Coming out of the desert

31 08 2008

The classical model of religion, the evolutionary model, states that man started out worshipping nothing. Then, he started fearing the lightening strikes and strange sounds in the forest at night, and began to dream up the world of spirits, ghosts, and other malevolent or benevolent unseen forces that affected his life. These forces later were attributed to particular places: groves, caves, and meadows. Then man began to promote these spirits to the rank of what we now know as gods, and eventually, after a sort of survival of the fittest amongst these gods, one god emerged in certain societies to become the only god. That, of course, is as far as religion goes. The process goes further towards Spinoza’s deus sive natura, then just natura, then nothing at all. Man has run the religious gauntlet and come out on the other end free of his religious neurosis.
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Berg’s Violin Concerto

29 08 2008

Newman on angels and the other world

28 08 2008

A fascinating and refreshing post on a neglected subject in modern Catholic discourse. Well worth a read and re-read.

The Neoplatonic Cross

28 08 2008

The ‘figure’ of the world soul is the shape of the X, the crossing of the bands of Sameness and Otherness. In geometric astronomy, these bands are the equatorial and ecliptic circles of the celestial sphere, which meet at an angle (approximately 23.5 degrees of arc). So the X shape represents the daily and annual movement of the heavens. In astrology, the former refers to the ‘houses’ and the latter the signs of the zodiac. In Late Antiquity, and under the influence of the ‘Chaldeans’, the metaphysical symbolism of the Timaean X was cultivated in a variety of forms until it assumed a magical, practically talismanic, status as it was coupled with the rich symbolism of the cross, +. Proclus tells us that the X was ‘placed at the heart’ of every soul (the heart the seat of soul) as an image of the world soul. Is this a non-Christian crossing of the heart?

-Lucas Siorvanes, Proclus: Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science

Exorcising the Ghost of Assisi

27 08 2008

For the devotee of the Lefebvrist movement, 1987 was a water shed year. The ecumenical prayer meeting at Assisi was cited by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre as one of the events that led him to consecrate four bishops without the consent of the Pope of Rome a year later and thus incur the penalty of excommunication for all involved in that action. There was no excuse, according to his argument, for medicine men to practice their craft in the streets sanctified by the feet of St. Francis, or for idols to be put atop Catholic altars. Regardless of what side you happen to fall on in the debate, for the typical orthodox Catholic, Assisi just didn’t look right. And it is hard to argue that it was not exactly what it appeared to be. As a former adherent of that movement, these residual criticisms still linger in me.
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Plotinus’ Doctrine

26 08 2008

And yet a literary monument from antiquity is something very different from a modern composition. Nowadays, it is possible for an author to say, “I am Madame Bovary.” Today, authors lay themselves bare, expressing and liberating themselves. They strive for originality, for what has never been said before. Philosophers set forth their system, expounding it in their own personal way, freely chosing their starting point, the rhythm of their expositions, and the structure of their work. They try to stamp their own personal mark on everything they do. But like all productions of the last stages of antiquity, the Enneads are subject to servitudes of a wholly different nature. Here, originality is a defect, innovation is suspect, and fidelity to tradition, a duty. “Our doctrines are not novel, nor do they date from today: they were stated long ago, but not in an explicit way. Our present doctrines are explanations of those older ones, and they use Plato’s own words to prove that they are ancient.”

-Pierre Hadot, Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision

On Ecclesiastical Allegiances

23 08 2008


(Wherein I reveal whose side I am really on)

I have read many recent posts on other pages on the Internet about conversion, ecclesiastical factionalism, and general religious in-fighting. Reading my own blog, I could really ask myself, “what does all of this qualify as”. Truth be told, I am writing and thinking more and more explicitly about Catholic topics. This goes against my past admonition to myself and others not to write about theology, for theology is something we should not take lightly. While I hope to keep some sobriety when it comes to discussing religious topics, I have also come to the conclusion recently that, even if I am not the most qualified person in the world to discuss some theological topics, all the same I am certainly more qualified than some people who seem to make a living and a reputation off of it. That being said, I am still well aware that I am a “nobody” when it comes to all of this, but my experiences and readings into these topics have, in the language of the streets, “earned me stripes”. The work has certainly been put in, and I do no one a service by pretending otherwise.
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On touch and sight

22 08 2008

Entras otra vez como música, como luz,
música sin ondas acústicas, luz sin fotones.
Caricia sin el tacto, sólo la pura caricia.
El que inventó el sexo
¿no sabrá amar?

