Saturday, June 13, 2020

Doctor Evangelicus

Today is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, Doctor of the Church. Born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in Lisbon in the 1190s, he joined the Franciscans and became renowned as a preacher.

St. Anthony Preaching to the Fishes (c. 1630) - attributed to Francisco de Herrera the Elder (Detroit Institute of Arts)

The above painting, attributed to Francisco de Herrera the Elder, depicts St. Anthony and the Fish, one of the most famous stories about him. According to the legend, St. Anthony went to Rimini to preach, and the people there treated him very, very poorly, so he went to where the Marecchia River meets the sea and started preaching. As he preached, a large number of fish began to gather around, lifting their heads out of the water until he blessed and dismissed them. As the Little Flowers puts it,

St Anthony, seeing the reverence of the fish towards their Creator, rejoiced greatly in spirit, and said with a loud voice: "Blessed be the eternal God; for the fishes of the sea honour him more than men without faith, and animals without reason listen to his word with greater attention than sinful heretics."

And whilst St Anthony was preaching, the number of fishes increased, and none of them left the place that he had chosen. And the people of the city hearing of the miracle, made haste to go and witness it.

The story is the inspiration for a very important early South American sermon, Fr. António Vieira's Sermão de Santo António aos Peixes, preached in São Luís, Brazil, on the St. Anthony's Day in 1654 -- which in that year was also June 13, since the day has been very stable through different calendar changes. In it Vieira, who had preached before on the importance of treating the indios well, but found his sermons falling on deaf ears, addressed his sermon to various kinds of fish, comparing them to the colonists in their various virtues and vices. (São Luís is on an island, so no doubt his congregation was already quite acquainted with fish.) Among other things, he compares the colonial treatment of the natives to big fish eating little fish alive. It's quite a tour de force; Vieira was perhaps the greatest Portuguese preacher of his day, and it shows. Shortly after the sermon, Vieira sailed back to Portugal and convinced King John IV to issue several decrees in the attempt to shield the natives from mistreatment. He made a lot of enemies over it, probably not helped by the fact that he was, for all of his good qualities, a rather arrogant and self-aggrandizing man. But flawed vessels sometimes hold good wine, and his St. Anthony sermon is a gem in the tradition of St. Anthony himself, both in style and in content.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Dashed Off XII

melka (holy leaven) and the charism of the East
- holy leaven doesn't actually leaven; it is a residue, a material tradition; the Church of the East takes it as essential to the consecration (Eucharist without it is treated as invalid)
- earliest attestation seems to be to Catholicos Yohannan V bar Abgare (900-905); his canonical decrees require two leavenings, one consecrated and one unconsecrated
- the Assyrian theologians parallel the leaven with the Holy Oil of the Apostles used for baptism & only for baptism

Pohle & Preuss object to the sacramentalia hexameter, 'orans, tinctus, edeus, confessus, dans, benedicens' that orans, confessus, and dans are not properly sacramentals, but surely this is to miss the point, which is that there are sacramentals properly dependent on and associated with (And thus traced back or reduced to) these three.

Note that Datta takes the Western tradition of philosophy to be in general a two-pramana tradition.

mind as known by perception, as known by inference, as known by testimony, as known by arthapatta (circumstantial supposition)

What is accredited to us as morally good must be ours, but reason is social, and nothing can be ours without the aid of others.

A service of the heart must be expressed in signs; a service of the heart to God must be expressed in signs as God reveals to be appropriate.

Prayer is not a merely internal ritual, nor is church-going a merely external one.

We may indeed anticipate God's giving of grace because our existence, and that of the whole world, is already a work of grace.

The Notion of Sacrament in General
A. The Need for Something Like Sacrament
--- 1. Fruition and Use
--- 2. Original and Actual Sin
--- 3. The Definition of a Sacrament
B. General Sacrament
--- 1. Christ
--- 2. Church
C. Sacrament Under Natural Law
D. Sacrament Under Old Covenant
E. Sacrament Under New Covenant
F. Major Sacraments
--- 1. Number
--- 2. Institution
G. Minor Sacraments

right-in-some-respect reasons (constitutive) vs. suggestive-of-something-right reasons

Adequacy of propositions to what they are about generally depends on more adequate propositions, which series converges on real definitions.

