominus castigat. There are three scourges with which God chastises: War, plague, and famine. Saint Bernardine belongs to a number of saints, like Catherine of Siena, Bridget of Sweden, Vincent Ferrer, Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, who warned how throughout history natural disasters have always accompanied the infidelities and apostasy of nations.

It happened at the end of the Christian Middle Ages, and it seems to be happening today. Saints like Bernardine of Siena did not attribute these events to the work of evil agents but to the sins of men, which are even more grave if they are collective sins and still more grave if tolerated or promoted by the rulers of the peoples and by those who govern the Church.

As A Philosopher Of History

These considerations introduce us to the third point in which I will consider the events not as a sociologist or historian but as a philosopher of history.

Theology and the philosophy of history are fields of intellectual speculation that apply the principles of theology and philosophy to historical events.

The theologian of history is like an eagle that judges human affairs from the heights. Some of the great theologians of history were Saint Augustine (354-430), Jacques Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704), who was called the eagle of Meaux, from the name of the diocese where he was bishop, Count Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821), the marquis Juan Donoso Cortés (1809-1853), the abbot of Solesmes Dom Guéranger (1805-1875), professor Plinio Correa de Oliveira (1908-1995), and may others. There is a Biblical expression that says: Judicia Dei abyssus multa (Ps 35:7): the judgments of God are a great abyss. The theologian of history submits himself to these judgments and seeks to understand the reason for them.

Saint Gregory the Great, as he invites us to investigate the reasons for divine action, affirms: “Whoever does not discover the reason for which God does things in the very works themselves, will find in his own meanness and baseness sufficient cause to explain why his investigations are in vain.”

Philosophy and modern theology, under the influence above all of Hegel, have replaced the judgments of God with the judgments of history. The principle, according to which the Church judges history, is reversed. It is not the Church that judges history, but history that judges the Church, because the Church, according to the Nouvelle théologie, does not transcend history but is immanent, internal to itself.

When Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said in his final interview that “The Church is 200 years behind” with respect to history, he assumed history as the criterion of judgment for the Church. When Pope Francis, in his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia on December 21, 2019, made these words of Cardinal Martini his own, he is judging the Church in the name of history, overturning what should be the criterion of Catholic judgment.

History in reality is a creature of God, like nature, like all that exists, because nothing of what exists can exist apart from God. All that happens in history is foreseen, regulated and ordered by God for all eternity.

Thus, for the philosopher of history every discussion can only begin with God and finish with God. God does not only exist; God is concerned for His creatures, and He rewards or chastises rational creatures according to the merits or faults of each. The Catechism of Saint Pius X teaches: “God rewards the good and chastises the wicked because He is infinite justice….”

Justice, theologians explain, is one of the infinite perfections of God. The infinite mercy of God presupposed his infinite justice.

Among Catholics, the concept of justice, like the concept of divine justice, is often removed. And yet the doctrine of the Church teaches the existence of a particular judgment that follows the death of every person, with the immediate reward or punishment of the soul, and of a universal judgment in which all angels and all human beings will be judged for their thoughts, words, actions, and omissions.

The theology of history tells us that God rewards and punishes not only men but also collectivities and social groups: Families, nations, civilizations. But while men have their reward or chastisement, sometimes on earth but always in heaven, nations, which do not have an eternal life, are punished or rewarded only on earth.

God is righteous and rewarding and gives to each what is his due: He not only chastises individual persons, but He also sends tribulations to families, cities, and nations for the sins which they commit. Earthquakes, famines, epidemics, wars, and revolutions have always been considered divine chastisements. As Father Pedro de Ribadaneira (1527-1611) writes: “wars and plagues, droughts and famines, fires and all other disastrous calamities are chastisement for the sins of entire populations.”

On March 5, the bishop of an important diocese, whom I will not name, declared: “One thing is certain: this virus was not sent by God to punish sinful humanity. It is an effect of nature, treating us as a stepmother. But God faces this phenomenon with us and probably will make us understand, in the end, that humanity is one single village.”

The Italian bishop does not renounce the myth of the “single village,” nor the religion of nature, of the Pachamama and Greta Thunberg, even if for him the “Great Mother” can become “stepmother.” But the bishop above all forcefully rejects the idea that the Coronavirus epidemic or any other collective disaster can be a punishment for humanity. The virus, the bishop believes, is only the effect of nature.

But who is it that has created, ordered, and guided nature? God is the author of nature with its forces and its laws, and He has the power to arrange the mechanism of the forces and laws of nature in such a way as to produce a phenomenon according to the needs of His justice or His mercy. God, who is the first cause above all of all that exists, always makes use of secondary causes in order to affect His plans. Whoever has a supernatural spirit does not stop at the superficial level of things, but seeks to understand the hidden design of God that is at work beneath the apparently blind force of nature.

The great sin of our time is the loss of faith by the men of the Church: Not of this or that man of the Church but of the men of the Church in their collective whole, with few exceptions, thanks to whom the Church does not lose her invisibility. This sin produces blindness of the mind and hardening of the heart: Indifference to the violation of the divine order of the universe.

It is an indifference that hides hatred towards God. How is it manifested? Not directly. These men of the Church are too cowardly to directly challenge God; they prefer to express their hatred towards those who dare to speak of God. Whoever dares to speak of the chastisement of God gets stoned: A torrent of hatred flows against him.

These men of the Church, while verbally professing to believe in God, actually live immersed in practical atheism. They despoil God of all His attributes, reducing Him to pure “being” – that is, to nothing. Everything that happens is, for them, the fruit of nature, emancipated from its author, and only science, not the Church, is capable of deciphering nature’s laws.

Yet not only sound theology but the sensus fidei itself teaches that all physical and material evils that do not come from the will of man depend on the will of God. Saint Alphonsus Liguori writes: “Everything that happens here against our will, know that it does not occur except by the will of God, as Saint Augustine says.”

On July 19 the Church’s liturgy recalls Saint Lupus (or Saint Loup), bishop of Troyes (383-478). He was the brother of Saint Vincent of Lerins and the brother-in-law of Saint Hilary of Arles, belonging to a family of ancient senatorial nobility, but above all of great sanctity.

During his lengthy episcopate (52 years), Gaul was invaded by the Huns. Attila, at the head of an army of 400.000 men, crossed the Rhine, devastating everything he found in his path. When he arrived before the city of Troyes, Bishop Lupus, in his pontifical vestments and following his clergy in procession, came to meet Attila and asked him, “Who are you that you threaten this city?” And the response came: “Don’t you know who I am? I am Attila, king of the Huns, called the scourge of God.” To which Lupus replied: “Well, then, be the welcome scourge of God, because we merit divine scourges because of our sins. But if it is possible, let your blows fall only on my person and not on the entire city.”

The Huns entered the city of Troyes, but by divine will they were blinded and crossed it without being aware of it and without doing evil to anyone.

The bishops today not only are not speaking about divine scourges, but they are not even inviting the faithful to pray that God will liberate them from the epidemic. There is a coherence in this. Whoever prays, in fact, asks God to intervene in his life, and thus in the things of the world, in order to be protected from evil and to obtain spiritual and material goods. But why should God listen to our prayers, if He is disinterested in the universe created by Him?

If, on the contrary, God can, by means of miracles, change the laws of nature, avoiding the sufferings and death of an individual man, or great loss of life throughout an entire city, He can also decree the punishment of a city or a people, because their collective sins call down collective chastisements.

Saint Charles Borromeo said, “Because of our sins, God permitted the fire of the plague to attack every part of Milan.” And Saint Thomas Aquinas explains: “When it is all the people who sin, vengeance must be made on all the people, just as the Egyptians who persecuted the children of Israel were submerged in the Red Sea, and as the inhabitants of Sodom were struck down en masse, or a significant number of people must be struck, such as happened in the chastisement inflicted for the adoration of the golden calf.”

On the eve of the second session of the First Vatican Council, on January 6, 1870, Saint John Bosco had a vision in which it was revealed to him that “war, plague, and famine are the scourges with which the pride and malice of men will be struck down.” This is how the Lord expressed himself: “You, O priests, why do you not run to weep between the vestibule and the altar, begging for the end of the scourges? Why do you not take up the shield of faith and go over the roofs, in the houses, in the streets, in the piazzas, in every inaccessible place, to carry the seed of my word. Do you not know that this is the terrible two-edged sword that strikes down my enemies and that breaks the wrath of God and men?”

The priests are silent, the bishops are silent, the Pope is silent.

We are approaching Holy Week and Easter. And yet for the first time in many centuries in Italy, the churches are closed, Masses are suspended, and even Saint Peter’s Basilica is closed. The Holy Week and Easter liturgies urbe et orbi will not be drawing pilgrims from all over the world.

God, also punishes by “subtraction,” as Saint Bernardine of Siena says; and today it seems like He has removed the churches, the Mother of all churches from the supreme Pastor, while the Catholic people are groping confused in the dark, deprived of the light of truth that should illuminate the world from Saint Peter’s Basilica. How can we not see in what the Coronavirus is producing a symbolic consequence of the self-destruction of the Church?

Judicia Dei abyssus multa. We ought to be certain that what is happening does not prefigure the success of the sons of darkness, but rather their defeat, because, as Father Carlo Ambrogio Cattaneo, S.J., (1645-1705) explains, the number of sins, whether of a man or of a people, is numbered. Venit dies iniquitate praefinita, says the prophet Ezekiel (21:2), God is merciful but there is a final sin that God does not tolerate and that provokes His chastisement.

Furthermore, according to a principle of the theology of Christian history, the center of history is not the enemies of the Church but the saints. Omnia sustineo propter electos (2 Tim 2:10) says Saint Paul. History revolves around the elect of God. And history depends on the impenetrable designs of Divine Providence.

Throughout history there are those who oppose the law of God, whether men, groups, or organized societies, both public and secret, who work to destroy all that has been ordained by God. They are able to obtain apparent successes, but they will always ultimately be defeated.

The scenario we have before us is apocalyptic, but Pius XII recalls that in the Book of Revelation (6:2) Saint John says, “did not behold only the ruins caused by sin, war, famine, and death; he also saw in the first place the victory of Christ. And, indeed, the path of the Church throughout the centuries is a via crucis, but it is also always a march of triumph. The Church of Christ, the man of faith and Christian love, are always those who bring light, redemption and peace to a humanity without hope. Iesus Christus heri et hodie, ipse et in saecula (Hebrews 13:8). Christ is your guide, from victory to victory. Follow him.”

At Fatima, the Blessed Mother has revealed to us the scenario of our time, and she assured us of her triumph. With the humility of those who are aware that they can do nothing by their own strength, but also with the confidence of those who know that everything is possible with the help of God, we do not retreat, and we entrust ourselves to Mary, at the tragic hour of the events foretold by the message of Fatima.

This article is a transcription of a video made by Professor de Mattei.

The image shows “The Plague of the Philistines at Ashdod,” by Pieter van Halen, painted in 1661.

Renewing Plato. Part One: The Flaws of Aristotelian Hylomorphism

Plato was manifestly an oracle (similar to Pythagoras), whose thesis of the subdivision of reality into a virtual realm (inaccessible to the senses) and a concrete realm of the senses ultimately came to elucidate his privileged experience of the superiority of supra-sensible reality; Aristotle, on the other hand, resembled much more what can only be described as being sensory. In what follows, I would like to defend a renovated version of the Platonic perspective, against the Aristotelian negation of the existence of virtual entities that Plato called “Ideas,” but which the master of Aristotle rightly identified as the model of concrete entities.

Therefore, I will argue as follows:

1) Any concrete entity partakes of an ideational model (which may be termed, “archetype,” but which, contrary to the traditional understanding of archetypes, must be deemed as the singular model of a given entity, and the model of the unique and shared traits of a given singular entity)—which configures, or determines, the layout and the composition of the aforesaid entity, and that the “matter” constituting concrete beings takes charge of its own information, except in the case of those concrete beings that are artificial.

