Wednesday, December 29, 2021

I Ever Wished to Live an Honest Man

BECKET. Herbert! my Herbert!
 High visions, mine in youth, upbraid me now:
 I dreamed of sanctities redeemed from shame;
 Abuses crushed; all sacred offices
 Reserved for spotless hands. Again I see them;
 I see God's realm so bright each English home
 Sharing that glory basks amid its peace;
 I see the clear flame on the poor man's hearth
 From God's own altar lit; the angelic childhood;
 The chaste, strong youth; the reverence of white hairs :--
 'Tis this Religion means. O Herbert! Herbert!
 We must secure her this! Her rights, the lowest
 Shall in my hand be safe. I will not suffer
 The pettiest stone in castle, grange, or mill,
 The humblest clod of English earth, one time
 A fief of my great mother, Canterbury,
 To rest a caitiff's booty. Herbert, Herbert,
 Had I foreseen, with what a vigilant care
 Had I built up my soul! The fall from greatness
 Had tried me less severely. Many a time I said,
“From follies of these courts and camps
 Reverse will scourge me homeward to my God;
 He'll ne'er forego me 'till I grow to Christian !'
 Lo! greatness comes, not judgment.

HERBERT. It may be
That God hath sent you both in one.
Fear nought! At Paris first, and after at Bologna,
You learned the Church's lore.

BECKET. I can be this,
 The watch-dog keeping safe his master's door
 Though knowing but little of the stores within:
 I'll do my best to learn. Give we, each day,
 Six hours to sacred studies ! Ah! you smile;
 You note once more the boaster. Friend, 'tis true,
 Our penitence itself doth need repentance;
 Our humbleness hath in it blots of pride.
 Hark to that truant's song! We celibates
 Are strangely captured by this love of children,
 Nature's revenge -- say, rather, compensation.
 The king will take him hence: God's will be done!
 I lose my pupil, and become your pupil;
 A humble one; no more.
 High saint of God, or doctor of the Church,
 'Twere late for that; yet something still remains:
 I ever wished to live an honest man,
 Honest to all, and most to Christ, my Master.
 Help me to be His servant true!

From Aubrey De Vere's dramatic Poem, Saint Thomas of Canterbury

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Holy Innocents

 And are we, then, to look upon this as so entirely an insulated case, that we must gaze on it, and wonder, and gain no comfort? Rather is it not a pledge of His mercy to all our infants, whom HE allows to be brought near unto HIM? Is it not an encouragement the more to bring them to HIM, a proof the rather that HE does accept and HIMSELF baptize our infants, teaching us, as the same bishop says, “that none of man’s race is incapable of receiving the Divine Sacrament, when that age was found fit for the glory of martyrdom?” HE would teach us by this the more, not to trust our mere senses, but to trust in HIM, Who, being invisible, acteth invisibly. His mysteries cast light the one upon the other, not by explaining them, but by teaching us to receive them unexplained. If these poor mangled forms of speechless clay were, indeed, the first chosen witnesses of His mercy, His martyrs, why should it seem a strange thing to say (which the Church has ever believed)”, that all our baptized infants should thereby become His members? If our Lord, when HE condescended to be an infant like them, did thereby extend such privilege to them, how not much more now to such as them, now that HE has resumed His throne, and hath “all power given HIM in heaven and in earth?” If such were the first-fruits of His incarnation and humiliation, how much more of His exaltation and glory! No signs of martyrdom were seen on these infants; their crown of glory streamed not down on their pale earthly forms; to the world’s eye they were but mangled corpses; and so what matters it, though, when we received back our infants, we saw them in nothing changed? yet was not less that mightiest change wrought, whereby they too were translated from earth to the kingdom of heaven, made members of their LORD, and in HIM children of GOD, heirs of heaven.

Edward Bouverie Pusey, "God's glories in infants set forth in Holy Innocents" (Sermon 89).

