Some links to start off your week

8 08 2010

David B. Hart continues a series of interesting of reflections over at First Things, this time regarding Julian the Apostate. I reproduce my comment here:

Excellent article. It reminds me a lot of Pierre Chuvin’s Chronicle of the Last Pagans. One must remember that, by this point, many pagan philosophers such as Plotinus and, more closely to Julian, Iamblichus of Chalcis, had already instituted a sort of Neoplatonic reformation of paganism, just in time to see everything disappear before their eyes. As was pointed out, Julian wanted the pagans to adopt greater levels of compassion and mercy to compete with the Christians, though with obviously little success. Reading late Neoplatonism up to Proclus is thus a fascinating exercise, as they by that point had become essentially monotheists, seeing the ancient myths and symbolism as reflections of a hierarchy of intelligences flowing down from an ineffable One.

Of course, all of this was transmitted to Christianity through the mysterious figure called “Pseudo-Dionysius”, who replaced the idea that “all things are full of the gods” with “all things are full of the angels “, (though Origen may have already stated this). From that vision of the celestial hierarchies came the cathedrals of Europe, our pomp and ceremonial, our most exalted works of literature, and so forth… all the way up to modernity. It is arguable then that the reason that we are becoming less Christian is that we have become less “pagan”: we have ceased to see our culture and religion as a tradition based on the eternal harmony of the music of the spheres and more as an absurd leap of faith amongst a lot of dead rocks. We tend to try to build our faith without culture, and it is no wonder that we fail.
Read the rest of this entry »