Philosophical interestingness is always relative to problems within a context of inquiry.

occasional → eclectic → systematic

Materials are sometimes ripe for classification. This 'ripeness for classification' is an important concept for philosophy of classification.

condign and congruous rights

to honor victory with revel

Provocation and outrage are pushed in order to force opinions; in an opinion nation, not having an opinion is itself regarded as resistance.

the danger of confusing apathy and restraint in opining

the modernist confusion of identity with kinship-feeling (connected with its confusion of identity and self-identification)

Every sacrament has aesthetic, ethical, metaphysical, and salvation-historical levels, and at each level it functions as sign and thing.

the ascetic discipline of suspension of judgment

sacraments as rituals of unity

It follows from Russell's account of names and descriptions that the distinction is not one of language used (despite how it is often presented even by Russell) but of the use to which the language is put.

History becomes relevant to causation only by way of some sort of aptitude or memory or stored trace.

dainty & dumpy as aesthetic terms

Even small-t traditions in the Church, if long-term, deserve some respect as the inherited experience of many generations.

rites: (1) background contrast; (2) machinery of rite; (3) acts; (4) standards of acceptability; (5) style of performance


"We must, however, distinguish accurately between three things which are different in this sacrament, namely, the visible form, the truth of the body, and the spiritual power. The form is of the bread and wine; the truth, of the flesh and blood; the power, of unity and charity. The first is the sacramentum et non res, the second the sacramentum et res, the third the res et non sacramentum. The first is sacrament of a twofold res; the second, however, is sacrament of one and res of another; but the third is the res of a twofold sacrament." Innocent III Cum Marthae circa (D 415)

Are occult heretics included in the church?
Yes: Bellarmine (De eccl. mil. 3 ch. 10)
--- Tanquerey (Synopsis Th. Dog. Vol 1. n. 903)
No: Suarez (De fide d9s1nn5.13.18)
--- Molina (Concordia p3q14a13d46n18)
--- Franzelin (Theses de Ecc. Chr. th. 23)
Are manifest material heretics in the church?
Yes: Franzelin (Theses, th. 23)
No: Various
Are manifest formal heretics in the church?
Yes: Franzelin (Theses, th 22)
--- Tanquerey (Synopsis vol 1 n903-904)
No: ?
[Cp. Fr. Salaverri, Sacrae Theologiae Summa]

Reconciliation as tribunal of mercy
(1) contrition, confession, satisfaction
(2) keys
(3) seal
(4) jurisdiction

laws of nature // world-soul

"Everything is full of signs, and the one who understands one thing on the basis of another is a wise man of sorts." Plotinus (Enneads 2.3.7)

Receiving the heresies of those who suckle at her breast, the Church produces the antibodies, the countervailing factors, to protect those who receive her teaching.

Political reasoning always outruns proof.

Political speech tends to hyperbole, because political speech strives for, and sometimes strains for, an actual effect.

numbing vs. painful distress

"It is impossible to be potentially nothing." Plotinus (Enneads 2.5.1)

"People are generally better persuaded by reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others." Pascal (Pensees 10)

executive power as substantive vs. executive power as management envelope

tripartite powers: ST Supp.32.6

efficacy of sacraments
Baptism: Eph 5:26
Confirmation: Acts 8:17
Eucharist: Jn 6:57ff
Penance: Jn 20:22ff
Unction: Jas 5:14
Orders: II Tim 1:6

Pohle & Preuss argue that sacraments have no physical causality because physical causality
(1) is unprovable: all the grounds for it merely show efficacy, for which moral causality suffices.
--But note that they have to characterize some of the characterizations as 'exaggerations'
--and their surprise and mystery argument (esp. for baptismal water) misses the point: it is not the mysteriousness bu the directness and strength of patristic claims that is relevant.
(2) is unintelligible, because (a) the whole sacramental sign never exists simultaneously
-- this would tell as directly against moral causality
(b) reviviscentia sacramentorum
-- the same argument would tell against moral causality
----- The problem is that Pohle & Preuss assume moral causality is immune to the need for principles required to have any causality at all (action presupposes being, presence, etc.).

patience : unction :: repentance : penance

the sacramental economy springing from each sacrament as having the structure of the Temple

Universalism is a prediction that God will work a moral miracle.