2) Here, the ideal, or virtual realm is hierarchized: it is constituted by elementary archetypes, as well as archetypes implied by the elementary ones. Plus, the starting rules of the cosmos (as such, the laws present at the time of the Big-Bang) and the implications of such rules, the latter being incessantly iterated and complexified over the course of cosmic history.

Besides the ideal field is imbued with a possibly conscious impulse, whose object is the incarnation of the ideal realm into matter. This impulse engenders the temporal start of the material field, and therefore of the universe. Yet the ideal realm materializes itself, all the while remaining beyond matter.

3) Time occasions a process of communication between matter at the instant (T) and the actualizable properties of matter at the instant (T-1), which yields so many implications that it is possible to extract from elementary archetypes and from starting rules. Matter, within the framework of this extraction of the implications in collaboration with time, repeats in a fractal mode the starting rules of the cosmos. These consist of a handful of pairs of opposites (namely: attraction and repulsion, integration and differentiation, fission and fusion) branching (via the iteration which causes the extraction of their implications) into the laws of the cosmos.

4) The primordial unity from which the cosmos proceeds consists in the impulse on the part of the ideational field to selectively accomplish its own content into innovative matter, and the bliss for man (especially the Faustian man) lies in the knowledge of the material unfolding of the Spirit (by which I mean the ideational field taken from the angle of its unified multiplicity), and in the extension of the creative gesture of the cosmos—via science, technique, and art.

5) The atemporal movement consisting for the Spirit of actualizing (while sorting) the implications that it carries within it projects—on the walls of the metaphorical cavern of the material and temporal field—a shadow which consists in the begetting (at the level of matter and on the part of matter) of increasing levels of order and complexity. A generation nonetheless not assigned to a predetermined final state of cosmic evolution—and not kept away from randomness and from error.

The course and the laws of the cosmos that are the incarnation of the Spirit mobilize clairvoyance (i.e., the intuition of the supra-sensible field), just as well as conjecture (and induction) from the sensible datum.

Hylomorphism And The Emergence Process

As for Aristotle’s substitution of the archetypes, from which proceed the concrete entities, with the notion that a concrete entity owes its determination to the “form” which is inherent to it, I will naturally begin by questioning the Aristotelian perspective for the benefit of the rehabilitation of archetypes.

The Aristotelian hylomorphic theory claims that any entity is a compound of two distinct realities—namely, form, which is to be taken in the precise sense of an active reality conferring onto matter a certain arrangement, and as such, determining the concerned entity. And matter, which is to be taken in the precise sense of a passive and indeterminate reality composing the entity, and giving it a concrete and tangible character, and carrying within it the potentiality of a given change at the level of form—a change which is spontaneously actualized in the case of natural beings. Such theory does not fail to pose a certain number of problems.

To begin with, it is hardly plausible that the arrangement of a certain (concrete) entity and its composition are only associated realities within the entity, instead of the information (in other words, the arrangement, the organization) of the entity being a property of that which composes the entity. In that second scenario, which is much more likely, “form” must no longer be taken in the sense of an active reality. Rather, it must be seen as a passive emanation of the tenor of “matter,” the matter composing the concrete entities and—at least in the case of those of concrete beings which are properly natural and which are therefore opposed to those artificial—taking charge of its own shaping.

Besides, it is manifestly false that the determination (of the identity) of a concrete entity relates exclusively to the arrangement of the entity, rather than to the combination of its arrangement and of its composition. The identity of a tree—apart from its foliage and the composition of its leaves—resides jointly in the (essential or contingent) qualities of the wood which composes it and in the (constitutive or accidental) features of the arrangement of its trunk and of its branches. The archetype which Pythagoras and Plato deal with (and which we cannot do without) must be reassessed accordingly.

Our way of envisioning the relationship of form to matter, and the nature of those two realities (and thus, the adequate definition of the concepts which cover them), owes its greatest plausibility most notably to the compatibility of our approach with the emergence process. The latter can be defined as the fact for a qualitatively new concrete entity—the novelty in question relating to the composition of the entity or its arrangement—to arise from one or more pre-existing entities (to which the new entity cannot however be reduced). Yet the only changes compatible with the Aristotelian approach to form as an active and informative element, which coexists with matter envisaged as passive and informed (but which is not a driving element of formal change), are those which do not consist in introducing a component or an arrangement of a new type on the world stage.

Hence the emergence exceeds the Aristotelian hylomorphic framework. The only intelligible changes in the hylomorphic framework are those which do not contravene the Aristotelian conception of the world as eternal and equal to itself, whether the object of changes is place, quality, quantity, or generation. For its part, the conception of the matter of concrete beings as active and self-informed also takes into account this kind of change that is emergence. Here it is elucidated as a process in which self-organized matter sets up an organization of a new type, and in which the emerging organization possibly merges with a component of a new type.

Hylomorphism And The Distinction Between Natural Beings And Artificial Beings

Further, my approach allows for a greater likelihood (and greater clarity) of examining the dichotomy between those of concrete beings which are “natural” and those which are “artificial”: distinction confusedly treated in Aristotelian hylomorphism (which affirms the spontaneous character of the occurrence of the various kinds of change in the case of natural beings, but claims, otherwise, that any change is due to an exterior motor), here clarified in these terms.

Namely that natural beings are those of concrete beings whose information is spontaneously set up by the tenor of what composes them, while artificial beings are those which owe their information to the exercise of an exterior action on the tenor of what composes them, regardless of whether the other kinds of change to affect them are spontaneous or not.

While water presents itself as a natural entity, whose information is spontaneously taken over (by the molecules composing it, which assemble two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom), and whose self-organization (in other words, self-information) is confused with the emergence of a certain sort of “matter” (which will enter in the composition, for example, of a floe), a snowman is an artificial being whose information is the result of the action of a human being having fun with snow.

The self-information constitutive of those of (concrete) beings which are natural will take specific modalities according to the types of the natural beings: from the particulate self-organization (of the quarks which enter in the composition) of hadrons to that of the cells which compose advanced (therefore multicellular) eukaryotes, and to that of the individual members of animal or human societies, these are genuinely incremental levels of emergence that hatch (as concerns the types of self-information, and in upstream, the types of natural being). The nutritive, generative, sensitive, motor, or cogitative functions which living beings endorse and which Aristotle classifies being only modalities of the self-information of living beings.

Just as the existence of the realm of concrete entities is corroborated by sensible experience; likewise, the existence of the realm of virtual entities—the mathematical laws which govern the concrete order, as well as the archetypes which Plato calls “Ideas” and that notably include numbers—is corroborated by the supra-sensible experience.

The Idea that Plato deals with (and whose definition which I will retain as adequate is that of the Idea as the supra-sensible model of concrete entities) has this particularity, compared to the form (in the Aristotelian sense), allegedly present in concrete entities, that it can utterly be conceived of as jointly determining the arrangement and the composition of a given concrete entity. The Idea is certainly virtual (rather than concrete); it nevertheless remains likely to contain just as much the essential or accidental, necessary or contingent properties at the level of organization (“form” taken in the vague sense of the arrangement of a given concrete entity) as those at the level of the composition (“matter” taken in the vague sense of what a given concrete entity is made of). In this regard it would be worthwhile to distinguish between “matter” (understood as what enters in the composition of a given entity) and “materiality” (understood as a certain mode of existence which consists for a given entity in being concrete, tangible, firm).

Assuredly such an approach to Idea is not that of Plato. The latter does not only consider Ideas as the models only of general qualities (for example, the general qualities of blond, blue-eyed people… rather than the sum of the singular and common qualities of the blond, blue-eyed Donald Trump), which amounts to restricting the qualities configured in the Idea of a certain singular entity to the field of the general (in other words, shared, common) qualities of the entity, general qualities which are also necessary qualities (but which do not summarize the whole of necessary qualities). Besides he represents to himself Idea as the supra-sensible model of the sole organization of concrete entities (and not that jointly of their arrangement and of their composition). Yet the identity of a given concrete entity including both the qualities relating to its composition and those relating to its arrangement, the supra-sensible model of the identity must manifestly determine both what is characteristic of the arrangement and what belongs to the composition.

As archetypes deal as much with arrangement as with composition, the (singular) archetype of a given concrete entity will determine whether its arrangement is spontaneously set up by what enters in the composition of the entity—in other words, whether the entity in question is natural rather than artificial. In the case where the entity is effectively natural, the organization is jointly determined by the archetype and implemented by what enters in its composition… so that a distinction must be made between organization as predetermined in the archetype and organization as materialized. In other words, the materialized “form,” that set up by matter (understood as what composes a concrete being), must be distinguished from its supra-sensible and virtual model: the form which is determined in the archetype of a given concrete entity, but which does not summarize the archetype. Given the latter includes as much the properties relating to the composition of the concerned concrete entity as those relating to its arrangement.

A New Approach To “Form” And “Matter”

Ultimately we can redefine in these terms the form and the matter which were the subject of Aristotle’s meditations. In the weak sense, matter is what composes a given entity (whether the entity is virtual or concrete, tangible, firm), while in the strong sense, matter is what composes a properly concretized (in other words, firm) entity, which we commonly call a “material” entity—a qualifier that we will make ours.

As for form, it is the arrangement (in other words, the organization) of a given entity… arrangement that (in the case of material entities) matter (taken in the strong sense) either gives itself actively or passively receives: that distinction at the level of the arrangement founding the dichotomy between those of material entities which are natural and those which are artificial.

When we will use the term “matter” without specifying the sense in which we understand it, we will take it in the strong sense mentioned above: matter understood as what composes a properly concrete entity… with a spontaneous arrangement of matter in the case of natural entities. While we reject the Aristotelian definition of matter (as a passive and concrete reality that composes any entity), we believe that the Aristotelian approach to form remains valid as concerns the arrangement of archetypes.

Aristotelian hylomorphism not only conceives of any entity as a compound of “form” and “matter,” but defines the second as that which passively composes and concretizes a given entity, and the first as that which actively informs the composition of the entity. It is obviously intended to be an alternative to the theory of Ideas. Nevertheless the assertion that any properly material entity is a compound of form in the Aristotelian sense and of matter in the sense of what passively composes a material entity is hardly incompatible with the Platonic notion that any material (that is to say, materialized, tangible) entity aligns with a virtual archetype.

Better the virtual archetypes which Plato deals with are certainly deprived of a material existence, matter in the sense of what passively composes a given entity does not fail them: they are, so to speak, cut in the wood of virtual. While the arrangement of the archetypes (which merges with the content of the Ideas) actively informs the virtual reality of which the archetypes are made. As such, the form taken in the Aristotelian sense of an active reality which coexists with the passive composition of a given entity (and which arranges the entity) corresponds no less well to the virtual entities that are the archetypes… for want of applying to concrete entities the secrets of which Aristotelian hylomorphism yet believed to unlock.

Form as understood by Aristotle all the better lends itself to describing the arrangement of an archetype (rather than that of a material entity) as, while denying the existence of virtual entities, the Stagirite does not conceive of form as a material reality (but as a reality coexisting with matter within a given material entity). If form as defined by Aristotle does not have a properly material existence, it is difficult to see how it could not be an arrangement whose mode of existence is virtual… therefore an arrangement which relates to a virtual entity.

Towards a New Version Of Platonism

By the way Idea can even be conceived of in Aristotelian terms of efficient cause and final cause, the efficient cause being Idea itself (which is sufficient in itself to exist, and that exists outside of time and world) and the final cause being the material entity that Idea is intended to determine (at the level of its composition and of its arrangement).

As archetype jointly includes the qualities associated with composition and those associated with arrangement, the emergence of matter from nothingness (which supposedly preceded the beginning of the cosmos) loses its mysterious character. The engendering of matter—of which vacuum, baryons, leptons, photons, dark matter, water, or bronze are all specific varieties—is the work of the Spirit, by which I hear the virtual bundle of archetypes (including numbers and figures), as well as of the laws of the cosmos.

