On the spiritual body

14 05 2019
Narada Muni Transcendental Spaceman

Narada Muni (source)

A reader left a comment with a link to an article by David Bentley Hart entitled The Spiritual Was More Substantial Than the Material for the Ancients. Here I will offer a few comments, specifically on the main themes of the corporeal vs. the spiritual body. Read the rest of this entry »

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The only way to win is not to play

8 05 2019

The idea of reviving the office of female deacon or deaconess has been raised by the current Vatican. Though I have traditionalist leanings, I don’t have a strong opinion on this. To cite Slavoj Zizek, I would say that I would prefer not to, but I don’t think the traditional camp has much of a leg to stand on at this point. Deaconesses are documented to have been in existence in the early Church, and across various ritual churches, their duties and privileges varied widely. Apparently in the Armenian Orthodox Church, there were female deacons all the way up to the middle of the 20th century and beyond. Above is a recently ordained Armenian female deacon. What would the Vatican or conservative Catholics say about this deacon? What if the Armenian Catholics, who share the same rites but are communion with the Vatican, decide to ordain their own female deacons again? Could she serve in St. Peter’s Basilica during Mass, as clergy in other rites sometimes tend to do? I would say this is not a question of “if”, but “when”. Read the rest of this entry »





On the Power of the Stars

6 05 2019

Reditus

fortunaAnd some random reflections

[Image by Robert Place found on this site]

But what is remarkable about the Florentine cupolas is that they represent no merely random arrangement of the stars: the artist has preserved the aspect of the sky exactly as it appeared at a given day and hour. Why was this done? Without the slightest doubt, because some event of decisive importance for the Church had taken place at that very moment – an event over which the celestial powers then above the horizon had presided. Aby Warburg was able, in fact, to prove that the arrangement of the stars shown in the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo corresponds exactly to their position in the sky above Florence on July 9, 1422, the date of the consecration of the main altar.

-taken from The Survival of the Pagan Gods by Jean Seznec

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On the cycle of the yugas

3 05 2019
Image result for maha vishnu

Maha Vishnu

A reader pointed out two essays in First Things by Russian author, Eugene Vodolazkin, more or less on the themes of time and historical truth. For the most part, these essays suffer from the tendency of literary scholars to divide the world into a series of just-so stories: observations from limited sources that seem to flawlessly explain the long arc of history. So needless to say, I don’t agree with much in these articles. But I do want to draw from them two themes to discuss here, namely, the repetitive nature of past narratives, as well as the progressive concept of time. Read the rest of this entry »





Notes on liturgical maximalism

30 04 2019

Just some unconnected thoughts I’ve had recently.

As you may know, I was connected to the Society of St. Pius X for a number of years in my youth. This experience was quite formative to me. My experience of the traditional liturgy was thus somewhat minimalistic and combative. Back in the late 1990’s, you were lucky to find the old Latin Mass anywhere. It was either relegated to the basement, to a time that was equivalent to the basement, or it could be found in little chapels or in groups that were considered “schismatic”. In the SSPX in particular, it was made clear to us that the liturgy was just the tip of the iceberg. Ecumenism, religious liberty, the New Theology, really it was opposing these things that brought me into the traditionalist sphere in the first place, at least initially. Later I would become much softer on these issues (wishy-washy?) but I never forgot that all of this was connected. The modernists also grew up in and celebrated the traditional liturgy for years before they got to change it. The traditional liturgy was thus never a panacea for me. Read the rest of this entry »





God of History vs. God as History?

24 04 2019

One of the great influences of my youth was a Russian Orthodox monk who was a Catholic convert. According to a biographical essay written by one of his disciples, he was converted by the Orthodox theologian Georges Florovsky. Having read Florovsky myself, I can attest that he is one of the only Orthodox writers worth a damn. Aside from his obvious mastery of Patristics and Church history, his more theoretical impact was clear and to the point: Christianity is a religion of history. That is, in contrast to Nietzsche’s attempt to revive the eternal return, Christianity is based firmly on the concept of linear time. Things happen once, and not over and over again. Humans are historic persons with their own unique substance, and not just masks for an eternal repeating energy flow. For instance, this is the main difference between Christian liturgy and pagan ritual in spite of any superficial similarities and appropriations. Liturgy can only commemorate historical events and not eternal cycles of seasons and movements of nature. It could be said that the latter only have meaning in light of the former. Read the rest of this entry »





In praise of bad marriages

22 04 2019

In my intellectual traversing around Hinduism, I encountered the above clip of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [Founder of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the Hare Krishnas] speaking of his former married life. Prabhupada left his family once his children were grown to become a sannyasi, or renounced monk, but his marriage was apparently not a happy one. In this clip, Srila Prabhupada speaks about how as a young man, he went to his father to complain that he didn’t like his wife. At that time, marriage to more than one woman was permitted in colonial India, and the insinuation was that he was asking what his father would think if he were to take another wife. Instead of giving the blessing to take another wife, the father told his son that he was most fortunate not to like his wife. For by having a wife he didn’t like, it would be easier to leave her aside and go back to Godhead (that is, Krishna). We all have to give up what we love in this life sooner or later, and loving your wife less would mean that leaving her would be easier. Read the rest of this entry »





On the Triduum

18 04 2019

Sometimes I feel more cursed than blessed having had a thoroughly Catholic youth. As I have stated previously, the strongest memory I have of Good Friday is our grandmother reminding us to fast or God would strike us dead (something like that), and showing up to church one Good Friday and seeing an ambulance in front. “He probably didn’t fast,” I thought to myself then. Read the rest of this entry »





The alternative Catholic future

15 04 2019

I read a review in Harper’s Magazine of a new book on Thomas Merton and his personal foibles. Having resisted the urge so far to read Merton, I will probably not read this biographical expose either. On the other hand, this article was of interest to me in that it also describes the trends at the time within the Catholic milieu. From Archbishop Fulton Sheen to Evelyn Waugh to a nascent Liturgical Movement, there was a genuine optimism of message within the general pessimism toward materialist modernity. Catholics could be in the world but not of it, and the world would still listen. Merton’s own Seven Storey Mountain was a cultural phenomenon that influenced everyone from devout Catholics to the beatniks. Only with Vatican II and the 1960’s did the script definitively flip: in opening to the world, the Church showed that it feared it, or rather, that it feared being ignored by it. In the meanwhile, the world began to ignore the Church (except for chances to slander it). It continues to ignore it to this day. Read the rest of this entry »





Guru-puja

11 04 2019

As a follow-up to my review of Ram Dass’ Be Love Now, I decided to get a documentary on Krishna Das named after his first album, One Track Heart. To refresh your memory, Krishna Das is a major figure in the circle of followers of Neem Karoli Baba, an Indian religious figure who helped bring a certain popular brand of Hinduism to the West. Krishna Das’ path to following his guru goes through music, specifically kirtan. Kirtan is congregational singing of mantras made popular in the United States in particular through its performance in yoga studios and similar venues. Indeed, Krishna Das is known as the “king of kirtan”, providing the popular soundtrack to the yoga craze that has taken over the West in the last 20 years. Read the rest of this entry »