Leo XIII on Scriptural inspiration (Providentissimus Deus)
(1) God inflames the will.
(2) God illumines the intellect.
(3) God supervises the work.

the power of the parent to act vicariously for the child

three works of oil of healing (Testament of Our Lord 1:25)
(1) set free those who suffer
(2) heal those who are sick
(3) sanctify those who return

To treat rituals are primarily expressive of experience is to treat them as epiphenomenal, or at least as passive -- merely done, and not themselves doing. But rituals are experience-forming, experience-guiding, and experience-transforming.

Morality is a condition for consistent cooperation (note that this is not to say that it is consistent cooperation, nor is consistent cooperation the only form of cooperation).

Every story aims at some good.

The genus of the appropriate method for a domain is implicit in the domain itself, but to determine the best in that genus is a matter of difficulty.

Positivisms are always the ghosts of dead metaphysics.

The distinction between 'being' and 'cat' is not merely a distinction between more and less general.

Mill's liberalism depends crucially on a form of skepticism that takes us never to be in a position to judge with certainty.

active violation, encroachment, posture of encroachment

anointing of the sick & non-dread, non-angst

Argument Equivalence and Implication
e.g., [Every dog is a mammal, therefore some dog is a mammal] is equivalent to [Every dog is a mammal, therefore some mammal is a dog]

immaculate conception → immaculate heart → queenship
immaculate conception → perpetual virginity → assumption

(1) the need for tribunals as remedies under law
(2) anticipative vs corrective tribunal
(3) conscience as anticipative tribunal
(4) two kinds of corrective tribunal: tribunal of justice, tribunal of mercy
(5) sacramental tribunal of mercy
(6) tribunal of Christ as both of justice and of mercy
(7) the final judgment

Physical well-being is not a single thing, but more like a vast and ever-changing market of complex trade-offs.

Your liberty does not really extend beyond the bounds of your authority.

socialims & the -ism mistake

the pastward and the futureward faces of the present

as sign of divine ) as sign of higher things ) as formally structure ) as materially found ) as appearing

grace as subsidium (unction), as educative (matrimony), as vocative (confirmation), as consummative (eucharist), as productive of occasions of grace (orders)

It would be more accurate to say that we are 'browned-to appearingly' than 'appeared-to brownly'.

There are, in fact, phenomenal differences between dreaming and waking experiences -- a great many. It's judgment that is different between the two so as to make them hard to take into account.

(1) Consequentialism is inconsistent with strict naturalism.
(2) Consequentialism requires at least a moderately robust conception of abstract objects.
(3) Consequentialism is secularized divine providence.
(4) Consequentialism requires at least a minimal rationalism.
(5) Consequentialism requires a temporally privileged present.
-- 'required' in some of these cases may be practical rather than logical

Without a priori knowledge, we could not assess what would actually be for the *greatest* happiness of the greatest number. The best you could do would be to increase things that we've previously found associated with happiness in the past -- all attempt at *maximization* would be an exercise in stupidity.

Criminal justice reforms tend to overemphasize law reform and underemphasize enforcement reform, which is ultimately self-defeating.

Mammon rules by pretending to serve.

Pantheism confuses sign and signified; because of this, it confuses effect and cause.

It's remarkable how often 'hardcore materialists' treat laws of nature as if they were immaterial agents.

independent oversight, uniform regulation (that there are rules), general incentive (that they are enforced)

Liturgy is an imitation (mimesis) of heavenly prayer.

the eucatastrophe of the altar

Augustine -- baptism of desire - De bapt contr. Don. 4.22

On average, Mercury is the closest planet to every planet.

kinds of nonessential component for a sacrament
(1) means of facilitation
(2) safeguards against abuse
(3) chance incidentals

Mutual regard is the illumination of conversations.