More precisely, the renovated Platonic perspective to which I subscribe is that a swarm of atemporal and virtual axioms (namely, attraction and repulsion, integration and differentiation, fission and fusion), as well as of elementary archetypes (including the archetype of the quark or that of the void), presides over the creation of the universe. And that matter—in partnership with time which, at the instant (T), allows it to make a selection among those of properties at the level of the arrangement or of the composition of matter which, at the instant (T-1), are actualizable—accomplishes (while sorting them out) the virtual implications which flow from the axioms (by which I designate, so, the starting rules of the cosmos) and from the archetypes.

Matter certainly takes charge of its own information (in other words, it gives itself its own arrangement, its own formal determination, which is a function of the tenor of matter); nevertheless it acts under the impulse of a virtual swarm of archetypes and of axioms which—over the course of time and through time and matter—sees its own implications extracted (and selected) in the cosmos. The information of a given matter leading up from time to time to an incremental mode of matter—like the mode of matter that is methane gas and which emerges from the arrangement (within its molecules) of a carbon atom and of four hydrogen atoms.

In that framework, the supra-sensible knowledge, the intuition of the virtual entities that are axioms (that matter declines at each level of emergence succeeding the original emergence of the universe) and the (elementary or implied) archetypes, is utterly conceivable. It is worthwhile to distinguish between the arrangement relating to archetypes (which merges with their content) and the arrangement which resides in the archetypes… the one which they express and which they determine. We will speak of “archetypal form” to designate the latter, and of the “arrangement of archetypes” to designate the former.

What ideology is to men who work to organize society on the model of an ideology, the archetypal form (by which I mean, so, the form that the archetype determines, and that it carries within it) is to matter which informs itself on the formal model of the archetype. Just as matter (at least in the case of natural entities) gives itself its own form, and just as the tenor of form will depend on the tenor of matter, the members of a certain human biocultural group—when they spontaneously organize their society—will give themselves an organization which will be a function of the tenor of their biology.

Besides the momentum of the archetypes of giving themselves a material translation—a translation jointly at the level of the tenor of matter and at the level of the organization of matter—communicates itself to matter which will strive to achieve the archetypal forms… just as the impulse of ideologies (in other words, memes) to organize matter communicates itself to humans who will endeavor to conform the organization of their societies to the formal models of ideologies.

Ultimately the process which consists for the archetype in realizing itself jointly into the tenor of matter and into the organization of matter finds itself to be incidentally mimicked by the process which consists for the meme—the equivalent of the duplicator of biological information in the field of acquired cultural behavior—in realizing itself into the organization of matter. It is not impossible that this similarity can also be observed in the relationship that the genetic program sustains with the arrangement of the individual organism.

Grégoire Canlorbe is an independent scholar based in Paris. He has conducted many academic interviews with social scientists, physicists, and cultural figures. He has also authored a number of metapolitical and philosophical articles. He ha also worked on a forthcoming conversation book with the philosopher, Howard Bloom. See his website is gregoirecanlorbe.com.

The image shows, “I Lock the Door Upon Myself,” by Fernand Khnopff, painted in 1891.

Educational U-Turn

According to recent economic data, the gap between the rich and the low-income people is bigger than ever before, and the level of inequality between Blacks and Whites is highest since 1989: “Whites have $13 for $1 held by African Americans” (The Washington Post on Dec. 3rd, 2014). The tone of the pronouncements is alarming, and, the claim goes, unless something is done, the wealth divide may become the cause of social unrest.

What goes unnoticed in the context of endless discussions concerning the growing income inequality is the galloping educational inequality where the blame cannot be assigned to the rich for the educational ills of the poor. In the economic realm one can tax the rich to transfer wealth to the poor, but one cannot transfer knowledge, that is, linguistic comprehension and social and scientific competence, of those who are highly literate to improve the comprehension of low-income children.

The last two hundred “democratic” years, which witnessed the spread of public libraries and learning institutions created for the use of ordinary citizens, abounds in examples of children from poor and modest backgrounds getting to the top of Western societies.

Twentieth-century — both in the democratic West and in the former Communist countries — demonstrates that one can elevate the uneducated masses to a historically unprecedented level of literacy and scientific competence. The key to success was teaching proper language – the language of educated classes (or elites – the word purged from American English) so that the masses of ordinary people could participate in High Culture and civic and scientific life of the country.

What we observe in Twenty-First-century America is an educational U-turn. We graduate masses of elementary, high-school and college students who are below the level of reading daily newspapers. Their comprehension is getting worse and worse each year, and the average present-day public-school student does not have enough vocabulary to read the same books that his counterpart did a decade let alone two decades ago.

We produce citizens who have no linguistic and thus conceptual skills to grasp the complex political, social, and economic problems that every nation faces in its history. The question is why? And if you think it is lack of resources or bad teachers, you are likely to be wrong.

Despite the recurrent media “witch-hunt” after bad teachers, teachers bear much less responsibility than one would like to assign to them. They are victims of cultural and institutional politics that pushed out the traditional methods of teaching and learning and replaced them by pedagogy, children’s psychology and, in the last decade, electronic insanity which makes children scroll through a text rather than read.

The last thing one sees is young people reading and what they read, if they read books at all, are books that bear semblance to literature, but they are not. They lack literary imagination characteristic of the Classics, the characters are psychologically flat, rarely animated by any virtues, and speak the language of the people from the street. Instead of making our children’s English better, more elegant, we perpetuate bad habits and cater to their existing vocabulary level, leaving them behind their richer counterparts.

If one wonders why foreign students, Asian, and many from former British colonies in Africa, are so successful in America, the answer is: they came from societies where educational habits did not change much for decades. Their parents brought with them traditional study skills and discipline – the two things which are absent here. Memorization and endless drills “till you get it right” are essential tools for getting high grades.

To some extent the same attitude still prevails in good private and most Catholic schools in the U.S. There vocabulary is still taught from serious vocabulary books in the old-fashioned way by memorization, drills, endless and relentless repetition and exercises. In some of those schools, students take Latin, French, sometimes German, which for an English speaker is the only way to learn grammar (since grammar is never taught).

As a nation, we need to realize that the wealth divide between “haves” and “have-nots” corresponds to “comprehends” and “comprehend-nots.” One cannot teach, for example, eighth grade science or history to students who operate on the fifth or sixth grade vocabulary level. If one’s comprehension is not up to the level of being accepted by a good college, one’s chances for social and financial advancement disappears from before one’s child’s eyes.

The educational abyss overlaps to a large extent with the financial abyss making America look like a “tale of two cities”: fewer and fewer well-educated rich and growing masses of semi-literate and helpless low-income people.

Unlike the acquisition of wealth which requires personal and rare qualities (industriousness, self-determination, etc.), all it takes to know one’s language well is reading good literature. Reading is what disappeared from American households and schools.

Few children from the poor backgrounds have heard of Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, Mark Twain, Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Homer, Aesop, let alone Plutarch’s lives of great Greeks and Romans — the authors who formed the imagination and language of generations of readers in the Western world. Using a dictionary and reading Classics appears to belong to the remote past and is restricted to a relatively small group of richer children which makes them look like educational aristocracy.

Why do our youngsters not read the Classics? There are two answers to this question: Parents and younger teachers themselves did not read them, and the teachers succumbed to the ridiculous idea propagated by so-called “experts” in pedagogy that children understand literature best when they “can relate to” characters whose problems and language are theirs.

If so, how on earth can one explain how millions of girls of several generations ago could relate to Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Princess and the Pea” without sleeping on a pile of pillows, or Snow White? The answer is, we relate through imagination which is a vehicle to a more beautiful world and a way of getting out from the ugliness of our own environment and poverty.

No literary character is real. Literary characters are merely plausible, and literature is a promise that we can imagine being elsewhere in life. To illustrate my point, let me invoke an example of a poor Hispanic Brooklyn girl who became America’s Supreme Court Justice – Sonya Sotomayor. This is what she said in the January 13, 2014, NPR Fresh Air interview:

“One day talking to my first-year roommate … I was telling her about how out of place I felt at Princeton, how I didn’t connect with many of the experiences that some of my classmates were describing, and she said to me, “You’re like Alice in Wonderland.”

I said, “Who is Alice?”

And she said, “You don’t know about Alice?”
I said, “No, I don’t.”

And she said, “It’s one of the greatest book classics in English literature. You should read it.”

“I recognized at that moment that there were likely to be many other children’s classics that I had not read. … Before I went home that summer, I asked her to give me a list of some of the books she thought were children’s classics and she gave me a long list and I spent the summer reading them. That was perhaps the starkest moment of my understanding that there was a world I had missed, of things that I didn’t know anything about.”

Justice Sotomayor’s words should be a cautionary tale for all present-day educators who by experimenting with new methods are in fact closing the door to the future before our children’s eyes.

How did we reach such low level of literacy? There are several reasons, of which the first one is the idea of multiculturalism propagated in the 1980s and 90s. According to it, a multicultural society should, or even must, represent minorities in educational curriculum.

This argument is similar in nature to the one I presented above: it is based on the false intellectual and moral premise that the work of art does not have an intrinsic value; its value lies in the fact that it was created by a member of a given minority, and the minority reader (or viewer of a painting or sculpture) is more likely to appreciate it if he is of the same sex, race, ethnicity.

But to make such a claim is tantamount to saying that there are no objective criteria of judgement. The criteria are subjective and determined by race or sex or ethnicity.

Secondly, multiculturalism is inimical to the idea of a nation. Americans may not be a nation in the same sense in which other nations are, and whose literature captures peculiar moments of a historical development, mentality and the features of its people.

It is unimaginable to be a German without knowing Goethe, Schiller, or Heine; French without knowing Racine, Corneille, or Moliere, Pascal and Descartes; Russian without knowing Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Lermontov, or Gogol and Pasternak. They are not just great writers; they are national monuments, of which Germans, French, and Russians are proud.

To be sure, America does not have national literature in the same sense. Knowing Thoreau or Emerson, Steinbeck or Faulkner, or C.S. Lewis does not make an American American. What does is the tacit intellectual commitment – inculcated in the educational process — to principles on which this country was founded, and which for a century or so was transmitted through what Americans used to call “Great Books.”

There are no American writers in it. What the American “Library of Alexandria” contains are the greatest treasures of European intellectual tradition which goes back to the Greeks, Romans, great Christian writers, such as, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Calvin, Luther, and others. But first of all, much of what one finds in this library is British or English, including the greatest works in the English language: the language of America and the language of its legal and political tradition.

As things stand, America appears to be in the final stage of repudiating its threefold past: British, Protestant and Western. Multiculturalism is not merely a failed promise of a providing a better education; it is a moral and intellectual disease, and that is how we should treat it. We need to repudiate it loudly by returning to our old “Library of Alexandria.”

Pouring more money into education will not solve the problem and will more likely make things worse. The money will be spent on organizing conferences on new methods of teaching, relating to students, buying new computers – all that is taking students away from reading. It is time to recognize the simple truth that there are no new methods in education but one: old-fashioned painstaking acquisition of vocabulary, learning grammar and reading good books.

It may not always be true that every rich person is educated but the majority of children from richer families or families where reading is a daily bread are the same who will graduate from top universities. They will acquire wealth while the semi-literate will remain financially poor because they will not be able to master subjects necessary to get jobs to get out of poverty and advance their social status.

There is also a place for the billionaires and richer members of our society to help the poor, not by squandering money on educational foundations, but by directly engaging in doing something: sponsoring children Classics book-clubs, giving incentives to children who read a lot, organizing serious foreign language classes where they could learn language and grammar.

