31 03 2009


The Prophet is not called ‘unlettered’ because he was unable to write. He was called that because his ‘letters’, his knowledge and wisdom were innate, not acquired. What can partial intellect have that universal intellect has not? The partial intellect is not capable of inventing anything it has not seen before. Recall the story of the raven: when Cain killed Abel and stood not knowing what to do with the body. One raven killed another, dug out the earth, buried the dead raven and scratched the earth over the body. From this Cain learned how to dig a grave and bury a body. All trades are like this. The possessor of partial intellect requires instruction while those who have united the partial with the universal intellect and become one are prophets and saints.

-Mevlana Jalalu’ddin Rumi

Don Rufino Tibaldi

30 03 2009

This is the tomb of Don Rufino Tibaldi (+1976), in the town of Irarte, in Buenos Aires province in Argentina. He is said to have been a railway worker from Germany who was known for his religious talks and general help for the poor. He was also said to have had the power of healing, and was persecuted by the local doctor for practicing medicine without a license. Many people continue to make pilgrimages to his grave, and leave ex-votos as signs of a miracle granted by the folk saint. More information on this saint can be found at the following links:

Simplemente… historias de dos buenas personas de Iriarte

Rufino Tibaldi… Un santo popular

Marguerite and Armand

27 03 2009

Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton

Finding Folk Orthodoxy

26 03 2009


A couple of years ago, I wrote a provocative piece on my experiences with Eastern Orthodoxy in this country. In it, I wrote that in my past encounters with Orthodoxy, what I usually found was a boutique religion for the white middle class, or alternatively, an ethnic church closed off from the rest of society, and not much else in between. In terms of the former, the most likely suspect to convert to Orthodoxy is a (usually white) religious maverick who wants to re-discover the “New Testament Church” as founded by Jesus Christ without the “popish” baggage that Roman Catholicism has to offer. Compared to the suburban white-washed suburban mega-parishes and the “supersitious” masses of the Latino barrio parish, Orthodoxy seems to have all of it i’s dotted and t’s crossed. There is, of course, the presence of the ethnic Orthodox, who often don’t come to Divine Liturgy on time or only grace the shadow of the church for a baptism or wedding, but they are a small price to pay for being in a church that doesn’t have “idolatrous” statues or the “Filioque” (that sum of all errors). The convert can thus enjoy his “true religion” detached from all of the cultural baggage of the “old country”. He may even seek refuge in an old, long fogotten past, being nostalgic for an “Orthodox Western Europe” that never was.

My own religious project since I wrote that polemical essay two years ago has changed substantially. It is very easy to find out what the Church says about itself. One only need look at such books as Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma or a similar book to find out what you should believe. That is the religious center of the Faith; the safe region, the core of what the clergy say is to believed by all. But what role, if any, does the periphery hold; what is the role of belief that grows spontaneously outside of the control of the “official Church”? And what relation, if any, does the official Church have with these beliefs? Living in the 21st century, and having passed through the paradigm shifts of early modernity, it is very easy to dismiss half of the things that our grandparents believed in as superstition or remnants of a pagan past. My nagging suspicion, however, is that without these things that were at the periphery ( or underground, unofficial, or quasi-forbidden), the center cannot hold. The death of the religious imagination of our forefathers is leading to the death of religion itself.
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Magisterialism as error

25 03 2009


from Father Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P., in the essay, Operative Points of View, in reply to this thread:

…in the document of Vatican II on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, there is not a single mention of the two previous documents which deal with the ecumenical movement and other religions, viz. Satis Cognitum by Leo XIII or Mortalium Animos by Pius XI. The approach to ecumenism and other religions is fundamentally different from the approach of the Vatican II document or Ut Unum Sint by Pope John Paul II. Moreover, the problem is not just with respect to magisterium prior to Vatican II but even with the magisterium since the Council.

This type of behaviour coupled with the modern philosophical encroachment into the intellectual life of the Church and the bad theology resulting therefrom has led to a type of “magisterialism”. Magisterialism is a fixation on the teachings that pertain only to the current magisterium. Since extrinsic tradition has been subverted and since the Vatican tends to promulgate documents exhibiting a lack of concern regarding some of the previous magisterial acts, many have begun ignoring the previous magisterial acts and listen only to the current magisterium.

This problem is exacerbated by our current historical conditions. As the theological intellectual community began to unravel before, during and after Vatican II, those who considered themselves orthodox were those who were obedient and intellectually submissive to the magisterium since those who dissent are not orthodox. Therefore, the standard of orthodoxy was shifted from Scripture, intrinsic tradition (of which the magisterium is a part) and extrinsic tradition (which includes magisterial acts of the past, such as Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors), to a psychological state in which only the current magisterium is followed.

Neo-conservatives have fallen into this way of thinking i.e. the only standard by which they judge orthodoxy is whether or not one follows the current magisterium. Traditionalists, as a general rule, tend to be orthodox in the sense that they are obedient to the current magisterium, even though they disagree about matters of discipline and have some reservations about some aspects of current magisterial teachings which seem to contradict the previous magisterium (e.g. the role of the ecumenical movement). Traditionalists tend to take not just the current magisterium as their norm but Scripture, intrinsic tradition, extrinsic tradition and the current magisterium as the principles of judgment of correct Catholic thinking. This is what distinguishes traditionalists and neo-conservatives i.e. their perspectives regarding the role of ecclesiastical tradition and how the current magisterium relates to it.

