Ite ad Joseph

23 01 2019

I saw online a recent argument about the modern cult to St. Joseph in the Catholic Church, with many defending the idea of Joseph being a young virgin as the definitive pious opinion. The issue of the cultus of St. Joseph is a complicated one that intertwines the historical needs of modernity with the manifestation of supernatural power. St. Joseph was named Patron of the Universal Church and second only to the Virgin Mary herself. In South America, the priests would often give us spiritual conferences revealing the intense theological debate especially in Spain before the Second Vatican Council about whether St. Joseph had experienced his own “immaculate conception,” or if he was purified in the womb of his mother and when, etc. The intense devotion that led to his insertion into the Roman Canon is still seen when the reformers kept his name in but made the entire Roman Canon optional, including the names of all of the long-revered Roman martyrs. Read the rest of this entry »


Witches of America

21 01 2019

Alex Mar’s book on modern day witches didn’t inspire me to look further into a pagan revival in our contemporary context. If anything, it sort of reinforced my previous ideas of how we’re all living in one massive consumer survey, it’s just some people’s tastes are more “interesting” than others. Mar takes us on a journey through various contemporary schools of “witchcraft” such as “Faery,” Wicca, Celtic Neo-Paganism, and perhaps her most dramatic encounter, the Ordo Templi Orientis. In these spiritual quests, she stumbles upon various problems facing those seeking the sacred in a de-sacralized society: the issue of paying for initiations, the logistics of holding ceremonies in rented hotel spaces, and the intersection of magic and modern relationships. The “human story” was thus probably the most interesting element of the book, but that may not be saying much. Read the rest of this entry »

We are all modernists now

18 01 2019

This OnePeterFive article caught my eye because it reminded me that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin exists. Mainly I think of Teilhard as a bad memory recalled during the hangover over what was the 20th century. The man represented an optimism and naive belief in science that few share now. Ask anyone now if humanity is processing to an Omega Point and you would probably just receive a blank stare.

The other aspect of the article that I disagree with is the idea that Teilhard was unique in talking out of both sides of his mouth, namely, saying things in an ambiguous way that could be interpreted as orthodox, and then asserting that they are orthodox when pressed. Most of the heroes even of “conservative Catholics” did that, from Hans Urs Von Balthasar to Yves Congar (who famously relieved himself outside the building of the Holy Office, which not even Teilhard did, I believe). One accusation of the article was that Teilhard discarded the supernatural, but he wasn’t the only Jesuit to do so. While Humani Generis may have been directed at Teilhard, it was also directed I believe at Henri de Lubac, later Henri Cardinal de Lubac, who believed the supernatural was the creation of decadent Thomists during the Counter-Reformation. Of course, the article mentions only in passing the praise of the Pope Emeritus for Teilhard, which sort of throws a wrench in the whole “Jesuit conspiracy” tie between Pope Francis and the controversial theologian.

At the risk of repeating myself, I have believed for a while that Catholicism is entirely too much of a “man-centered” religion to begin with. Maybe we lost the language of Faith a long time ago, but quibbles over doctrine now seem to be an exercise in public relations and political maneuvering, and that’s about it. The OnePeterFive article under-emphasizes that the rehabilitation of Teilhard has been happening for decades, and it isn’t even news really.  As I’ve discussed recently, being Catholic in 2018 is an exercise in “How far back do you want to forget?” But the question then sort of becomes: Is there anything left to remember?

Hart on Plotinus

17 01 2019

Plotinus gave exquisitely refined expression to the ancient intuition that the material order is not the basis of the mental, but rather the reverse. This is not only an eminently rational intuition; it is perhaps the only truly rational picture of reality as a whole. Mind does not emerge from mindless matter, as modern philosophical fashion would have it. The suggestion that is does is both a logical impossibility and a phenomenological absurdity. Plotinus and his contemporaries understood that all the things that most essentially characterize the act of rational consciousness—its irreducible unity of apprehension, its teleological structure, the logical syntax of reasoning, and on and on—are intrinsically incompatible with, and could not logically emerge from, a material reality devoid of mind. At the same time, they could not fail to notice that there is a constant correlation between that act of rational consciousness and the intelligibility of being, a correlation that is all but unimaginable if the structure and ground of all reality were not already rational. Happily, in Plotinus’s time no one had yet ventured the essentially magical theory of perception as representation. Plotinus was absolutely correct, therefore, to attempt to understand the structure of the whole of reality by looking inward to the structure of the mind; and he was just as correct to suppose that the reciprocity between the mind and objective reality must indicate a reality simpler and more capacious than either: a primordial intelligence, Nous, and an original unity, the One, generating, sustaining, and encompassing all things. And no thinker of late antiquity pursued these matters with greater persistence, rigor, and originality than he did.