Perhaps McDonalds and other food chains, which live off the low-income people, could promote Classics by putting books, like Starbucks does selling CDs with music, at the counter offering “voracious readers” awards, or giving a free meal to children who read X number of books. Education does not have to cost a lot, provided one knows what it is, but social costs of having millions of poorly educated citizens can and we should do something about it.

If we are serious about improving education, we need to go back to basics: a pencil, a sheet of paper, a dictionary, basic Latin and Greek, and classic literature with a teacher who should not be bothered by a continuous nonsense of improving methods of teaching. No method is a substitute for literary competence and imagination.

Zbigniew Janowski is the author of Cartesian Theodicy: Descartes’ Quest for Certitude, Index Augustino-Cartesian, Agamemnon’s Tomb: Polish Oresteia (with Catherine O’Neil), How To Read Descartes’ Meditations. He also is the editor of Leszek Kolakowski’s My Correct Views on Everything, The Two Eyes of Spinoza and Other Essays on Philosophers, John Stuart Mill: On Democracy, Freedom and Government & Other Selected Writings. He is currently working on a collection of articles: Homo Americanus: Rise of Democratic Totalitarianism in America.

The image shows, “Woman Reading. Portrait of Sofia Kramskaya,” by Ivan Kramskoi, and painted sometime after 1866.

Under cover of Anti-Francoism, They Are Revising History

For the past fifteen years or so, the use of history for political ends has become the indelible mark of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the cryptocommunist far Left (today united under the acronym, Podemos Izquierda Unida). The same talking-points are always mentioned by the political authorities and the mainstream media: the Francoist repression” (or White Repression), and the repression of the Left during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. On the other hand, a careful examination reveals the repression of the Right by the Left. But for the Left – it is said – only “mourning” was done under the dictatorship.

Over the years, the memorialist ideology of the Spanish Left has steadily grown. History, which bizarrely, is said to be dominated by the Right, has become suspect. It has been replaced by “historical and democratic memory.” Based on individual and subjective memories, it is not concerned with explaining and understanding, but with selecting, condemning and denouncing.

Forgiveness and Dialogue – All That Is Finished

In the aftermath of the Franco dictatorship, from 1976 to 1982, two principles animated “the spirit of democratic transition:” Reciprocal forgiveness and dialogue between government and opposition. It was not a question of forgetting the past, but of overcoming it and looking resolutely to the future. There was then, as the authorities are pleased to say today, “no voluntary amnesia,” nor “a pact of silence.”

On the contrary, the democratic transition was based on a perfect awareness of the failures of the past and on the will to overcome them. It was not a question of imposing silence on historians and journalists, but of letting them debate, and refusing to allow politicians to take up the subject for their partisan struggles. There was therefore no oversight; but, on the contrary, a particular attention was paid to history, which led to an impressive number of publications, the likes of which doubtless had never been seen.

But from the 1990s onwards, and in particular after the 1993 election campaign, the attitude of the Socialist Party changed. A neo-Socialist and post-Marxist cultural tidal wave soon overwhelmed Spain. The Manichean history of the first years of Franco’s regime, which was believed to be permanently buried with him, has resurfaced, but in another form. With José Luis Zapatero’s Historical Memory Law of 2007, new impetus was given to the arguments of the “Memoria histórica” and a real atmosphere of pre-civil war gradually settled upon the country.

Memorial Amnesia

In December 2008, the Socialist parliamentary group presented to Parliament a new bill to reform and amplify the 2007 law. In its first draft, this bill provided for a Truth Commission (sic!), composed of eleven designated members by Parliament to tell the historical truth. It also provided for fines of up to 150,000 euros, prison terms for up to 4 years, destruction of published works and the dismissal of teachers found guilty for up to ten years. Luckily, this undemocratic monstrosity has been overhauled and to-date it is a new, “softer” draft that is waiting to be examined and voted on by parliamentarians.

Contrary to what the title of a Parisian evening newspaper recently asserted, it is not the ban on the cult of Franco that divides Spain, but the definition or the meaning that the new memorial bill gives to “the apology of Francoism.” It is indeed peculiar and disturbing to see parties of the Left, which have become amnesiac, presenting a supposedly democratic bill which is basically only a step towards the establishment of a kind of soft Sovietism. It is mind-boggling to see left-wing parties claiming to be part of the Second Republic and democracy also forgetting or camouflaging their own historical memory.

The Crimes Of The Left

How can we forget that portion of the Left’s responsibility in the origin of the Civil War, when the revolutionary myth of armed struggle was shared by all the Left?

How can we forget that liberal democracy was seen, by the Bolshevized Socialist Party, by the Communist Party and by the Anarchists, only as a means to achieve their ends: “Popular democracy” or the socialist state?

How can we forget the use of massive political violence by the Socialist Party during the October 1934 putsch, or coup d’état against the Liberal-Centrist government of the radical, Alejandro Lerroux, whose party was fueled by Freemasons?

How can we forget that during the elections of the Popular Front, in February 1936, 50 seats on the Right were invalidated and systematically granted to the Left, so that it could have a majority?

How can we forget that the President of the Republic, Niceto Alcalá Zamora, considered too conservative, was dismissed “in violation of the constitution,” after a real “parliamentary coup d’état,” according to his own words?

How can we forget the terror on the street (more than 300 dead in three months), the marginalization and exclusion of the parliamentary opposition in June?

Abuses In Both Camps

How can we forget that the atrocities and extrajudicial executions were as terrible and numerous in one camp as in the other? How can we forget that the founding fathers of the Republic, the intellectuals Marañon, Perez de Ayala, Ortega y Gasset, or even Unamuno – the evil that happened him, according to Alejandro Amenábar – the true liberals and democrats of the time, opposed the Popular Front and chose the National camp?

Why spread the idea that, since the beginning of the establishment of democracy, the Spaniards have been unable to overcome the past, that the Transition has been cowardice, and that the Right continues, for the most part, to be Francoist?

Why delegitimize the democratization of Spain and undermine the 1978 Constitution? Why not finally let the dead bury the dead permanently? In 1547, after having captured the city of Wittenberg, Charles V visited the tomb of the man who had been his harshest enemy, Martin Luther. Some advisers suggested that he burn the remains of the “heretic.” Magnanimously the emperor replied: “He found his judge. I make war on the living, not on the dead.”

The 1978 Constitution Flouted

The Civil War historian cannot subscribe to a litany of hate, revenge and demolition. He knows very well that we must not confuse the origins and antecedents of the Civil War with the coup d’état of July 18, 1936, nor the Civil War with Franco’s dictatorship; that all these are very different facts; and that, as such, they can be judged and interpreted in very different ways.

By confusing everything, mixing everything up, we condemn ourselves to not understanding anything. Suitably, article 16 of the 1978 Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, ideological freedom and freedom of worship and religious belief, without any other possible restrictions than those derived from the maintenance of public order, protected by law.

Hopefully, parliamentarians will remember it when examining and voting on this new bill, which is so anti-democratic and obscurantist, so radically incompatible with what the “values of the European Union” are or should be.

Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.

Translated from the Spanish by N. Dass.

The image shows a child’s drawing, at the back of which is this inscription in the child’s own hand: “his scene shows a bombing in my town, Port-Bou. María Dolores Sanz, age 13.” Drawing ca. 1936-1938.



What Lies Ahead?

The year that King Uzziah died was in 740BC thus ending a period of national prosperity for the nation of Judah. He had been one of Judah’s finest kings and greatest leaders since he was crowned king at the tender age of 16. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. God was with him right up until the last few years of his life when pride led to his downfall.

However, he had defeated Judah’s enemies over the years, built Jerusalem up into a fine city and the people enjoyed great success and prosperity. The full account of his reign is told in 2 Chronicles and he reigned in Jerusalem for 52 years which is a long time. Isaiah opens with the words; “In the year King Uzziah died.”

He did so because that marked the closing or the end of a significant period not only in Isaiah’s life but in the life of the nation. Isaiah had grown up over the years under various kings like Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. But it was in the year King Uzziah died that marks a watershed in the life of the nation. The people no doubt will fondly remember their good king Uzziah.

There comes a time in all of our lives when someone who seems to have been there for a long time dies. It may be a husband or a wife, a parent, a close friend, a grandparent, a work colleague, a good neighbour. They die. And as we look back, we remember the year they died.

A flood of thoughts come back as we bookmark in our minds the year when they died. We bookmark in our minds the anniversary of their death and contemplate their passing. For some of us it’s something we cannot ever get over; we somehow cannot deal with life in the same way we could when they were alive. The year when Uzziah died. The year when Winston Churchill died, the year when Princess Diana died. The year when Elvis died.

For the people of Judah, it was a huge and sad loss, losing Uzziah. It was a loss too for Isaiah as he contemplated his passing and was now left wondering what will happen next. Although Uzziah had quelled many an uprising against Judah’s enemies and defeated the armies of Syria, the Philistines, and Assyrians; he knew like a pack of jackals they would be back to attack once again.

Would the new king be strong enough; would Judah’s armies fight the same way they did for Uzziah? The Northern Kingdom of Israel would fall into the hands of Assyria; would Judah be next?

The peace and prosperity that Judah had known for many years would it now all come to an end? The future looked bleak and uncertain. But then Isaiah sees the Lord and that changed his total understanding of things. ‘Sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings.’

Isaiah’s thoughts of Uzziah are put on hold as his mind is filled with the presence and radiance of God upon the throne. A great king may have left his throne on earth, but the greatest king was still seated on the throne of heaven. The one who presides over all earthly kings and rulers; who places them in power and removes them. For Isaiah the outlook was bleak but; the up look was glorious.

You or me will probably never see in this life what Isaiah saw because it transformed him as a person. You see our own lives may seem to be shattered or falling apart. The future uncertain, fear and apprehension grips us like a hard frost; but know this God is still on the throne and reigning as the king of kings. Our light and momentary troubles will pass away. But there is a higher throne than the earthly one Isaiah has looked to, more exalted and never ending.

Quite often we are transfixed by ourselves, by our own problems, by our own circumstances and sometimes it has to be said we prefer to remain there. But it’s not a good place to stay. Self-pity causes us more problems than its worth. The prophet Habakkuk felt this way when God told him that he would use Babylon as the rod of correction for his people. Habakkuk was understandably gripped with fear on hearing this looking to save his own skin and the skin of his people.

Dare we imagine, that when we glimpse Almighty God our attention will be drawn away from ourselves, to him seated on the throne over all the earth. It’s a difficult thing. Isaiah’s vision of God as one whose robe fills the temple speaks of God’s presence in Zion, another name for Jerusalem.

God will be at work in and through Zion throughout all of human history; but if only the train of God’s robe fills the temple, then He is bigger than the temple, beyond it, and not contained by it. He is bigger than the church. And bigger than the universe He created. Mind boggling really.

In our tradition, we are not generally good at imagining, and contemplating. But it is good to think beyond the hard facts and allow our minds to create vivid pictures of God in his glory. Can you imagine yourself if this was a picture on a canvas, where would you be in the picture.? If you were an artist where would you even start to paint such a picture.

The Lord’s realm of course is not just Jerusalem it is the whole earth v3.
But Jerusalem and Israel he has not abandoned and he will work through them which he is doing even today. Isaiah gives us a glimpse of heaven. Other creatures will be there like the Seraph’s who have wings like angels. They are living flames of pure praise and sinless. They are fantastic heavenly creatures yet beside God they are insignificant. God is as high above an archangel, as an elephant is above an ant.

These are holy creatures but even they have to cover their faces and their feet from the perfect and pure presence of a Holy God. The seraphim hover in constant motion like a humming bird in their beauty ready to do God’s will. How many of them will there be in heaven; six or seven. John in his vision in Revelation says he saw; ‘ten thousand times ten thousand’ and more encircling the throne.

These are creatures who serve and worship in the presence of God in heaven who are not even able to gaze upon the beauty of God such is his holiness and radiance.