"The most beautiful verses are not the ones with which one is busy all the time. They are the ones that have come all by themselves." Peguy

"nothing that is not first can be simple" Plotinus

probability // degree of overlap

Taj Mahal etc. as common beauty
-- the moral obligation to protect common beauty as part of common good
-- the possibility of sharing in 'being pleased'

The rogue too has his role in the city. (Enneads 3.2)

All temptations are sweet when they are temptations. More than a few are bitter when they are deeds.

mastery of passions as sign of immateriality of the soul (Pascal Pensees 349)
the aleatory aspect of reasoning itself (Pensees 370)

the skeptical ploy: to argue that, because some are extravagant, all might as well be considered so

"networks of counsel and aid" (Andrew Jones)

symbolic logic : philosophy :: rules of perspective : painting
geometric decomposition : drawing :: analysis : philosophy

Dharmyam Yuddham

A very interesting discussion of the ethics of war, partly explicit (i.e., expressly stated) and partly implicit (i.e., in context in the Mahabharata), found in the Bhagavad Gita:

The lesson of the Mahābhārata generalizes; conventional morality places constraints on people who are conventionally moral, and this enables the maleficence of those who act to undermine conventional morality by undermining those who bind themselves with it. Call the latter, who use conventional morality as a weapon against the conventionally moral, moral parasites (Kauravas) and the former, who are happy to be bound by conventional morality, moral conventionalists (Pāṇḍavas). The moral parasite is someone who, for instance, wishes you to be honest and to abide by conventions of transparency so they can steal from you. The moral parasite is someone who, for instance, wishes for you to behave in a manner that is courteous, kind, and accommodating so they can assault you, without resistance. The only way to end this relationship of parasitism is for the conventionally moral to give up on conventional morality and engage moral parasites in war. This would be a just war—dharmyaṃ yuddham—and the essence of a just war because the cause would be to rid the world of moral parasites. Yet, from the perspective of conventional morality, which encourages mutually accommodating behavior, this departure is wrong and bad. Indeed, relying purely on conventional standards that encourage social interaction for the promise of a good, an argument for pacifism is more easily constructed than an argument for war.

Shyam Ranganathan, "Just War and the Indian Tradition: Arguments from the Battlefield"

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Three Poem Re-Drafts

Kalaratri in the Starlight

Come now, come now, said her smile
as she leaned on the wooden fence;
come now, come now: a woman's voice
that coaxes and never relents.
She looked me over with sparkling eye
blushed and smiled once more,
flirted at me with glancing look,
with form that held good things in store.

My love is another's, I quietly said.
Though your deep eyes are bright,
Though you rise up with willow-tree grace,
My love's for another by right.

She smiled again, with softest of purrs
replied that true love left no choice:
when true lovers meet beneath a full moon
fate speaks in inexorable voice
of destiny laid from the first of the world
that cannot be turned or undone.
When she loved a man, that loving was sure,
and she loved, and I was the one.

But a bright, lovely girl awaits me, I know,
hopes to see me in clear morning light.
How can a man seek honor and truth
who dallies with strangers at night?

Ah, said the lady (as she drew near
with a brush of the warmth of her breath),
these frail mundane loves pass us like sighs;
I speak true, or my name is not Death.
Then she trickled her finger down the bridge of my nose,
took my face up with her hands;
she smiled at me beneath the cold stars
and we kissed, and I fell to the sand.