The rest here

Mighty Mexican Mothers: Santa Muerte as Female Empowerment in Oaxaca

16 01 2019

On an old theme of this blog.

Most Holy Death

smkatecover1As the sole female folk saint of death in the Americas, Santa Muerte has a special appeal to women, especially disprivileged Mexican mothers . In the piece below anthropologist Dr. Kate Kingsbury* considers the contours of devotion among rural women in coastal Oaxaca.

-Rural Oaxaca, the outskirts of Pochutla, Mexico

When we got home one night two scorpions awaited us inside the house. One was in the knife holder, in the middle of 6 blades. The most lethal jackknife of all: a black, flailing malignant barb that looked eager to slash and envenom its victim. The handle of an umbrella was thwacked down on it by my other half, as I stood shocked, shaking, until its exoskeleton exploded, exuding a mephitic liquid that had ants frenzied as they supped on its guts.

The following day I saw sweet, unassuming sixty-seven year old Señora Angelica and invited her for a cup…

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Nadia Boulanger

14 01 2019

In connection to finding the last post, I began to meander for similar videos and came upon this remarkable one of Nadia Boulanger. It contains footage from her analysis classes given in her apartment as well as an interview with a journalist. What is notable here for me is how little of use this would be to an advocate of right-wing culture war. In her class, Boulanger says that things have been said one way for a long time, but now things are changing, and they as her students would find new ways to say the things that must be said. The interviewer tries to peg her down concerning a favorite style, music that she objects to, etc. Boulanger doesn’t take the bait. She sees her role of a pedagogue as giving her students the tools to say what they want to say, not one of imposing her vision on others.

This is perhaps to be expected of someone who knew everyone from Stravinsky and Faure to Quincy Jones and Philip Glass. She knew the history of 20th century music like few could, and thus her optimism at the collective ability to continue to creative impulse unencumbered is not surprising. I can’t say that I agree with her sentiments, perhaps there is now a stagnation in the air that she could have never expected. But I consider her impartiality refreshing nonetheless.


11 01 2019

In his Theologia platonica, Marsilio Ficino sought to defend the immortality of the soul and inherent dignity of humanity. Ficino argues that the soul rests in the middle of a great chain of being, with the Christian god and angels above and animals below. His great chain of being consists of five basic levels: God, angelic mind, rational soul, quality, and body. Humanity occupies a central position between mortal and immortal — the body being mortal and the soul immortal. Ficino was deeply influenced by arguments for the immortality of the soul presented by Socrates in Plato’s Phaedo as well as the works of Plotinus.

The rest here

Faure’s Requiem

10 01 2019

To Night

9 01 2019


Starry_Night_Over_the_RhoneNight, parent goddess, source of sweet repose, from whom at first both Gods and men arose,
Hear, blessed Venus, deck’d with starry light, in sleep’s deep silence dwelling Ebon night!
Dreams and soft case attend thy dusky train, pleas’d with the length’ned gloom and feaftful strain.
Dissolving anxious care, the friend of Mirth, with darkling coursers riding round the earth.
Goddess of phantoms and of shadowy play, whose drowsy pow’r divides the nat’ral day:
By Fate’s decree you constant send the light to deepest hell, remote from mortal sight
For dire Necessity which nought withstands, invests the world with adamantine bands.
Be present, Goddess, to thy suppliant’s pray’r, desir’d by all, whom all alike revere,
Blessed, benevolent, with friendly aid dispell the fears of Twilight’s dreadful shade.

-from the Orphic Hymns as translated by Thomas Taylor

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This wanting creature

8 01 2019


04_jose_guadalupe_posada_metszeteI said to the wanting-creature inside me:
What is this river you want to cross?
There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road.
Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or nesting?

There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman.
There is no tow rope either, and no one to pull it.
There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no ford!

And there is no body, and no mind!
Do you believe there is some place that will make the
soul less thirsty?
In that great absence you will find nothing.

Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don’t go off somewhere else!

Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of
imaginary things,
and stand firm in that which you are.


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