It’s beyond words. If seraphs are not allowed to gaze at the beauty and wonder of God what about ourselves? And this is the conviction of Isaiah’s heart. Here we have a great prophet of Israel, a holy man, a champion of God. He saw himself with the eyes of God and what did he say. Did he say; “Oh, look at me Lord, and how important I am, and look at the great things I have been saying about you. Afterall I am your prophet.”

He said; ‘Woe to me, I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.’ What a devastating confession to make.

Here was Isaiah the prophet who reads from the holy scriptures in the temple. His lips and mouth are his greatest asset, his words are sent on wings to bring healing and repentance to the people; and here he is confessing before God that he is a man of unclean lips. What hope is there for the rest of us?

In the West the vast majority of people no longer know the difference between right and wrong. Moral absolutes no longer exist. Truth has been replaced by feelings and opinions. All that matters for the majority is to worship the god of personal happiness and freedom to do whatever they like. Cultural Marxism aided and abetted by academics and the media hold court as judge, jury and executioner.

But Isaiah’s eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts. When we look away from ourselves and glimpse Almighty God things change. What happens is that God’s spirit convicts us of our sins. We realise that our good deeds amount to dirty rags in his sight. Our sins rise up in front of us and we are deeply ashamed.

We have nowhere to go except fall at the feet of the risen Saviour Jesus Christ and beg his forgiveness and cleansing. No one else can do anything for us except Jesus. Unclean lips are caused by an unclean heart. Isaiah cried out to be cleansed inwardly and God met his need. His lips were touched, his guilt taken away and his sin atoned for. Such is God’s salvation for each person. Before we can minister to others, we must permit God to minister to us.

What troubles Isaiah the most is not Assyria or the Philistines, or a pending war, of Judah losing her prosperity or independence. What troubles Isaiah the most is himself. He is the problem and he is part of a people who have a problem, as all have unclean lips and unclean hearts.

Malcom Muggeridge, one of the twentieth century’s greatest journalists and satirists, wrote: “the depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality, but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”

Isaiah cries; “Woe to me; I am ruined.” Even for someone like Isaiah who had great faith’ his faith at times was lukewarm and dull with little understanding of the grandeur of God. He despaired of himself. Now for the first time Isaiah sees himself as he really is, because he sees God. And when that happens something new occurs; pride is swept away and humility gushes in.

This is the way to Salvation. Friends until we move away from ourselves, our little idols and our little empires we are ruined; we are lost. Sheep wandering without a shepherd. If you try to compare your good deeds with someone else you will always win. That’s why we do it; it’s a win-win-win situation for us. But when you do that you deceive yourself. Instead compare yourself always to Jesus. When you do that you will discover it’s a lose-lose-lose situation. But it’s also a reality check. And its where and how we receive his grace.

A seraph peels away from the throne and heads for Isaiah holding a burning coal that he took from the alter with tongs, but not because it is hot; after all a seraph is a ‘burning one’. He took this coal with tongs because it is a holy thing. This holy thing touches Isaiah’s dirty mouth, and it does not hurt him, instead it heals him. This burning coal symbolizes the finished work of Christ on the cross. He went to the place of sacrifice called Calvary. His dying love for you and me is the only power that can awaken people in a moral stupor. And awaken us he does.

He touches us with his presence and through the Holy Spirit he says again, “I have made atonement for you; your guilt is taken away. You are released from your sins that bound you.” The price we pay for this liberation is a traumatic self-discovery. A new you emerges. The remedy for our lives of deadness is the touch of God himself as his truth breaks into our lives.

People in Isaiah’s day had heard the message in the synagogue over and over again; but they remained unmoved and unconvinced. You see every time we hear the word of God being preached on a Sunday morning something happens.

You come away from the service; and either what you have heard moves you closer to God or moves you a little further away from God. Either way you are never just the same as you entered. The gospel is designed for a purpose to move a person closer to God or further away from God.
Now if you think you can hold the middle ground you delude yourself.

If you think you can keep Christ at a safe distance and yet within view, you are facing God’s judgement. Tragically God was finished with Isaiah’s generation, he had promised them his blessings, he provided for them. He pleaded with them; he performed miracles for them, all to no avail. They weren’t interested and God leaves them to it.

I wonder if God has left us in Europe, Australia and North America to get on with it considering the vast majority have left him and his church.
Oh, he will always be there as Sovereign God, but not in the way he once was. His Spirit has departed.

Israel’s prophetic leader Samuel tells us twice later on after Isaiah that, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” This resulted in national disaster for Israel at the time. God’s Spirit can depart from any generation and he does not have to give us the reasons why. But the evidence why, is observable. Yes, a revival can take place and we pray for that, but so can the departing of God’s glory; his Shekinah glory.

When we hear such a message from Isaiah, we need to beware that we do not fall into the same trap as the Israelites did. Isaiah’s message is one we need to heed.

Beware of being too wrapped up in yourself.
Beware of a heart that is never satisfied.
Beware of a mind that looks for excuses not to believe.
Beware of an impulse that always finds a reason to delay a response.

Beware of thinking how the sermon applies to someone else.
Beware of thinking that you are not good enough.
Beware of thinking that you are good enough.
Beware of thinking what can I get, rather than what can I give.

Muggeridge writes when in his seventies; “When I look back on my life as I sometimes do what strikes me most forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive, seems now most futile and absurd. For instance, success in all its various guises, being known and being praised, ostensible pleasures like acquiring money or seducing women or travelling to and fro over the earth like Satan. Exploring and experiencing whatever Vanity Fair has to offer. In retrospect all these exercises in self-gratification seem pure fantasy, a licking of the earth.”

Rev Alan Wilson is a recently retired Presbyterian Minister in Northern Ireland. He was a former Police Officer during the ‘troubles’ before going into the ministry. He is married to Ann and they are now proud grandparents of Jacob and Cora. He enjoys keeping Alpaccas, gardening, watching football and learning how theology relates to the environment and the world at large. He and his wife spent a summer Exchange in 2018 with a Presbyterian Church in Toronto.

The image shows, “God the Son,” by Viktor Vasnetsov, painted, ca. 1885-1896.

A Modest Proposal To Rescue Higher Education

There are three issues that reflect crisis in higher education: Rising costs leading to serious student debt; lack of competence of graduates in basic skills; politicization.

Costs of Higher Education

The cost of obtaining a degree has risen at an astronomical rate, compared to the overall rate of inflation. Part of the reason is that when someone else is paying (government-guaranteed loans) we cannot resist the temptation to raise prices and to overspend.

This over-spending is reflected in the fact that academic bureaucracies and support staff have swelled. They have swelled because the increase in people seeking degrees leads to a vast increase in the number of students either incapable of, or unprepared for, college-level work. Lack of preparation reflects the disaster of K-12 schooling.

Culturally, we have not honestly discussed students’ limited ability and disinterest. A large part of the educational establishment sustains the myth that it has a utopian social technology for solving all social problems.

In addition, the higher-education industry refuses to give up market share and prefers to adulterate (dumb-down) the product, as well as pursue its private political agenda, as opposed to its academic mission. It is much more exhilarating to think that you are transforming the world than to admit that you are part of a gigantic fraud.

We continue to camouflage these difficulties by doing away with the evidence – doing away with tests or other forms of objective assessment and by engaging in semantics. Faculty, who are rightly fearful of finding themselves redundant or expendable, are complicit.

Competence

Lack of competence reflects the dumbing-down of standards and achievement. The very failure of post-secondary education leads to the claim that students need more education in the form of advanced degrees – which, by the way, increases market share. The major problem here is that we have not distinguished between higher education and longer education.

Higher education, as reflected in serious requirements in multiple disciplines (what the old liberal arts degree used to reflect, like mathematics, science, history, philosophy, foreign languages, the ability to read and write critically, to do research and scholarship, etc.), is only achievable by about 20% of the school-age population – again a difficult statistic for a democratic culture to accept.

Longer education, on the other hand, is achievable by about a further 60% of the school-age population. This is what the vast majority of students really need to function in an increasingly complex economic world.

If we focused resources on this cohort, then we would produce competent graduates relevant to the workforce. The academic establishment would cry that these graduates have not been taught liberal subjects – ignoring the fact that most students are neither interested in, nor capable of, understanding these subjects or critical thinking.

It is also not clear to me that a liberal arts education makes you a better human being or a better citizen. As a result, most students do not learn what they can and should learn. Finally, the liberal arts have by now been totally politicized. For example, instead of reading Shakespeare to learn something about the human predicament, students now are led to discover that the author was racist, sexist, homophobic, and so forth.

Politicization

There is a hidden political agenda. Since the 18th-century, the intellectual world has been dominated by the ideology of the Enlightenment Project – the view, based on the false assumption that the so-called “social sciences” are like the physical sciences; that there are experts (university professors) who know the fundamental truths; such that they have a social technology which enables them to solve every social problem; and thus they should be in charge of an institution (namely, the government) with the power to implement this technology over every other social institution. In addition to being empty abstractions, mission statements are thinly veiled political agendas.

It should come as no surprise that such intellectuals favor central control and that they seek to silence dissent (including, and especially, other professors who deny the existence of these truths or this technology). If the experts were to disagree, then we would not know who, if any, are the real experts. John Stuart Mill must be turning in his grave.

These ideologues educate the K-12 faculty, the journalists and even the clergy; they dominate the publishing and media world. They offer academic positions to politicians or their spouses – the academic-political complex; they fund propaganda centers; they control who is invited to be a commencement speaker.

Given the foregoing, it should come as no surprise that the political agenda of universities is to indoctrinate students into becoming democratic socialists, i.e., to vote for the left-wing of the Democratic Party. All of this costs money and necessitates a big endowment devoted, not to education or to tuition remission – but to a political agenda.

Given these problems, I therefore propose the following remedies.

Economic

All universities should lose their tax-exempt status. They should charge a market-determined price for their services: if degrees are so valuable monetarily with regard to future income then universities should contract with students to pay no tuition (i.e., everybody goes to college for ‘free’) but students would agree to pay a modest percentage of all future earnings. Who would turn down such a great win-win offer? Presumably, some universities could focus on under-prepared students.

Universities cannot contend that they are preserving a cultural and intellectual heritage – in fact, they are trashing it. The heritage is being preserved in many other institutions and should never be the exclusive prerogative of one type of institution. Serious research in all fields is now being done primarily in think-tanks and private laboratories.

All universities should be required to contribute ¾ of their present endowment to defray the costs of student loans by present graduates of their respective schools. In many cases, universities are circumventing donor intent. The endowment is now used to pay huge salaries to administrators and consultants, and as well to turn campuses into country-clubs. Universities have engaged in false advertising by accepting students knowing that many of them will not succeed (e.g., retention rates).

Universities should be encouraged to define themselves and their own requirements – how many years, what courses. We need innovation and experimentation. We need boutique education.

There will no longer be any need for accreditation. Accreditation agencies promote uniformity not competition; they are a disguise for the imposition of the political agenda; they are so inherently corrupt (academic insiders evaluating other academic insiders) that Enron’s accounting/auditing scandal pales by comparison.

Competence

Academics favor government regulation, so why not regulate them as well?
All graduates should be required to take a competency exam consisting of four parts:

  • Basic communication skills (write a coherent paragraph)
  • Math skills
  • Technology skills (e.g. computer) [Standards to be set by the Department of Education in consultation with representatives from the top five technology companies, as determined by market value]
  • Knowledge of major public policy debates (see next section on politicization)

Those who pass the exam would be given a certification (like passing the bar exam in law or board exams in medicine). These certifications will be made public so that employers may use them in judging applicants for a position. Perhaps U.S. News and World Report could use these statistics. This is certainly more reliable than the popularity polls they use now.