Mighty of mind was great Udayana,
mighty in reason's ways;
his thought searched out the higher things
like hound that leaps and bays.
From lowest thing to holy God
in breadth and width and height,
he walked on reason's highways,
his reasons ever right.
Never wrong was great Udayana.
His inference was sure
and traveled straight like arrow-flight
and always would endure.
He was a great debater;
he could bring the point to close,
and the God-denying Buddhists
he held his foes of foes.
Before the king of Mithila
he debated a Buddhist long.
His words were clear. His subtleties
and arguments were strong,
and at the end the Buddhist,
though for debate renowned,
in defeat ran to the cliff
and cast his body down:
ashamed of having been so wrong,
ashamed of his guilt and pride,
ashamed of having doubted God,
he leaped from the cliff and died.
Repenting, the great Udayana
went down to the temple-place
and before the God whom he had proved
he knelt and bowed his face.
The God gave not a whisper.
The silence was cool and cold,
and, anguished, great Udayana
spoke out in anger bold.
"My life has been a service,"
he said, "to lead all minds to you,
and to the God-deniers
I showed that you were true.
Why, then, are you so silent?
My existence comes from yours,
but by my proof and reasons
your name with men endures."
Then a dream came to Udayana.
The God spoke the word, "Unclean,"
and a storm rose through the temple
and shook the temple-screen.
"You may argue, O Udayana,
and your arguments are sure,
but this is also true of God:
the God is wholly pure.
Let us take a proof, Udayana;
I will give it in a tale,
and by my proof know that proof,
if impure, comes to fail.
A philosopher like Udayana
when Brahman and Buddhist fought
led them to the mountain
and gave them the proof they sought.
Down he threw the Brahman.
'There is a God,' the Brahman said,
and set down like a downy feather,
unscratched in limb and head.
Again he threw the Buddhist,
who said to the wind that sighed,
'There is no God, all things must end,'
and, ending, the Buddhist died.
It was a certain proving,
in a way that none could hide,
with only one objection:
that the Buddhist monk had died.
And from the sun of heaven
the fire of judgment fell,
casting impure philosopher
to deepest pits of hell.
God is most pure, Udayana,
the greatest eminence of holy life,
and shuns the bloody-handed
and the stirrer-up of strife.
Unfit are you, Udayana,
though the truth may crown your head,
for though you spoke the truth of God,
by you man's blood is shed.
You have argued with godlike splendor
and your fellow men have awed;
your word of truth was light to man,
but darkness to the God."

Morning Walk

As dawn approaches, sky transforms its purple into blue
though moon still rides on summit high, a sliver yet to view;
under clouds is tinged with gold the edge of heaven's hem
and soon the sun will process in with glory's diadem.
A little coolness intertwines my limbs with gentle sighs
and moves the clouds in flock and herd across the clearing skies.
Your face is to my inward eye brought slowly into sight,
recalling how you once did smile with sudden, dawning light.
I walk alone. In memories I may still walk with you,
but memory is just one form of being lonely, too.

The Waving Line

The existence of grace seems to depend more upon the character of mental, than of corporeal beauty. All its motions seem to indicate, and to be regulated by the utmost delicacy of sentiment! I have placed it between the highest sentiment of the human mind, sublimity, that no rules can teach, and the highest sentiment that rules can teach, exact beauty, the two extremes of the vrai réel, and the vrai idéal. Grace seems as it were to hang between the influence of both; the irregular sublime giving character and relief to the negative and determined qualities of beauty; and beauty, i. e. truth confining within due bounds the eccentric qualities of sublimity, forming both to sight and in idea, orderly variety, the waving line, neither straight nor crooked. The waving line is the symbol, or memento, as I may say of grace, wherever it is seen, in whatever object animate or inanimate; and may be justly stiled the line of taste or grace.

Frances Reynolds, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Taste, and of the Origin of Our Ideas of Beauty (1785), p. 14. 'Grace' here means aesthetic gracefulness. The 'line of grace', which is a particular version of what is more commonly known as the Line of Beauty, is usually associated with William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty (1753):

Reynolds is right that this is only a sort of "symbol, or memento" of a larger point, although it seems like the Line itself is the only thing most people picked up from Hogarth. In any case, this is Hogarth's explanation of the serpentine line as the line of grace:

It is to be observed, that straight lines vary only in length, and therefore are least ornamental.

That curved lines as they can be varied in their degrees of curvature as well as in their lengths, begin on that account to be ornamental.

That straight and curv'd lines join'd, being a compound line, vary more than curves alone, and so become somewhat more ornamental.

That the waving line, or line of beauty, varying still more, being composed of two curves contrasted, becomes still more ornamental and pleasing, insomuch that the hand takes a lively movement in making it with pen or pencil.

And that the serpentine line, by its waving and winding at the same time different ways, leads the eye in a pleasing manner along the continuity of its variety, if I may be allowed the expression; and which by its twisting so many different ways, may be said to inclose (tho' but a single line) varied contents; and therefore all its variety cannot be express'd on paper by one continued line, without the assistance of the imagination, or the help of a figure; see where that sort of proportion'd, winding line, which will hereafter be call'd the precise serpentine line, or line of grace, is represented by a fine wire, properly twisted round the elegant and varied figure of a cone.

