God has no enemies

5 04 2020

Lord Chaitanya threatening to castigate Jagai and Madhai with the Sudarshana Chakra

The Seventh Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam is widely loved by devotees of Krishna because it tells the story of how five year old Prahlada Maharaja is saved from his father’s wrath by Nrsimhadeva, Krishna’s half-man, half-lion avatar. More on this in a future essay, but here I would like to describe the first chapter of the canto which Srila Prabhupada in his translation entitled, “The Supreme Lord is Equal to Everyone”. The reasoning of this chapter goes that, since the material world is merely the external energy of the Lord, it is both different and non-different (achintya bheda abheda) from Him, or to put it my own overly-simplistic terms, you can’t run from God because you sort of are God, like your finger is you but not quite. In Krishna consciousness, you can’t be totally Other from God, you can’t eternally separate yourself from Him because you’re never independent from Him. Read the rest of this entry »

Neither deceive nor be deceived

28 03 2020

द्यूतं छलयतामस्मि तेजस्तेजस्विनामहम् ।
जयोऽस्मि व्यवसायोऽस्मि सत्त्वं सत्त्ववतामहम् ॥ ३६ ॥

(I am also the gambling of cheats, and of the splendid I am the splendor. I am victory, I am adventure, and I am the strength of the strong.)


There are many kinds of cheaters all over the universe. Of all cheating processes, gambling stands supreme and therefore represents Kṛṣṇa. As the Supreme, Kṛṣṇa can be more deceitful than any mere man. If Kṛṣṇa chooses to deceive a person, no one can surpass Him in His deceit. His greatness is not simply one-sided – it is all-sided…

-A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Chapter 10, Text 36

There is a saying in Krishna consciousness that if Krishna wants to kill you, no one can save you; and if He wants to save you, no one can harm you. The same goes for cheating. One of Krishna’s ten major avatars is Vamanadeva. When the asura (demon) Bali Maharaja took over the entire universe, there was a cry to Narayana to deliver the living entities from bondage. The Lord then appeared as a dwarf brahmin named Vamana who asked Bali Maharaja for only three steps of land where he could live. In spite of counsel from his guru that it was a trick, and somewhat suspecting who that dwarf really was, Bali agreed. The dwarf then grew into a giant, and with one step, He covered the entire Earth, and with the other step, the entire universe. Having nowhere else to place His foot, Bali Maharaja offered his own forehead as the landing place for the last step. With a trick, the Supreme Personality of Godhead freed the entire universe from bondage. Read the rest of this entry »

Two minds

26 03 2020

Although in general I have thought Chesterton overrated, I appreciated and have recommended to friends his book, St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox. As I read it years and years ago, I remember only a few passages. This one, however, is the first one I think of when mentioning that book:

Siger of Brabant said this: the Church must be right theologically, but she can be wrong scientifically. There are two truths; the truth of the supernatural world, and the truth of the natural world, which contradicts the supernatural world. While we are being naturalists, we can suppose that Christianity is all nonsense; but then, when we remember that we are Christians, we must admit that Christianity is true even if it is nonsense. In other words, Siger of Brabant split the human head in two, like the blow in an old legend of battle; and declared that a man has two minds, with one of which he must entirely believe and with the other may utterly disbelieve. To many this would at least seem like a parody of Thomism. As a fact, it was the assassination of Thomism. It was not two ways of finding the same truth; it was an untruthful way of pretending that there are two truths. And it is extraordinarily interesting to note that this is the one occasion sentences, which is a thing like the tone of a man’s voice, is suddenly altered. He had never been angry with any of the enemies who disagreed with him. But these enemies had attempted the worst treachery: they had made him agree with them when the Dumb Ox really came out like a wild bull. When he stood up to answer Siger of Brabant, he was altogether transfigured, and the very style of his sentences, which is a thing like the tone of a man’s voice, is suddenly altered. He had never been angry with any of the enemies who disagreed with him. But these enemies had attempted the worst treachery:they had made him agree with them. Read the rest of this entry »

Archimandrite Anastassy (Newcombe)

6 03 2020

Since I don’t have a lot of “fresh” materials, or I don’t really have the time and energy to develop anything new, I am re-editing and altering things that I previously wrote. Someone asked my where my involvement in the Eastern Church came from, so here is the origin story written well over a decade ago.

It was raining that day in San Francisco. I was concerned we were not going to be able to park close enough to the Old Cathedral on Fulton St. in order to get to our appointment with Fr. Anastassy on time. He was expecting us for tea, and I was eager that my young friend J. meet him. Fortunately, we found parking close enough and we were twenty minutes early for our meeting. Read the rest of this entry »

Loose thoughts on Jansenism etc.