If the graduate fails the exam three times, the degree must be rescinded; but the student may take the exam as many times as he/she wished. Those who fail the exam five consecutive times should be allowed to participate in a CLASS-ACTION SUIT AGAINST THEIR UNIVERSITY.

The Department of Education should evaluate schools on their certification passage rates. These ratings would be made public; below a certain passage rate would lead to the revocation of their license and eventual closure of the school.

The Department of Education is not going to disappear – every time democratic socialists are elected, they will bring it back. Every regulatory agency runs the risk of politicization. My suggestion brings it out in the open and minimizes it.

Politicization

The examinations on religion, politics, or other disputed topics, should not turn on the truth or falsehood of opinions, but on the matter of fact that such and such an opinion is held, on such and such grounds, by such and such authors, or schools, or churches. All positions would be studied.
The selection of disputed topics and the acceptable answers would be publicly posted in advance.

The Department of Education would form a special committee, both to formulate the questions and what constitutes an acceptable answer (especially the reasons or arguments for a position). The use of fallacious reasoning (e.g., ad hominem arguments) would result in disqualification.

The membership of the committee would be determined as follows: every political party that polls at least 5% of the national vote will designate their participant(s); and the number of each group’s designees will be proportional to the last presidential election. Terms will be staggered.

The Q&A will be formulated by those who advocate the position. No test is perfect but it is better than no test. Current university students have no idea that there is an alternative position on anything. The point is not to require agreement but merely require knowledge of what is being argued, by whom, and how.

Nicholas Capaldi is Legendre-Soulé Distinguished Chair in Business Ethics at Loyola University New Orleans, where he also serves as Director of the Center for Spiritual Capital. He is the founder and President of the Global Corporate Governance Institute. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his PhD from Columbia University. His principal research and teaching interest is in public policy and its intersection with political science, philosophy, law, religion, and economics. He is the author of 8 books, over 100 articles, editor of ten anthologies, member of the editorial board of six journals, and has served as editor of Public Affairs Quarterly. He is Associate Editor of the Encyclopedia of Corporate Social Responsibility (Springer). His most recent books are Liberty and Equality in Political Economy: From Locke versus Rousseau to the Present, as well as The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law. He is also the author of the Cambridge intellectual biography, John Stuart Mill.

The image shows, “The School,” by Jan Steen, painted in 1660.

Why I Believe

Many think of Jesus as just an idea or as an interesting person. The Apostle John tells us to look at the signs. What direction do they point? Believe. Believe in Jesus who is the object of our faith.

The God of the bible is not what many sometimes think he is. For many of us God is like the Loch Ness Monster. Some people claim to have caught glimpses of him. But when you compare their stories, it turns out that they all have slightly different ideas about what they think they’ve seen.

Devotees have trawled the Loch with submarines and sonar equipment. Miles of film have been shot and thousands of photographs have been taken in countless attempts to capture conclusive proof of the monster’s existence.

But all we have to go on are a few grainy pictures that are just enough to keep our hopes alive. There is no proof that it exists. But then, there’s no proof that it doesn’t. So, people go on searching. And so, it is with God.

Most of us are open to the idea that there may well be someone out there, like God lurking in the darkest depths of the universe. We are curious about him in much the same way that an adopted child is curious about its biological parents.

We think that if we understood more about him, it might help us to understand more about ourselves. It might help us to fit some of the pieces together. But after years of searching we are like the philosophers; even if there is a God, we can’t know him. Well not really.

Once in a while we may stumble across a footprint, or think we see a flash of a tail. We may have some kind of spiritual experience. But like the Loch Ness monster, God seems to be keeping himself to himself in the depths.

John through his gospel repeatedly claims there is a God who is really out there using the evidence he calls signs. John uses signs for our benefit, but that makes little difference. Because we are a sceptical lot. We don’t put our trust in anyone, only the banks and financial markets.

We have come through the trials and tribulations of life. Family bust ups, divorce, relatives dying of cancer, addictions, wars, rape, lies, environmental carnage, suicide, disease, famine and pestilence to name but a few. Why should we trust someone like God with all this happening? It’s a fair question.

We have seen millions dying of poverty and drought and Islamic State chopping the heads of Christian’s. We want to know why God dosn’t seem to care or act. Why trust him? Maybe when we were younger, we used to be naive thinking that God was watching over us. But now that we have lived a bit we want to know where he was when his world needed him.?

If he cared you’d think he would come out of hiding. You’d think that he would do something to fix a few things and right a few wrongs. How can you trust someone when they don’t seem to be around the neighbourhood? Putting it in a nutshell many believe that God exists, but he is beyond my reach; and of course, there are people who are quite happy to settle for God to remain outside their reach.

The first thing we can say is that God has a face. God is not a person that we devise in our minds. He is the God who really is out there. Some people have pen pals from childhood days. They correspond with them over the years and before Skype was on the go.

As you correspond with them you start to think; I wonder what they look like, what sort of a person are they based on, what they have said about themselves. It’s really a guessing game. To know exactly what they are really like our only hope is for that person to come and make themselves known to us. John in his gospel is telling us that that is exactly what has happened. He sums this up in four words. Four words that show us that the God of the bible was not how I had imagined God to be.

Through Jesus Christ the God who is out there has come knocking on our door. John says; “the word became flesh.” He calls Jesus the word, (logos) because words inform us of who he is. And Jesus speaks to us about who he is and why he has come. Now some of us may think that Jesus is just another in the long list of religious leaders down through the years. But this is what John says about Jesus the Word. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.”

What John is telling us is that the story of Jesus did not begin in Bethlehem as some imagine. In the beginning when the world was first created, Jesus was there with God. So, what sort of person would be with God from the beginning of time, space and history. They would have to be God. That’s what John says; “the word was God. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made.” The word, Jesus; was not just with God from the beginning watching over everything, it was through him that God made the universe. Jesus created all life species.

From the ant to the elephant, from the shark to the eagle, from the daffodil to the mighty oak. He made life happen. Including forming and shaping us in his image, from the dust of the ground.; to where we will all return.
At a point in history there came a moment in time during the reign of Caesar Augustus, when the one who made the stars; became a tiny cell in the womb of an unmarried Jewish girl. This majestic God became flesh and bone. He has a face we can look into.

Jesus is not just one of God’s prophets or spokesmen, Jesus is God who left the splendour and majesty of heaven to come and live on earth for a period of time. Do we believe this so far?

The fact that Jesus is God; he came to us shows us three things about what God is really like. God has a face where the word became flesh. Secondly, he is committed to his creation. When God created the world, he looked at all of it and he said that it was “very good.” There were no imperfections or mistakes. Everything in nature worked together in unison; unlike today.

In the Garden of Eden and across nature there were no pestilences or famines or plagues or disease. It was like the Louis Armstrong song What a Wonderful World. “I see trees of green red roses too. I see them bloom for me and you and I think to myself what a wonderful world.” That’s what it was like.

But as we know sin entered into the world and changed everything. The wonderful world is still wonderful, but it has serious flaws and fault lines that run through it everywhere from top to bottom and from side to side.

The sin we inherited which can be traced back to Adam and Eve is prevalent in each and every human being. To sin is to be human. To be human is to be fallen.

Even though we see the problems we have created all around us and the way and manner in which we have walked out on God; he has not walked out on us. Environmental damage; habitat loss; and the decline in species has been caused by man not by God. God has placed everything on this planet we need although we have to work for it.

The story of the world begins with the creator. John tells us that there is a new beginning for the world and it begins with the creator. God is committed to his creation despite what we see and hear on the news; and bit by bit he will re-create.

The world of science wants to harness God by its formulations and theories, it wants to make God look like a fool and assert its place ahead of God. The machinations of man building the Tower of Babel is a classic example as is the modern-day EU European Union. But God is not an abstract force we can harness like the power of the wind or sea rather he is a person, a face, whom we can love. In other words, relationship is at the very heart of who he is. The Word made his dwelling among us.

When did God previously make his dwelling with his people to show them that he was committed to them? Remember the tabernacle was the tent; the tent of meeting that God told Moses to make when the Israelites were fleeing from Egypt through the desert. It was to be pitched in the centre of the camp as a symbolic reminder that their God was in their midst.

Then there was the pillar of cloud and fire which served as the visible evidence of God’s presence by which he guided them from Egypt to Sinai and then during their years in the wilderness.

By day, God went ahead of the people to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Not only that Manna and Quail were provided daily by God for over a million people in the middle of a desert. God was there with his people every step of the way. God has come among us, through his Holy Spirit.

So, when we think of God somehow out there in the darkness and depths like the Loch Ness Monster or in the far reaches of the universe we have got it wrong. God comes to us to search for us and rescue us. The good shepherd who comes looking for his sheep.

In the bible there is no record of the lost shepherd being tracked down by the conscientious sheep. It’s always the other way around. We are the ones who have messed up and God is the one who comes looking for us. And when he comes, he comes to us not as a force that we are to harness, but with a face we are to love because of his commitment to us. This is good news for the world. Jesus came into the world as the light of the world to shine in the darkness.

The world is a dark foreboding place. The days are evil. God knows this. He has come to make sense of our lives and give us purpose and direction.
If there is anyone who can give us the right answers it has got to be God.
The world is in a mess; Europe is in a mess. God has the answers but we prefer to do things our way.

When God comes with the answers, he doesn’t just give us some carefully worded ones he becomes one of us. It would have been very easy for God to give us a written description of him and what he does and doesn’t do. But that would have been a cop out. God had a far better way. He came as the word made flesh and lived among people. This is what God is like. His love took him to us.

Part of our history going back to the middle ages portrays Jesus as a ghostly pale almost spectre like figure with a dinner plate stuck to the back of his head. It is often a great painting by one of the masters but it is poor theology, because it makes Jesus seem less than human. John talks about a God who became flesh. Flesh gets hungry and tired. It aches, it cries, it gets hurt. God became one of us in every way yet was without sin. Are you misunderstood by the people close to you? Jesus has been there.

Are you grieving? He has cried by the grave of a friend. Have friends let you down? He knows what it’s like to feel betrayed. Are you close to giving up? He knows exactly what you are going through.

God has a face and a mind and a body who understands us and someone we can relate to. John says; ‘the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only, who came from the father full of grace and truth.’

We sometimes say to someone; “Go on then show us what you’re made of.” We are really asking that person to show us their glory; their true self. God’s glory is what God is like in all his brilliance. In Old Testament times no one could look on God’s glory and live. It would have been like standing to close to the sun. No one was allowed to see God face to face; it was forbidden. But all this changed, for Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to see his glory.

With Jesus we don’t just catch a fleeting glimpse of God, we can look into his face and see God in all his brilliance. Only it’s not the sort of brilliance we have in mind; no star dust. Jesus speaks about his hour of glory. He tells his disciples that there will come a crowning moment when his brilliance will be displayed for all to see.

When we think of someone’s hour of glory, we think of holding the World Cup aloft, or standing on the rostrum receiving a gold medal, or receiving an Oscar award or presented with a Nobel prize. That’s their 15 minutes of glory.

Jesus says that his hour of glory is the hour of his Death. It turns out that restoring each person to God took the death of Jesus on a cross. It is there that we see God in all his brilliance and glory. On a cross of shame.

This turns everything we have thought about God upside down. How can the crucifixion reveal the glory of God? It certainly reveals the brutality of the world. Only when you look to the cross of Jesus and see him crucified upon it and more to the point; why he was nailed to the cross will you ever see and understand your sin and his glory.

What is it about the cross of Christ which angers the world and stirs it to close its ears and persecute those who preach and live it out? It’s this; Christ died on the cross for you and me; sinners. Becoming a curse for us. The cross tells us then some very unsavoury truths about ourselves, namely we are sinners under the righteous curse of God’s law and we cannot save ourselves.

The Lamb of God bore our sin and curse precisely because we could gain release from them in no other way. If we could have been forgiven by our own good works, be being circumcised and keeping the law, we may be quite sure that there would have been no cross.

Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying. Nothing in all of history or in all of the world cuts us down to size like the cross. And we loathe the very thought of it.
All of us have inflated views of ourselves especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary.

It is there at the foot of the cross that we shrink to our true size. Let’s never forget. The word became flesh…… for us.

Rev Alan Wilson is a recently retired Presbyterian Minister in Northern Ireland. He was a former Police Officer during the ‘troubles’ before going into the ministry. He is married to Ann and they are now proud grandparents of Jacob and Cora. He enjoys keeping Alpaccas, gardening, watching football and learning how theology relates to the environment and the world at large. He and his wife spent a summer Exchange in 2018 with a Presbyterian Church in Toronto.

The image shows, “The Lamentation” by Giotto, painted between 1304 to 1306.

Our Shared Work With Christ

The average Christian, reading his Bible in happy devotion, stumbles across this passage: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Col 1:24).

The passage is particularly disturbing for a certain strain of Protestant thought that emphasizes Christ’s sufficiency for all things. Christ has accomplished all things necessary to our salvation and we are thus able to “rest” in His completed work. For many, this is at the heart of grace. God has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. What remains is for us to trust that this is so. Christ declares, “It is finished.” There is nothing left for us but trust.

This sentiment recently came crashing into a discussion of the Russian novel, Laurus. I attended (and spoke) at the Eighth Day Symposium in Wichita, Kansas. The presenter, Jessica Hooten Wilson, had spoken on the Russian novel, Laurus, by Eugene Vodolazkin, in which the lead character enters the long, arduous life of a holy fool following the death of a woman and her child, a result of his own inaction. Wilson made mention of a review by Alan Jacobs (Baylor University) that described its spirituality as “Hindu,” and castigated its approach to Christianity. He wrote: “…though I know that Eugene Vodolazkin is a Christian, I remain uncertain about just what vision of the Christian life is being held out to me in this book…. In Laurus…long, hard spiritual labor pays for sins, as it does for the world…”

Vodolazkin nowhere characterizes Laurus’ labors as a payment for sin. Indeed, the concept is foreign to Orthodox thought. It is an absence that is so profound that a Protestant professor of literature felt the need to supply it, and with it, distort a beautifully Orthodox novel. In the discussion at the conference, a Protestant participant agreed that the novel seemed strangely unable to “rest” in Christ. Inasmuch as I am often not in dialog with Protestant Christians, I was caught off-guard by these observations. I forgot how foreign all of this is. Happily, it is also foreign to the New Testament.

Whatever one might think of grace, the work of Christ on the Cross in no way removes the work of the Cross from the lives of believers. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and continue to say throughout our lives: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live” (Gal. 2:20). It is Christ who taught that we ourselves must take up the Cross and follow Him. There is no “resting” Christianity made available by a substitutionary work of Christ. The work of Christ is a matter of participation (koinonia) – we are baptized into it, live through its presence in us, and do not cease to share in that work, ever.

It is always difficult to listen to what is actually being said and not try to hear a conversation that is not taking place. Salvation, in Latin Christianity, was made captive, rather early on, to the language of “grace” and “works.” Within what would become a dominantly juridical framework, grace and works were easily externalized, raising questions about who was doing the “saving.”

When St. Paul says that he is filling up “that which is lacking” in Christ’s afflictions, he is either subscribing to some form of Pelagianism, or he simply has no notion of a juridical salvation. No doubt, the latter is the actual case.

When he says that he is crucified with Christ, St. Paul means precisely what he is saying. Indeed, it is the deepest cry of his heart: “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him – the power of his resurrection, and the communion of His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:8-11).

This has nothing of the language of earning, much less external grace and works. It is the language of the most intimate, mystical communion.

We know a little bit about this experience, for it is common in relationships marked by intense love. The coldness of a conversation regarding who did what, or what is owed to whom, has no place in such intimacy. Love speaks in terms of union. It wants to share in the deepest manner possible the life of the beloved.

There appeared a rift in Protestantism within its first two to three centuries. That rift, to a large extent, represented a deep dissatisfaction with a cold, sterile presentation of the life of grace. Early Protestants almost universally held to a doctrine of “cessationism,” teaching that miracles ended when the New Testament was completed. What remained were the rather mechanical/intellectual doctrines that assured of salvation. Dry as dust.

The reaction to this was the birth of Pietism, in a variety of forms and places. At its worst, Pietism’s emotionalism led to extremes of belief and practice. At its best, it produced holy lives and gave heart to what would have been little more than a dry death to Western Christianity. Inasmuch as Western Christianity survives our present difficulties, it will be the heart born in Pietism that saves it (or so I think).

The transformation of the Pietist conversion experience into the doctrine of being “born-again” has tended to confuse Pietism and classical Protestantism, framing the experience of the heart in the rigid language of doctrinal necessity. Like many aspects of Protestantism(s), fragmentation in doctrine and experience has been a continuing and dominant feature.

Classical Christianity, in its Orthodox form, is very rich in its vocabulary and stories of the human experience of God. It is always “ontological” in its approach to doctrine, meaning that doctrine is always about “something-that-is” and not about a theory, or a juridical arrangement. Because “something-that-is” is capable of being experienced, it is always seen as quite natural that the work of God has a describable, experiential component.

If I am being crucified with Christ, it is inherently the case that such a thing is experienced in some manner. In the case of a holy fool, it might look a lot like the Laurus character. He must be contrasted with the middle-class American who sings happy songs on Sunday, perhaps even moved to tears, satisfied and assured that Jesus has taken care of everything such that he can safely return to the banalities of his life. Isn’t Jesus wonderful!

The simple truth is that the Kingdom of God “suffers violence, and the violent bear it away” (Matt. 11:12). The gospel engages the whole person and assumes that we will love God “with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind.” That such an engagement might be described by some as “works righteousness” is merely indicative of a bifurcated Christianity that has placed God in a second-storey doctrinal reality, while the secular party rages here below.

Thank God for the Lauruses sprinkled across the historical landscape. The unity of faith and experience exemplified in their sometimes stormy lives whispers hope that God dwells among us and loves us, willing Himself into the messiness of our crucified existence, ever-straining Himself into the depths of our being, while we strain to respond in kind, enduring “that which is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” – our own response to His love.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

The image shows, “Basil the Blessed, Praying,” by Sergey Kirillov, painted in 1994.

A Reading Of Psalm 42

A potential danger we need to be careful of is when our ‘Feelings’ can badly mislead us if they are not controlled by a realistic grasp of the real world. Feelings do not always represent facts.

What do I mean by that? Many of the Psalms provide the reader with a biblical model where there is proper integration of Heart AND Mind. Often the Psalmist confesses the intensity of his feelings, but he never surrenders to mindless emotionalism. He always attempts to bring his feelings within the realm of God’s character and will.

We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. We are all complex and complicated creatures capable of good and evil; but we are prone to breakdowns. Whether it’s a broken toe or a broken mind, it can happen to the best of us.

We all have a temperament; some are fiery, some are happy go lucky, some are melancholy. We tend to be stuck with our temperament just like the animals in Winnie the Pooh.

Many Christians through the ages have had ‘unhappy moods’ we tend to call it ‘Depression’ today. William Cowper the hymn writer and the great preacher C.H. Spurgeon both knew depression. However, Depression is not necessarily a sign of spiritual weakness. It can be an opportunity for spiritual growth.

I doubt if there is any portion of the bible that demonstrates this point more dramatically than Psalms 42 and 43. Both Psalms actually form a single hymn and are very similar in content. “Why are you downcast, O my soul. Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” This psalm was clearly written out of an experience of the most intense sadness of heart. It is a Psalm composed by someone in the midst of depression.

We will join these two Psalms together and try and answer the author’s own questions. What were the causes and symptoms of this depression; ‘Why are you downcast O my soul. Why so disturbed within me?

And then we look at the response to this depression. ‘Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.’ As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, O God.’ Here is a man who is depressed because he feels God is a long way away.

He likens himself to a drought-stricken animal sniffing at the dried-up river beds and longing for water but finding none. The experience of God’s presence seems to be equally elusive.

God has become inaccessible to him. If you have felt like that sometimes, do not despair; it is quite a common experience. We should always remember at this point that there is a huge difference in the world, between feeling forsaken by God, and actually being forsaken by God.

The two are worlds apart. This is where we need to be very careful about are emotional feelings and where objective truth really lies. Remember feelings do not always represent facts.

I think we can safely assume that the person who wrote this Psalm was a Christian. When a Christian is depressed, that depression almost invariably, results in a sense of spiritual desertion. What do I mean by that; I mean where Prayer becomes difficult, almost impossible. Bible reading becomes a chore. Any talk of peace and joy sounds unreal. God seems more like a very distant relative than a heavenly loving, Father.

God seems remote, not because he is remote, but because our depression makes us feel as though he is. The truth is that God is not remote. But as human beings we are complicated creatures, being made up of body, mind, and spirit, which are all joined together. Remember feelings do not always represent facts.

Therefore, one part affects the other, sometimes in an irrational way. So, we need to counter balance that with the objective truth as it is revealed to us in scripture. If our emotional make up is disturbed by certain factors it can affect our Spiritual awareness too.

Of course, depression can happen in a person’s life as a direct result of Spiritual factors as well as emotional ones. If we fall into sin and are therefore suffering the emotional consequence of sin, that is guilt, we may find within us a deep misery.

One cause of depression is Spiritual Isolation where God ‘feels’ as if he is remote and distant.

Another is Physical Isolation. The psalmist here was not suffering from the pangs of guilt or unbelief he was just physically isolated. He writes; ‘These things I remember as I pour out my soul, how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.’

This person sounds as if he was one of the Levitical singers in the choir at the temple in Jerusalem. The high point of his life had been the great religious festivals when he would take his privileged place at the head of the congregation leading them in through the temple gates for their annual services of celebration. But for one reason or another he could not, or was not allowed, to participate in those joyous occasions. Perhaps he was one of the exiles taken into Babylonian captivity and not allowed back.

Whatever the circumstances this person is homesick. He was deeply attached to Jerusalem. The city meant so much to him. Yet he was separated from it wondering would he ever see it again. We have all experienced being homesick which is enough to make anybody depressed. We all need physical roots, and when they are severed, we feel down unable to get up. He was also socially Isolated which is even worse. He says; ‘Men say to me all day long, where is your God?

Whether these men were unsympathetic fellow Israelites or vindictive Babylonians, it is clear he had no friends to confide in. His social environment was hostile and humiliating; ‘where is your God, they asked him with utter contempt.’ You claim to be a believer. Well, God isn’t doing much for you at the moment is he. Your god is only a myth. It had been comparatively easy to trust God in Jerusalem amidst all the joyful celebrations of the temple choir going into the house of God. But now things have changed.

He was on his own, without emotional support or personal encouragement from his friends. He was lonely. Loneliness can make you feel terribly sad; it is enough to make anybody feel depressed. God made us to be sociable creatures, gregarious by nature. When we are deprived of supportive relationships it really gets us down. With the collapse of family values and family structures in our society, one parent families almost the norm, we see the fallout all around us; with the NHS in the UK as but one provider, unable to cope with mental health issues.

With a combination of feeling that God is not there, and homesickness, it is bound to trigger depression of some sort. For him it wasn’t sin or lack of faith or the devil, which had produced this morbid mood. It was a perfectly natural consequence of the unfortunate situation he was in. Indeed, many of the symptoms he goes on to describe are typical of the kind of depressive reaction that anybody with a tendency to be melancholy experiences in such circumstances.

“My tears have been my food day and night.” He cannot stop crying. They have been his food; he has lost his appetite. You will see that the word “Downcast” is used a number of times.

There is no spark, no enthusiasm for anything; just a kind of inner fatigue. A sagging of the spirit. Depressed people often complain of being permanently tired.