Due to the fact that she situates grace between sublimity and beauty, Reynolds is adapting this idea in a slightly different direction.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Music on My Mind

Eivør, "Patience"

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Ephraem Syrus

Today is the feast of St. Ephrem the Syrian, Doctor of the Church. He is also known as the Harp of the Holy Spirit, because his most important theological works are didactic hymns. From The Pearl, Hymn 1:

On a certain day a pearl did I take up, my brethren; I saw in it mysteries pertaining to the Kingdom; semblances and types of the Majesty; it became a fountain, and I drank out of it mysteries of the Son.

I put it, my brethren, upon the palm of my hand, that I might examine it: I went to look at it on one side, and it proved faces on all sides. I found out that the Son was incomprehensible, since He is wholly Light.

In its brightness I beheld the Bright One Who cannot be clouded, and in its pureness a great mystery, even the Body of our Lord which is well-refined: in its undividedness I saw the Truth which is undivided.

It was so that I saw there its pure conception — the Church, and the Son within her. The cloud was the likeness of her that bare Him, and her type the heaven, since there shone forth from her His gracious Shining.

I saw therein His trophies, and His victories, and His crowns. I saw His helpful and overflowing graces, and His hidden things with His revealed things.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Public Monuments

We've had a lot of argument about public monuments the past few years. One of the things I find interesting about it is how moralized it is. That's not intrinsic to the topic; how closely memorializing (or de-memorializing) is tied to moralizing is not a stable thing, and varies considerably across time. To take an example of what I mean, an argument that has become very popular with respect to Confederate monuments is that they were traitors, so they should not be memorialized with a public monument. This is always put forward as an obvious and definitive argument; but that someone was a traitor is neither an obvious nor a definitive reason not to memorialize them, and you have only to look around at human memorializing behavior to see that it is not even particularly relevant. Human beings don't memorialize people for loyalty or goodness, which is why we do not have many bronzes in the public plaza commemorating neighborhood grandmas and working-class joes who sacrifice for the lives of others. We don't even make much of an effort to remember good people, usually; and, of course, human goodness being what it is, a 'good person' is always only 'relatively good in some particular set of ways'. Exactly whom you memorialize might be affected by what you admire, but even that is not always set. There are plenty of politicians and bureaucrats whom nobody has ever admired who have their portraits hung up somewhere.

People tear down public monuments for the same reasons they build them, and while moral principle sometimes makes a showing somewhere, it is never the heart of the act. People build or tear down public monuments

(1) because doing so curries favor with those who are seen as powerful; or
(2) in order to express, in visible form, authority, superiority, or dominance over prior generations or a current population.

That's it. We don't randomly go about monument-building or monument-breaking; we have a point, and the point is never a purely moral one but is instead primarily a point about who controls destiny. To be sure, our reasons can still be quite complicated. Why do we have so many Confederate monuments in the South? It's easy to trace it to three reasons: (a) Southern states were reasserting that despite appearances they were in control of their own destiny; (b) definitely in some places and perhaps in most places, whites were asserting that they were still dominant over the black populations; (c) paradoxically, as the South was in fact still in a weak and relatively powerless state, it flattered the people who could have done something about it that they were magnanimous and tolerant enough to throw the South a bone, thus showing their own control over things. Whenever all three happened to converge at the same time, you had a flurry of building of Confederate monuments. And they tended to stay up because it has been the badge of honor of Western liberal societies, one of the things regularly put forward by them as their distinctive expression, to allow freedom of expression, so their remaining showed the commitment of liberals to this feature that they treated as a mark of liberalism, and the sheer power they had in not being threatened by these things. (It's the same reason why you can still find liberals unsettled by monument-destruction even when they sympathize with the reasons; historically, liberals have pointed to their refusal to support things like book-burning or book-banning as a proof of their commitment and strength, but as a book is, in the long run, far more influential and effective than a statue in a plaza somewhere, all arguments for tearing down statues are even better arguments for banning and burning books.) And why are they being torn down? Because the people doing it want to express their superiority over the prior generations and their dominance over certain groups in the present one.