29 02 2020

I hate writing about books I haven’t read yet, but an interview with Shaun Blanchard, author of The Synod of Pistoia and Vatican II: Jansenism and Catholic Reform, has given me some food for thought. I haven’t studied Jansenism in depth for years. It’s one of those subjects I have written about in the past which I would like to return to, but unfortunately I simply don’t have the time. If I could reach back into memory and summarize why Jansenism has fascinated me, the reason is that I find Jansenism as  tragic on all sides of the debate. In many ways, Jansenism itself, as ambiguous as it is historically, represents for me the heroic tragic. It sought to bring back and re-embody what it saw as ideals from the Primitive Church in a decadent present. Class and the hypocrisy of the ancien regime in France also played an underappreciated role in the appeal of Jansenism as far as I can tell. People today associate permissiveness with freedom and the fight against oppression, but the reality is that a libertine and “merciful” approach to pastoral issues usually results in forgiveness of the haves and the continued suffering of the have-nots. It is for this reason that I associate a lot of anti-Jansenist sentiment with the foolish tragic: people who think that everything is mostly fine but seem to complain at every turn about the current state of things. Their criticism of Jansenism is often based on ignoring the issues that this movement sought to address. Read the rest of this entry »

Fr. Daniel Cooper, SSPX

23 02 2020

As you can see, I really don’t have this whole consistent blogging thing in me anymore. Part of this is due to time commitments, but a larger part is I have ran out of things to say. For years, I have struggled with belief and unbelief. Indeed, this has been a struggle for me most of my adult life. It has only been fairly recently that I could really say that, yes, I do believe in God. This has been the case even though I have consistently identified on the outside as a Catholic, and have put up a good front as was expected of me. To be honest, I don’t find answers in Catholicism, and I’m about tired of looking. And to continue that honesty, I would rather not elaborate on it. Those who have been paying attention will probably have some inkling of my actual predilections. I just don’t want my public writing to degenerate into justifications as to why I left Catholicism or why I think Christianity is wrong. I don’t find that useful, and I don’t think it’s very truthful in my case. To my Catholic and Christian readers, I want you to stay on that path. I support you on it, even if I can’t follow along. Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts on clerical celibacy

22 01 2020

Clerical celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church has been a contested topic in the last year or so, but I haven’t really stepped into the fray as my position is quite nuanced. I became Eastern rite as a young man for personal reasons that are no longer relevant, so married or not, I could become a priest if the need or opportunity should ever arise. (Full disclosure: I am never going to pursue it, just putting it out there). There have been discussions as to whether celibacy, or a total abstention from sex, is an ontological characteristic that is essential to the priesthood as understood by the Apostolic Tradition. In that case, the Eastern Churches deviated from the norm due to unwarranted concessions to human weakness. I don’t find this line of reasoning very convincing, and that’s not just because I am now a member of the Eastern Church on the books, which has a history of married parochial clergy. Read the rest of this entry »

Luminous shadows

20 01 2020

As indicated previously, Thomism and I started off on the wrong foot when I was a teenager, when I tried to study it with the aim of getting a jump start on ecclesiastical studies. Instead I became enamored with modern philosophies that were more in sync with the times. I will admit, my inability to adequately engage with Scholastic philosophy was due to my intellectual isolation. I was in a small town, the local clergy didn’t particularly care for my piety (looking back, I can’t blame them), and Catholic conservatism looked substantially different back then than it did today. This was the time of John Paul II, and as much as modern Thomists try to reclaim him as one of their own, you would be hard pressed to try to jam that phenomenological square peg into the round Aristotelian hole. I am sure many graduate papers are being written trying to do just that, but I’m not going to bother here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why I didn’t become Orthodox

18 01 2020

I want to keep this one short because there’s really not much to say about it.

As background, there was a time in my youth when I spent more time in Orthodox churches than I did in Catholic ones, and made friends and acquaintances of a few Orthodox priests. Orthodox theology and Patristics was all I read, and so on and so forth.

For me, Orthodoxy isn’t the answer for the same reason Catholic traditionalism isn’t the answer. It’s because quantity counts. That is to say, especially in approaching the inherent logic of the Christian faith, universality isn’t a minor detail, but its essence. Whether Orthodoxy didn’t spread because of legitimate and unfortunate historical reasons is beside the point. The fact that it hasn’t really achieved universality beyond certain ethnic and national manifestations means that it is not the Faith preached in the Gospels. Read the rest of this entry »

Vatican II was a failure

15 01 2020

When I say, “Vatican II was a failure,” I mean that it was a failure on its own terms. Not that it failed to pass on “Apostolic Tradition,” or it didn’t go far enough in its reforms. In my opinion, Vatican II was about holiness, particularly holiness of the laity. It was an attempted democratization of holiness. I will not elaborate too much on this to keep this short, but all of the current problems with the Catholic Church stem from this failure. Read the rest of this entry »