Monday, December 27, 2021

And All the Bright Apocalypse of Heaven

 Saint John the Evangelist
by William Croswell

 "The disciple whom Jesus loved." --Gospel for the Day 

 O highly favored, unto whom 'twas given
 To lay thy hand upon the golden keys
 That ope the empyrean mysteries,
 And all the bright apocalypse of heaven! 
 Sweet solace of thy sorrowing soul, when driven
 Into its island banishment alone,
 Thy rapturous spirit has been long at rest,
 Partaker of the glories then foreshown,
 And knowing even as thy thoughts were known.
And if to bide His baptism be the test,
 And drink the cup peculiarly His own,
 Then thou hast gained thy mother's fond request,
 And, stationed near the everlasting throne,
 Shalt lean once more upon thy Savior's breast.

Sunday, December 26, 2021


 No one single quality is perhaps so endearing, from man to man, as good-nature. Talents excite more admiration; wisdom, more respect; and virtue, more esteem: but with admiration envy is apt to mingle, and fear with respect; while esteem, though always honourable, is often cold: but good-nature gives pleasure without any allay; ease, confidence, and happy carelessness, without the pain of obligation, without the exertion of gratitude.

[Francis Burney, Camilla, Volume III, Book V, Chapter 1.]

Half the Misery of Human Life might be extinguished, would Men alleviate the general Curse they lie under, by mutual Offices of Compassion, Benevolence, and Humanity. There is nothing therefore which we ought more to encourage in our selves and others, than that Disposition of Mind which in our Language goes under the Title of Good-nature, and which I shall chuse for the Subject of this Day's Speculation. 

Good-nature is more agreeable in Conversation than Wit, and gives a certain Air to the Countenance which is more amiable than Beauty. It shows Virtue in the fairest Light, takes off in some measure from the Deformity of Vice, and makes even Folly and Impertinence supportable.

[Joseph Addison, Spectator #169]

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Friday, December 24, 2021

Old Harbinger of Mirth

Christmas Eve
by John Holland 

“In the Primitive Church, Christmas Day was always observed as the Lord's Day was, and was in like manner preceded by an Eve or Vigil : hence it is that our church hath ordered an Eve before it, which is observed by the religious as a preparation for that great festival. Our forefathers, when the common devotions of the Eve were over, were wont to light large Christmas Candles, and lay on the fire the Yule-log, or Christmas Block, to illuminate the house, and turn night into day.” 

Come Christmas Eve, old harbinger of mirth!
Still thou art welcome, with whatever cheer;
Or whether thou, with frost intense, and clear,
Soft snow-fall, or loud storm dost visit earth:
For thou remindest, at his social hearth,
Man to bestir himself to watch and pray,
Till, with prevented dawn, he hail the day,
Auspicious! which once gave his Saviour birth:
Blest duty! joyous season! Happy he,
Who, the true Christian, takes his glorious part,
Of praising with a tuneful tongue and heart,
Christ, whom ev'n Angels marvell’d once to see,
Leaving his Father's side in heaven above,
To show to this fall'n world, all a Redeemer's love!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Loveliest Star Among the Hosts of Night

Christmas Eve
by Mathilde Blind 

Alone--with one fair star for company, 
The loveliest star among the hosts of night,
While the grey tide ebbs with the ebbing light--
I pace along the darkening wintry sea.
Now round the yule-log and the glittering tree
Twinkling with festive tapers, eyes as bright
Sparkle with Christmas joys and young delight,
As each one gathers to his family.
But I--a waif on earth where'er I roam--
Uprooted with life's bleeding hopes and fears
From that one heart that was my heart's sole home,
Feel the old pang pierce through the severing years,
And as I think upon the years to come
That fair star trembles through my falling tears.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Knowing Canisius

Today is the feast of St. Pieter Kanis, better known in English as Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church. A major figure in the Catholic response to the Reformation, he is a major reason why a number of German-speaking regions stayed Catholic, for which reason he is sometimes called the Second Apostle to Germany. One of his major principles in discussions with Protestants was that attacks on them, especially personal attacks, were ultimately self-defeating; as he is said to have put it, by such attacks you are not curing anyone, just making them incurable, and therefore the best path was generally just to give an honest explanation to address any honest perplexities. He is most famous for his catechisms; 'knowing Canisius' is an old expression for having a solid catechetical education. From his Parvus catechismus (1558):

What does the first article of the Creed mean, "I believe in God the Father"? 