This is all universal, so there is no point in getting bent out of shape about the bare fact of it. Human beings generally need signs to recognize power and authority, so we express power and authority by visible signs, and standing power and authority is expressed by standing visible signs. We memorialize because we can -- more specifically, because we, as opposed to someone else, can, and we are communicating that we can. Occasionally other motives will join forces with this, but they are not the stable ones. And there's nothing wrong with memorializing because you can. We all do it on a small scale; it's not surprising that we'd do it on a large scale. But it is a self-communication, and has more to do with the statement we wish to make about ourselves than with the people and events we are memorializing.

Nor are people who want to moralize the matter doing so purely as a matter of principle. There was a furor a while back over a statue of György Lukács in Hungary; there was a big push to tear it down. I saw a number of colleagues spreading emails and the like about it and crying shame over it. They characterized the movement to tear down the statue as anti-intellectual (Lukács was a historian) and as right-wing (Lukács was a Marxist) and as anti-Semitic (Lukács was Jewish). And you can argue that some of the support for the monument-breaking was powered by precisely these things. But the outrage over it was selective, as well, because Lukács was in fact a supporter -- and the main Hungarian theoretician -- for Communist red-terrorism, arguing that the power of the state should be used to destroy the enemies of Communist policies. This was also a major issue for the movement to tear down the statue; another example of trying visibly to assert power over the past. But is it the case that the Western academics who were crying shame over the intent to destroy the statue simply didn't care about Lukács's complicity? Perhaps in some cases, but really, for most of them it was irrelevant. The fact of condemning was not based on moral principle, but on an assessment of it as an expression of power by groups they thought should not have power; and that assessment was what determined what moral principles were relevant, not vice versa.

Or take a very different case. Just the other day, a statue of Edward Colston in Bristol was toppled and thrown into Bristol Harbour. It was not really surprising, because Colston was a slave-trader, and made some significant fortune through that trade, although it was only one of his many lines of business. That's certainly a reason that could be given for throwing him in the drink. But, of course, the reason the statue was there was that he was one of the most important philanthropists and benefactors in Bristol's history; he poured his fortune into almshouses, schools, hospitals, churches, charitable societies (some of which still exist today) -- and that, of course, doesn't eve count the extent to which his fortune was the seed for other people's fortunes. You can scarcely turn around in Bristol without bumping into something that could not have existed except for Colston. If it were purely a matter of moral principle, the question would not be, "Should we tear down the statue of Edward Colston?" but "Should we raze the city of Bristol and start again from scratch?" Such a thing has in fact happened before; in the long run of history, in fact, tearing down all or much of a city, to express that a new age has begun, is not uncommon. We could very well do it. Or, at least, it could be done. Whether it would be appropriate as an expression of our power and control over our destiny is another question and depends a great deal on how we see ourselves (and who counts as 'we').

Monuments go up and monuments come down all the time. It has only been a common view in a relatively small part of history that monuments should stay up simply because they are monuments; and that, too, was an expression of the power of liberal regimes, a way of communicating their supremacy over all that came before. We memorialized memorialization itself, a visible proof that all progress led to ourselves at the pinnacle, overcomers of all prior defects, collectors of all prior good. It has always been inevitable that any serious attempt to transition to a new age would break with that in one way or another, and this we have seen in the past, and are currently seeing. Whether current attempts will in fact succeed in the long run is another question. Modern liberal regimes have a long history of handling their would-be successors not aggressively but passive-aggressively, and history has shown it to be a very, very effective strategy, regardless of whether the liberal regime that deployed it was controlled by by 'liberals' or 'conservatives' in a party-politics sense. One sees this in the recent protests, in which the primary strategy regardless of party has been tactics of deflection and co-option. We will undoubtedly get a few monuments to the brave people who tore down monuments; nothing about this will necessarily prevent new versions of the torn-down monuments going back up at a later date in some form or other; again it will all show that the regime in power has the power, and communicate that all things are under the sway of the power of liberal democracy. Or so it will go, at least, until the regime in power is not trying to communicate that it is a liberal democracy, because it is another kind of power-regime entirely. And when that happens, whether the regime is good or rotten to the core, their monument-building and monument-breaking will be driven by the same thing that has always driven these things: that they will be the ones who can do them.

And Rest and Silence Reign Profound

Written after a very severe TEMPEST, which cleared up extremely pleasant
by Mercy Otis Warren

When rolling thunders shake the skies,
And lightnings fly from pole to pole;
When threatening whirlwinds rend the air,
What terrors seize th'affrighted soul!