-Ernesto Cardenal

You enter the room again like music, like light,
Music without sound waves, light without photons,
Caress without touch, only the pure caress.
The man who invented sex,
Will he know how to love?

image credit

The saints today have a lot of work to do

21 08 2008

[Note: I translated this article because it makes a few good points that I think need to be said. However, I acknowledge that this article has a profoundly anti-clerical tenor. In the end, I really didn’t feel competent to separate the wheat from the chaff. I leave it then to the reader to decide. The original can be found here]

From the Correo de Salem by Eduardo González Viaña

There are so many saints in Peru that when a Peruvian dies, heaven should seem more or less a familiar place.

Let us begin in 1581. In that year, a new archbishop, Toribio de Mogrovejo, arrived in Peru. He immediately began to make pastoral visits. A little above Lima, in Quives, he confirmed a pretty little girl by the name of Isabel Flores de Oliva (1586-1617). Rosita, as she was called, returned to the City of Kings with her parents to reside in the neighborhood of San Sebastian. In that same parish, six years before, Martin of Porras was baptized.

Martin had a great friend from the Recoleta de Santa María Magdalena whose name was Juan Macias. Together they listened to the sermons of the eloquent Franciscan friar Francisco Solano. These five, Toribio, Rosa, Martin, Juan, and Francisco, were elevated to the altars and were the first saints of Peru.
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More from the Sensible Bond

20 08 2008

An eloquently written blog. An excerpt from a post you can find at this link:

The trouble with this kind of systemitisation is that it often seems to suck up responsibilty for order into the system, leaving people behind doing their own thing. This could arguably be as true of the liturgical project of Pope St Pius V, as of Pope Paul VI’s. In this sense, the supporters of the early liturgical movement were not entirely wrong in their complaints about the privatisation of Catholic spirituality, or in their desire to make the prayer of the people more liturgical, or in their wish to make the liturgical prayers more immediately understandable. Yet one of the reasons that inspires systemitisation is the anarchy that can result from unbridled personal initiative; and who could deny the existence of liturgical anarchy in the Church in the 1970s, 1980s and to some extent still still today?…

While the newer liturgy was meant to promote better understanding, active participation and a more ecclesial spirituality, these days one often finds less understanding of the Sacred Mysteries, passive bench-potato-ism and a privatised spirituality which constantly treats the liturgical action as a blank canvas for creativity. Yet to blame the New Mass in itself (the system) is to make the same mistake that mid-twentieth century liturgical reformers made about the old Mass: the mistake which imagines that the problem lies with the system and not with individuals or with the prevailing culture.

Miscellaneous notes: There is a quote going around trad-circles that the worst thing about the modern Catholic liturgy is that it turns the person in the pew into a theatre critic. While I love the old Mass and the old religion, and think the new stuff is inferior by comparison, I cannot romanticize liturgy by saying such things. If the modern devout Catholic is a theatre critic, the people who heard Mass in the good ol’ days were people vegged out in front of the T.V. at three in the morning watching infomercials. It wasn’t perfect then, it isn’t perfect now, and it will never be perfect. I think the objective cult, not what one experiences out of it, is what is most important. The realm of sentiment can best be serviced by other aspects of Catholicism. Liturgy has its own function.

Also, Steve Skojec wrote a follow-up to Mark Shea’s comments on traditionalists. The only comment I will make is that Mark Shea responded that we should have “more traditionalists like Steve”, which sort of had the same flavor as a comment like: “we should have more old aunts who aren’t gossipers” or “we should have more kids from the barrio who aren’t crooks”. He betrays his prejudices even when he is trying to be magnanimous.