It shows first in the Godhead a person, namely the heavenly and eternal Father, for whom nothing is impossible or difficult to do, who produced heaven and earth, visible things together with all invisible things from nothing and even conserves and governs everything he has produced, with supreme goodness and wisdom. 

What does the second article of the Creed mean, "And in Jesus Christ his Son"? 

It reveals the second person in the Godhead, Jesus Christ, obviously his only begotten from eternity and consubstantial with the Father, our Lord and redeemer, as the one who has freed us from perdition. 

What is the third article, "Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit"? 

 The third article proposes the mystery of the Lord's Incarnation: because the same Son of God, descending from heaven, assumed a human nature, but in an absolutely unique way, as he was conceived without a father, from the power of the Holy Spirit, born from the Virgin Mary who remained a virgin afterwards. 

[Peter Canisius, A Small Catechism for Catholics, Grant, tr., Mediatrix Press (2014) pp. 12-13.]

Sunday, December 19, 2021

On Franks on the First Two Amendments

 The Boston Globe has a feature, Editing the Constitution, in which they asked "legal experts, advocates, journalists, and members of the next generation" what changes they would make to the Constitution; the results are about as sub-intelligent as you would expect; the least bad ones are the extremely vague ones which don't actually give us any particulars about how the Constitution would be modified and the worst ones would move the Constitution in a totalitarian direction. Of the latter kind is Mary Anne Franks's "Redo the First Two Amendments".

The fundamental problem with Franks's entire approach is a failure -- although one suspects it is in fact an obstinate refusal -- to recognize that the first two amendments are protections for powers that pre-exist the Constitution itself, and were provably put forward precisely to make sure that the rest of the Constitution was not interpreted in a way that would harm them. Thus, for instance, Franks claims, "neither of the two amendments is a model of clarity and precision"; this is not in fact true, but even if it were, it's clear from what she says that when she says 'precision' what she really means is 'clear limitation'. However, the first two amendments are clearly written so as not to introduce any limitations -- I mean, both literally and in plain terms forbid limitations of the previously existing powers of the people, and as clearly as one could possibly wish. This is, of course, Franks's real problem: that the two amendments are in fact quite explicitly clear that you can't do what Franks really wants people to do.

We see this quite clearly in Franks's next criticism: "More important, both are deeply flawed in their respective conceptualizations of some of the most important rights of a democratic society: the freedom of expression and religion and the right of self-defense." I find this fascinating, because it shows that Franks's view is based on holding that the first two amendments got the rights wrong. The First Amendment does not exist to protect "freedom of expression" at all; freedom of expression is a later term that arose in a context of interpreting the amendment in a manner that the Founding Fathers in general probably would not have accepted. The Second Amendment does not exist to protect "the right of self-defense" at all; it explicitly exists to protect the right to keep and bear arms. This is because Franks, like many people, thinks that the rights worth protecting here are entirely concerned with protecting individuals, and therefore thinks the way in which they are formulated here are odd, which they would be -- if the purpose of these rights was wholly about individuals. But they are not. They are concerned with the fact that the rights involved are intrinsic to the fact that we constitute not just a mass of individuals but the People. They do of course provide protections to individuals -- you cannot protect the people while not protecting individual people. But all of the rights and freedoms mentioned are powers we have because we form the foundational community of our republic, the People, the very People mentioned in the preamble and explicitly mentioned in both of these amendments, a community which is prior to and more fundamental than literally every other institution or agency mentioned in the entire Constitution. How does the People form itself as a fundamental community rather than just a mass? By communication; therefore the freedom of speech and the freedom of press (which is not a freedom of journalism but a freedom to publish) are protected. And also by coming together in more explicit ways; therefore the free exercise of religion and the right to peaceable assembly and petition are protected. The Second Amendment likewise recognizes the militia powers of the People as necessary to securing a free State. Tampering with either of these two amendments puts in jeopardy any attempt to have a free society, because guaranteeing a free people -- not merely providing some protections to individuals -- is precisely their point.