He uses the word “disturbed” repeatedly. He experiences an emotional roller coaster; restless nights, sighs and moans from within. There is a feeling of being ‘overwhelmed’. Being drowned by their circumstances. I can’t get my head above water; a person may say.

And then culminating in all these symptoms are; feelings of Rejection. “Why have you forgotten me? His whole personality is being torn by a sense of loss. Like a lover jilted. Like a widow grieving for her husband. He feels bereft, devastated and heart broken. As a deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you O God.’ For him depression becomes a spiritual problem and not just an emotional one. He feels spiritually depressed but not because he is spiritually negligent in any way, but simply because he is a Spiritual person. Why are you downcast, why so disturbed within me?”

Like so many Christians in such a situation, this inspired poet finds himself bewildered and frustrated because he feels like this. As a believer he says; I shouldn’t feel like this. Why am I so downcast? What has happened to me? What has happened to me faith?

It is natural to ask questions like that. And though we ought Not to feel like this, there is no criticism or condemnation. Indeed, it could be argued that as this man wrestles with his depression it is not a sign of weakness; but of strength as he desires to be where he knows he should be, spirituality.

So, what then is the Response?? The first thing is to Face up to our feelings. Many depressed people try to find some escape from their emotions through alcohol, drugs, medication, or some other diversion. Others erect defensive barriers, and pretend to be OK.

If we are going to cope with depression satisfactorily, we must admit our feelings, look at them in the eye, to try and gain some insight into why we have got them. And that is what the psalmist is doing. It takes courage and strength to face up to the truth like that. Whatever the cause there is nothing to be gained by running away from that sort of admission. We must despite our pride, admit our negative feelings to ourselves and to God also.

In these Psalms look at the number of times he asks; ‘why’. The reason he is asking, ‘why’ so much, is not because there will be an answer, because in 99% of cases there isn’t; it is to do with exasperation that is boiling away inside.

A kind of repressed anger. Some incident, hurt, or loss, perhaps of a parent in childhood, or divorce, has often been the trigger. What happens is; that if that person is a Christian those angry feelings that are bottled up within, whatever their original cause may be, get transferred on to GOD. After all, he is our substitute parent, he is our father, he is supposed to be in charge. He is our rock, our stronghold. He is to blame for how I feel. It is far from unusual to find that a Christian suffering from depression feels inwardly angry with God. It is therefore vital if a person feels like that, that they need a release valve for those feelings. If we are angry with God, we need to find the courage to tell him so.

An incident is recorded in a novel, The Blood of the Lamb. The main character of the book has a daughter, and on her 12th birthday she dies of leukemia. The father finds himself devastated by the news right outside a church. He was still holding the birthday cake; he was taking to the hospital to try to inject some happiness into this special day in his daughter’s life. As he looks at the crucifix on the church wall; he suddenly explodes with rage and hurls the cake at the face of Christ.

Now, I have to say that I would NOT recommend people to follow this type of action. Some might even say it was intensely blasphemous. Perhaps it was; and yet there is a sense in which that is what Christ is on the cross for.

He is a symbol of anger, rage, and disgust. Where God the Father is showing anger and rage at his Son. That’s why Jesus cried out, ‘my God, my God why have you forsaken me.’? He is the symbol of the passionate anger of Almighty God against all the sin and wickedness of this world.

He is the symbol of that divine anger venting itself as a healing balm upon a hurting world. In one huge event of divine passion God reconciles himself to a hating sinful world. The pain God felt on the cross, was the same kind of pain that bereaved father was feeling.

The evil and the injustice and the fallenness of this sick world had stolen the person he loved best. God the Father felt the same at losing his one and only Son; but he allowed it to happen in order to reconcile us with himself, and bring healing to the world through his Son. His Son took our punishment, our shame and our sin, to give us the hope of new life, for all those who look to him and believe in him.

This is a huge subject and so we need to draw things to a close.

God is only to be truly known by people who are prepared to plumb the depths of their own human experience.

In other words, we need to get real with ourselves, real with God, and admit our weaknesses, our failings and our sin. That is the best starting point for any person. With so many people who come under the ‘banner’ of Christianity there is massive superficiality.

Generally, we are shallow Christians who have simply never met with God at this profound level that the Psalmist has. For the majority of us we have never really felt spiritually thirsty, a deep hunger for God’s word, or prayed desperately to God.

The whole intensity of this man’s spiritual life is totally foreign to us. Perhaps it’s because we have it so good. Like the LG logo; life is good. Why not pray today for a real encounter with the living God. Don’t be afraid to get beyond believing things about God. You will find that he is much more than you bargained for.

Rev Alan Wilson is a recently retired Presbyterian Minister in Northern Ireland. He was a former Police Officer during the ‘troubles’ before going into the ministry. He is married to Ann and they are now proud grandparents of Jacob and Cora. He enjoys keeping Alpaccas, gardening, watching football and learning how theology relates to the environment and the world at large. He and his wife spent a summer Exchange in 2018 with a Presbyterian Church in Toronto.

The image shows one of the Servant Songs of Isaiah by Stuart Shelby.

Interview: Drieu Godefridi

This is a new series we are launching – interviews with important thinkers of our time.

For our inaugural interview, we are very honored to have Dr. Drieu Godefridi. He obtained his PhD from the Sorbonne in philosophy, and he has written several important books on gender, the IPCC and environmentalism.

Dr. Godefridi’s books may be found here.

The Postil (TP): Welcome, Dr. Godefridi. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. To start, do you think the West is in crisis, where everything must be questioned so that it can be replaced by something “better?” Or, is it simply bad political management, in that we are in a period of kakistocracy?

Drieu Godefridi (DG): There is an element of risk in answering such a broad question. The West is more powerful than ever, its military might is peerless and its cultural impact is probably greater than ever. At the same time, the threats to this hegemony are evident — mass migration, economic stagnation in Europe, self-destructive totalitarian environmentalism — and a Left getting more and more extreme by the day.

TP: Why does the West still want to be “moral”, while also being aggressively atheistic (where science alone is the arbiter of truth)? Can this contradiction be easily resolved, or will it only produce chaos?

DG: I don’t see either the United States or Eastern Europe as being particularly “atheistic”. What you say is true only of Western Europe, and of the American Left. This is not “the West” as a whole; the Kulturkampf is still very much ongoing. As for the “morality” of Western Europe, for instance regarding foreign affairs, it leads nowhere, as Henry Kissinger predicted in his formidable book Diplomacy. After Brexit, I see the European Union — beyond its function as a common market — as condemned; it is now only a question of time. When Germany is unable to pour huge amounts of money into Eastern Europe anymore — which will soon come about, given the utter folly of the Energiewende, Germany’s energy transition to poverty — Eastern Europe will exit, too.

TP: The native populations of the West have constructed all kinds of myths about their own “evil” (white supremacy, colonialism, misandry, environmentalism, and now genderism). These are very powerful myths which now determine global intellectual and socio-political discourse. Where does this self-loathing come from? And how can we diminish its harmful impact?

DG: Myth and ideology are consubstantial with mankind. That aside, I see no commonality to those ideologies, for instance, you may think that colonialism was economically deleterious — as F.A. Hayek did — yet be radically opposed to the other ideologies you mention. Nevertheless, one thing they do have in common it is that they are false. To say that the West is “white supremacist” is grotesque and does not deserve serious consideration, no civilisation has taken in so many people from every race, continent, creed, religion and origin as has the West over the last 50 years. And genderism, basically the idea that sex is a cultural creation, not a biological reality, is a false theory with absurd consequences, particularly detrimental for women. As for environmentalism that is a very powerful and comprehensive ideology that is the subject of my latest essay.

TP: You have long defended Liberalism, while also refuting Libertarianism (or perhaps, “Rothbardianism”). Why is Libertarianism a failed project? And why is Liberalism still important?

DG: Capitalism is fundamental to the West and is the embodiment of freedom in economic affairs. I’m very much in favour of capitalism. Libertarianism as an apriorist theory that pretends to “derive” all rules of law and of morals from a single axiom —non-aggression— which seems to me a very simplistic contrivance. An anarchist political theory is a contradiction in terms.

TP: Is Croce correct in observing that liberalism has been replaced by “active libertarianism?” And is Croce also correct in calling “active libertarianism” a form of fascism?

DG: I do my utmost to avoid those words. The word ‘Liberalism’ had been employed, particularly in English, in so many different and irreconcilable ways, that even Joseph Schumpeter and Hayek were sceptical of its usefulness back in their day. It’s even more true nowadays. People in favour of infanticide — postnatal abortion — and euthanasia without consent or those viewing sex as a cultural creation are not libertarian, liberal or whatever: they are merely rationally and morally wrong. 

TP: You have also written about George Soros and his efforts to construct his own “empire.” This “Sorosian” imperialism has its roots in the ideas of Karl Popper (which is Marxism without Marx, in that the desire to change the world remains valid). But Soros is also a highly successful capitalist. How can “Sorosian” imperialism (making the West into an “Open Society”) be properly critiqued, while retaining the importance of capitalism?

DG: The political philosophy of Mr. Soros is international socialism with a heavy accent on “crony-capitalism” — he is himself the ultimate insider, and has been criminally convicted as such. Mr. Soros, who has invested $35 billion not in true philanthropy but in the promotion of his political ideas, must be seen as a sui generis phenomenon. You are right regarding its origins, for his foundation was named after the “open society” of Karl Popper. But in fact Soros is no Popperian at all. Popper was in favour of democracy; Soros is funding hundreds of extreme NGOs; some of which use violence and intend to abolish democracy in the name of Gaïa, Allah or whatever. Soros is no Popperian, he’s an international socialist who fancies himself as some kind of god. Popper defined himself as a liberal in the classic sense of the word, close to the philosophy of Hayek and the Founding Fathers of the Unites States.

TP: You have just written a very important book on the dangers of environmentalism, which we had the pleasure of reviewing. Why did you write this book?

DG: My goal is to show that the end result of the green ideology will be misery and the complete abolition of freedom. If human CO2 is the problem and we have to reduce it to zero —as stated by the IPCC, the EU, the UN and the American Left— there is no room left for freedom. Freedom = CO2. Whichever perspective we choose, be that theoretical or practical, contemporary environmentalism brings us back to this truism, this obvious truth: if human CO2 is the problem, then Man’s every activity, endeavor, action, and ambition is the problem.

TP: Why has environmentalism become the West’s new religion?

DG: People in Western Europe do not believe in God anymore so were ready for a new source of “meaning”. As Ayn Rand stated, real atheism is not for the weak. Most people try to find a substitute for God. Gaïa — the “All-Living” — is exactly that to the environmentalists.

TP: Freedom is disappearing very rapidly. Theoretically, freedom is a Western virtue. But in current Western socio-political policy, freedom has become a crime. Why this contradiction, and how can we overcome the emerging oppression?

DG: By winning the Kulturkampf. Cultural submission to the Left — the European way — is no solution. We must fight for freedom and defeat these extremists within the framework of the constitutional order — which is the American way, thanks to the ultimate fighter Donald J. Trump, probably the most important political figure of our time. You do not collaborate with the enemies of freedom: you fight them, you defeat them. There is no middle ground. We will not be subordinate to “Gaïa” — which is a concept devoid of meaning — nor material “equality” — which is a natural impossibility — we are the resistance; we are freedom fighters.

TP: Lastly, what do you think is the most important issue of our time? And why?

DG: Freedom is the most important issue of all time in the West because, from ancient Greece to today, it is the value on which our civilisation rests and is, at the same time, the driving force of our society. If you abolish freedom, you abolish the West as a distinct concept.

TP: Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to share your valuable ideas with our readers.

DG: And I’d like to thank you for the recent appreciative review of my humble essay on the totalitarian essence of environmentalism.

The image shows, “Green Graveyard,” by the Brazilian artist, Benki Solal.