Aghast and pale with thrilling fear,
He trembling stands in wild amaze;
Nor knows for shelter where to hide,
To screen him from the livid blaze.

Happy the calm and tranquil breast,
That with a steady equal mind,
Can view those flying shafts of death,
With heart and will at once resign'd!--

Oh! thou Supreme Eternal King,
At whose command the tempests rage,
With equal ease can worlds destroy,
Or with a word, the storm assuage.

And though impetuous tempests roar,
And penetrating flames surround,
Thou bid'st them cease--the thunder's hush'd,
And rest and silence reign profound.

Thus have we seen thy power and might,
Adoring, we thy works survey;
'Tis thou direct'st the pointed flame,
And thus thy goodness dost display.

Thou hast composed the rapid winds,
And lull'd to rest the foaming wave;
The clouds dispers'd, each twinkling star
Proclaims aloud thy power to save.

The silver moon, the glorious orbs,
That swim aloft in boundless space,
Their rays resplendent all unite,
To celebrate at once thy praise.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Fortnightly Book, June 7

Kuru Pradesh was a tribal nation that consolidated territory in northern India, in what became known as the Kurukshetra region. Its culture at the height of its power was a significant formative influence on the Vedas, but it maintained a notable cultural influence long into the post-Vedic Mahajanapada period,and it is the origin of India's most renowned epic, the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata depicts an intratribal war, the Kurukshetra War, between two major clans of the Kuru Kingdom, the Kauravas and the Pandavas; if the war was historical, it would have occurred somewhere around 1000 BC, but the Mahabharata as we have it is much later and historical confirmation of anything in it is only sporadic. In any case, the chief protagonist of the epic is the mighty warrior Arjuna, prince of the Pandava clan and close friend of one of the avatars of Krishna.

The most famous episode of the epic is the Bhagavad Gita, the celestial song, part of the book Bhisma Parva, in which Arjuna and Krishna are preparing for battle with the Kauravas, and Arjuna wonders whether the bloodshed is justified, particularly given that these were his relatives. Krishna encourages him to the fight.

I'll be reading this in a Heritage Press edition, which means the translation will be the nineteenth-century translation of Sir Edwin Arnold. Most famous in his own day for his poem, The Light of Asia, on the life of Buddha, his posthumous fame is due almost entirely to this translation of "The Song Celestial". It has an introduction by Shri Sri Prakasa; Sri Pakasa was a notable politician and the son of the more famous Bhagavan Das. It is illustrated with fifteen color plates of watercolors by Y. G. Srimati (each one with commentary by the artist), who also designed a yellow, red, and gold binding suggestive of the kind of binding one often sees on older books from India. It has the Sanskrit Devanagari as well as the English text; the latter is in Egmont type, which is a distinctive and, as far as I can tell, rare typeface.

Holy Trinity

Today is the feast of the Most Holy Trinity.

The "worship in the Spirit" suggests the idea of the operation of our intelligence being carried on in the light, as may be learned from the words spoken to the woman of Samaria. Deceived as she was by the customs of her country into the belief that worship was local, our Lord, with the object of giving her better instruction, said that worship ought to be offered "in Spirit and in Truth," (John 4:24) plainly meaning by the Truth, Himself. As then we speak of the worship offered in the Image of God the Father as worship in the Son, so too do we speak of worship in the Spirit as showing in Himself the Godhead of the Lord. Wherefore even in our worship the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son. If you remain outside the Spirit you will not be able even to worship at all; and on your becoming in Him you will in no way be able to dissever Him from God — any more than you will divorce light from visible objects. For it is impossible to behold the Image of the invisible God except by the enlightenment of the Spirit, and impracticable for him to fix his gaze on the Image to dissever the light from the Image, because the cause of vision is of necessity seen at the same time as the visible objects. Thus fitly and consistently do we behold the "Brightness of the glory" of God by means of the illumination of the Spirit, and by means of the "Express Image" we are led up to Him of whom He is the Express Image and Seal, graven to the like.

St. Basil of Caesarea, On the Holy Spirit, Chapter 26 (sect. 64).