Now Franks does, to her credit, recognize that current interpretation of these two amendments suffers from being excessively individualistic, but what she actually provides is an opposing, and even more restrictive, individualistic interpretation; or, to be put it in a crude slogan-ish form, for an interpretation that sees these amendments as providing rights only of individuals, she tries to substitute an interpretation that sees these amendments as providing rights only for individuals (note, for instance, her worry about individuals abusing these rights). But both of these are wrong. If you had to choose, the former is quite clearly superior to the latter, precisely for the reason that Franks rejects it, namely, that it allows less room for restriction and gerrymandering, but both are wrong. It is essential to the very premise of the Constitution that the People, as a free people capable of working together, are the foundation of everything else, and that all powers of government flow from the freedom of the People and therefore cannot curtail it and should not make arbitrary decisions about what it includes. If the People have no ability to form communities and associations and act in that form, the Constitution is illegitimate; if the People do not have the ability to act as a trained militia, a free state cannot be secured at all. States and governments can have no powers that are not merely particular orderings of powers already possessed by the People. The first two amendments force explicit recognition of this and accountability with respect to it.

Thus it is inevitable that when Franks actually proposes her re-writes, the result is to strip the People of some of their ability to act as a free people, and would clearly and obviously result in a people who are less free and more subject to the whims of policians. Her re-write of the First Amendment is as follows:

Every person has the right to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and petition of the government for redress of grievances, consistent with the rights of others to the same and subject to responsibility for abuses. All conflicts of such rights shall be resolved in accordance with the principle of equality and dignity of all persons. 

 Both the freedom of religion and the freedom from religion shall be respected by the government. The government may not single out any religion for interference or endorsement, nor may it force any person to accept or adhere to any religious belief or practice.

Despite Franks's prior complaints, this is much less clear and precise than the First Amendment as it currently exists, and, what is more, much more individualistic in tone. And we see a proposal that would make for a much less free society. The First Amendment quite clearly prohibits any restriction of the freedom of the People on these matters; Franks's proposed rewrite allows for multiple ways in which governments can restrict the freedom of the people in ways that have no clear and well-defined limitation. (Who decides how to 'resolve' conflicts of rights? Who holds persons responsible 'for abuses'? Who provides the standard of consistency? Who defines what counts as equality and dignity for purposes of law? Who determines what counts as 'respecting' freedom of religion? People in control of the coercive powers of the state.) The First Amendment has no individualistic components at all, although the rights and freedoms it protects imply rights and freedoms for individuals. Franks explicitly ties all the rights to individuals. The First Amendment sees the People as coherent in itself, and therefore makes no provision for 'conflict' of rights and freedoms; Franks sees the People as something that must be given coherence by the state by 'resolving' its conflicts. The First Amendment protects the powers of the People to hold the government itself responsible; Franks only recognizes rights which the government can hold individuals responsible for using correctly, and thus no rights by which the People can hold the government responsible at all. The First Amendment is a guide for a free society; Franks's rewrite is a recipe for totalitarianism dressing itself up as liberalism.

The rewrite of the Second Amendment somehow manages to be even worse:

All people have the right to bodily autonomy consistent with the right of other people to the same, including the right to defend themselves against unlawful force and the right of self-determination in reproductive matters. The government shall take reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of the public as a whole.

Egad. The Second Amendment explicitly puts itself forward as protecting a right of the people that is a precondition for a free state; Franks actually makes it a blanket mandate for the government to do whatever it thinks reasonable (as a legal limitation, 'reasonable' in practical terms means: what the government can politically get away with) and to restrict the right of self-defense however it pleases (since the proposal only protects the right to defend oneself against unlawful force). I've mentioned before the phenomenon of my students, asked to propose a declaration of rights, trying to restrict the freedom of religion to exercise that no one prohibits by law, but Franks tops them entirely, by giving the people a right to defend themselves from being killed as long as no one makes it illegal for them to defend themselves. Franks attacks the Second Amendment as 'anachronistic', but somehow I don't think that requiring people to let themselves be shot by the police unless they first consult their lawyer as to whether the police are violating the letter of the law in doing so is exactly what we need in our present-day society. 