Inevitably, this magisterialism has led to a form of positivism. Since there are no principles of judgment other than the current magisterium, whatever the current magisterium says is always what is “orthodox.” In other words, psychologically the neo-conservatives have been left in a position in which the extrinsic and intrinsic tradition are no longer included in the norms of judging whether something is orthodox or not. As a result, whatever comes out of the Vatican regardless of its authoritative weight, is to be held, even if it contradicts what was taught with comparable authority in the past. Since non-infallible ordinary acts of the magisterium can be erroneous, this leaves one in a precarious situation if one only takes as true what the current magisterium says. While we are required to give religious assent even to the non-infallible teachings of the Church, what are we to do when a magisterial document contradicts other current or previous teachings and one does not have any more authoritative weight than the other? It is too simplistic merely to say that we are to follow the current teaching.

Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya

25 03 2009


The title of this post are the words to one of my favorite kirtans to the Hindu deity, Krishna. I found on this blog one interesting story behind it:

One interesting story in relation to this mantra is found in the Bhagavat Purana (also known as the Shrimad Bhagavatam). Once upon a time, Druva Maharaja, a young prince of five years, got so hurt and angry that he left his father’s palace to seek God. He had heard that whatever he desired could be fulfilled by worshipping God in the forest. As he went away he met a sage, Narada Muni, who instructed him in the process of meditation, giving him the mantra: om namo bhagavate vasudevaya.

After several months of practice, Druva stood steadily on only one leg during his meditation. He then finally captured the Supreme within his heart, who then revealed himself in full.

He had gone to meditate in the forest to get an even greater kingdom than his father, but realised he had received the greatest of all gifts: ‘I was searching after a piece of glass, but instead I have found a most valuable jewel. Therefore I am so satisfied that I do not wish to ask any benediction from You.’

And here is an excerpt of Pandit Jasraj singing it:

Es la sombra del agua

24 03 2009


Es la sombra del agua
y el eco de un suspiro,
rastro de una mirada,
memoria de una ausencia,
desnudo de mujer detrás de un vidrio.

Está encerrada, muerta -dedo
del corazón, ella es tu anillo-,
distante del misterio,
fácil como un niño.

Gotas de luz llenaron
ojos vacíos,
y un cuerpo de hojas y alas
se fue al rocío.

Tómala con los ojos,
llénala ahora, amor mío.
Es tuya como de nadie
tuya como el suicidio.

Piedras que hundí en el aire,
maderas que ahogué en el río,
ved mi corazón flotando
sobre su cuerpo sencillo.

-Jaime Sabines

It is the shadow of water,
and the echo of a sigh,
the remnant of a gaze,
memory of an absence,
a nakedness of a woman behind a glass.

She is enclosed, dead, finger
of the heart, she is your ring,
far from the mystery,
simple as a child.

Drops of light filled
empty eyes,
and a body of leaves and wings
went to the dew.

Drink her with the eyes,
fill her now, my love.
She is yours as if she’s no one’s,
yours like a suicide.

Rocks that I buried in the air,
trunks that I drowned in the river,
see my heart floating
over her simple body.

La nueva narco-religión

23 03 2009

In Culiacan, Sinaloa/ they land with much urgency/ A special operation with maximum power / in the compound of the DEA/ at the in the center of intelligence

They brought in a lieutenant and performed surgery on him/ He ended up looking just like Malverde / anyone would be fooled / Presidential secrets / That’s how the CIA works

A very astute man / he was the best police / and he visited the narcotraffickers just how he looked / They thought he was Malverde and offered up prayers to him.

The impostor asked them: Where do you move your shipments/ to protect your merchandise/ be it through Tijuana or Nogales/ And when they told him / He sent the police after them.

The dudes are astute and soon they realized what was going on / They caught that liar / at the other end of a machine gun / in the neighborhood of Las Quintas, there they evened the score.

The only thing left of the impostor/ are his remains up there on the hill / they say he doesn’t even have a tomb / the dogs gobbled him up / He wanted to pass for Malverde, but Malverde is not a game

This gory ballad is an example of the now infamous narcocorrido, but with a religious twist. The narcocorrido is a Mexican song celebrating the exploits of a drug-related outlaw or kingpin, and is a genre made famous by such popular groups as Los Tigres del Norte. In this one, faith also comes into play, as a rather strange fable is weaved of the government using the superstition of the drug traffickers to catch them in the act of illegal smuggling. The emergence of such “narcosantos” as Jesus Malverde and Santa Muerte is not an isolated incident in the popular Mexican religious consciousness, but is rather a sign of escalating violence in Mexican society, the growing importance of the drug trade, and the general decline of the rule of law.
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Stalinist Icon

22 03 2009


St. Matrona of Moscow with good ol’ Uncle Joe. This icon actually hangs in a church somewhere in Russia. My former Trotskyist sensibility is incensed!

Expect a broader post on Eastern Orthodoxy later this week.

The Very Eye of Night

20 03 2009

Film by Maya Deren

Music by Teiji Ito

Choreography by Antony Tudor

Moreover, we think that from the swift and orderly revolution of the heavens originates musical harmony; that eight tones are produced by the motions of the eight spheres, and a ninth, a kind of harmony, is produced from all of them. And so we call the nine sounds of the heavens, from their musical harmony, the nine Muses. Our soul was endowed from the beginning with the Reason of this music, for the celestial harmony is rightly called innate in anything whose origin is celestial. Which it later imitates on various instruments and in songs.

-Marsilio Ficino, Commentary on Plato’s Symposium on Love