Two from First Things

3 11 2010

I don’t really understand essays like this. Marriage to a certain extent has always been something you entered when you were prosperous enough to do so. And people have always been sleeping around prior to marriage. In some places, it was mandatory lest you marry someone who could not have children. Bastards and single parenthood were also more common than some people concede. Perhaps it would be better for culture warriors to “preach to the reality” rather than come up with technocratic reasons as to why the reality is so disordered. Human life has always been disordered.

I also don’t know what David B. Hart is smoking, but I wish someone would hook me up with his dealer. I think I have been thinking of this issue recently, and while I sympathize with Hart’s longing to see nymphs and fairies, I have to say that such things are not of our world. Do they exist? Perhaps that is the wrong question to ask. In general, I think modern people have a very different sense of natural reality than those particularly in rural and agrarian societies. Going back into the folklore of both my and my wife’s families (both rural, Catholic cultures) there were such things as the feux follets that wandered the roads at night, the spirits of the unsettled dead. There were duendes, the souls in Purgatory, and people with mysterious healing powers. But one has to ask: did these things exist because of a certain power of suggestion, or did they exist in their own right, and does such a question add or subtract from their power over human consciousness?

In Catholic unofficial religious thought, things only have power if you believe in them. Even Our Lord in the Gospels could not work many miracles where there was little belief. Perhaps the epistemological insight of the Gospel is that the human mind doesn’t know its own strength. Maybe the modern skeptical exercise of asking, “yes, but is it real?”, while useful, misses the point. The reality is often in the asking of the question; the power often lies in belief and not in the object of belief itself.



11 responses

5 11 2010
Charles Curtis

Thanks Father, just what I deserved.

4 11 2010
Sam Urfer

A lot of stories about fairies, duendes, “The dwarfs” (Phillipino thing), and such are pretty compatible with the idea of creatures that are formal and immaterial in nature. Any encounters with such beings would be “projected” into the mind as it were, the images being in the imagination and other internal senses rather than the external senses, as spiritual beings have no matter to impress upon sight, hearing, etc. This is how the Medieval scholars understood the visions and interactions with angels and demons, and other such separated substances. Angels don’t “look” like anything; there is nothing to see, but there is a real thing which is encountered, the vision being internal and formal.

I remember a story from a lecture by a professor of Scandinavian myth and folklore at UC Berkeley of being on a walk in Trondheim, and for a moment seeing against the evening skyline a big, lumbering troll moving through the forest. The vision was vivid and realistic to him, but it was not a material experience, as evidenced by the lack of giant troll tracks. There are strange things in this world; not all are equivocally material.

4 11 2010

Actually, there is a “marriage crisis” in many cultures. I have read many articles that detail how expensive it is for Haredi Jews, Egyptian Muslims, and upper caste Hindus to get married because the bride’s family has to provide an apartment, gold, a dowry, and all of this other swag that traditional dictates; no trip to the justice of the peace is acceptable, you have to have a big party with 1000 of your closest friends or else you lose face in the community. Since many people don’t have the money for all of this, they can’t get married. There is the issue of China’s bachelor surplus because no one wants to have girls, but that is a bit of a different issue.

4 11 2010
Le Panda du Mal

I think both you and DB Hart should read Philip Sherrard’s book “Human Image: World Image” for a really good, Christian philosophical critique of modern science.

Also, the recently republished essay of St. Nikolai of Zica, “The Universe as Symbols and Signs,” is worth a read.

4 11 2010

“Marriage to a certain extent has always been something you entered when you were prosperous enough to do so.” I don’t think so. It seems that marriage has always existed as long as there have been men and women, and prosperity was never a precondition in fact or theory. As far as we know, poor people have always been marrying — long before there was either church or state to govern marriage and up to the present.

3 11 2010

I’ve never been a DB Hart fan, and I have no problem with the scientific method, or what he calls naturalism. I’m open to dissuasion, but he’ll have to do better than simply to insist–polysyllabically–that it sucks.

3 11 2010
The Shepherd

This provokes my unhealthy obsession with the supernatural…in a good way. If you poke around modern occultism you’ll see early on one of the common assumptions among tre various paths is that we to a very large extent “create our own reality”. This is often used to explain the lack of quantitative evidence for spells and the lack of fairies at the zoo. These things exist outside of everyday consensus reality and don’t exist to some but do to others. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the average person is blind or that the believer is deluded, the supernatural is just funny like that.

Other occult enthusiasts would say that duendes, ghosts etc. are aspects of our psyche that we project onto the world in a subtle way.

I’m ambivalent about either view and they really don’t gel too well with the traditional view. It seems from your many posts that prior generations viewed them as just another, albeit weird, form of wildlife, not occult constructions projected onto a malleable reality.

If we venture to say they weren’t all deluded then it also sets up a sort of chicken and the egg scenario. Were these things real because they believed in them or believed in them because they were real?

3 11 2010

Well, Chuckles, the text says our Lord COULD not.

3 11 2010
Charles Curtis

In fact, know this last was just rum and angst flaring my gums free. I should keep my mouth shut.

3 11 2010
Charles Curtis

Not as if I am fit to lecture, you know. Just shooting my rancid mouth off.

3 11 2010
Charles Curtis

Our Lord in the Gospels could not work many miracles where there was little belief.

Could not, or rather did not?

Don’t go and slip the light fandangle there on us, Arturo.

Our own understanding and virtue is crap, isn’t it?

Let’s keep our pride at bay, aye?

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