In a republic, the fundamental guideline for any revision of the Constitution must be this, that the revision makes society more free, not less, gives the people more power, not less, leaves the people subject to the judgments of politicians less, not more. Franks's proposal fails this test miserably at literally every single point. It refuses to recognize the foundational character of the People and it subjects rights to arbitrary interference. It doesn't even work by its own standards. Franks accuses the first two amendments of being unclear and imprecise; her proposals are less clear and less precise. Franks accuses the First Amendment of giving too much room for individualistic interpretation; her proposal requires even more rigorously individualistic interpretations. Franks accuses the Second Amendment of being "idiosyncratic and anachronistic". Her proposal is even more idiosyncratic, treating self-defense protections as primarily about abortion and government health and safety mandates. It is even more anachronistic, because the Second Amendment actually takes the trouble to tie itself to something that is not bound by time -- securing a free State -- whereas Franks's rewrite doesn't even fit the time in which she is proposing it. It's bizarre.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

A Poem Draft

 Sleepy Neighborhood Street

The trees are softly shadow-laden,
the world is half-asleep,
along the street the tidy homes
all sigh in dreaming deep.

The echo of the children's playing
still sings inside the head,
a distant echo of a time
when we were not a-bed,

but nearer still is pixie-singing
of secret realms of dream;
through each dark window in the street
unearthly kingdoms gleam.

We find our strangest voyaging
when to our beds we keep;
when trees are sighing, shadow-crowned,
and we are half asleep.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Dashed Off XXVIII

 This ends the notebook that was completed in February 2021.

'checks & balances' among fields of inquiry in pursuit of truth

Christ's sitting at the right hand of God (Col 3:9) is associated with the things above, which are contrasted with the things on the earth (v. 3) -- but the things on the earth are said to be porneia, impurity, passion, desire for evil, and pleonexia, which is idolatry (v. 5). Thus the Session is Christ's exaltation with God in goodness and purity.

crimes of coercion, crimes of persuasion, crimes of maneuver

Elbridge Gerry is the only signer of the Declaration of Independence buried in Washington, DC (Congressional Cemetery).

music & the sense of design

The Angel of the Gate in the Purgatorio is emblem of the priest in confession.

the saints as diagrams of grace

"Nature fulfilled by grace is not less natural, but is supernaturally natural." Coventry Patmore
"Science is a line, art a superficies, and life, or the knowledge of God, a solid."
"The Catholic Church alone teaches as matters of faith those things which he thoroughly sincere person of every sect discovers, more or less obscurely, for himself, but does not believe, for want of external sanction."
"All the world is secretly maddened by the mystery of love, and continually seeks its solution everywhere but where it is to be found."
"Nations die of softening of the brain, which, for a long time, passes for softening of the heart." 

"The whole of nature is a metaphor of the human mind." Emerson

metaphor & synthetic judgment

"A metaphor in a way adds to our knowledge of what is indicated on account of the similarity, for those who use metaphors always do so on account of some similarity." Aristotle Top. VI.2 140a8-11

virtue in beautiful mode, virtue in sublime mode

Hume is promiscuous in what he treats as report of miracles, but in reality for his argument to work as he claims, we must exclude: (1) wonder tales presented as wonder tales; (2) tales of wonders not in any way referred to religious matters; (3) tales in which wonders have no discernible object, even if the tales themselves are religiously tinged. Most people would also want to exclude (4) tales of wonders not linked to the divine in particular (e.g., those attributed to lesser powers), (5) tales of wonders with frivolous aims, (6) tales of wonders not part of a broader economy of wonders in light of which they might be understood.

"It has been observed that the discourses of Christ so constantly grow out of His Miracles, that we can hardly admit the former without admitting the latter also. But His discourses form His character, which is by no means an obvious or easy one to imagine, had it never existed." Newman

the charge of goeteia against Christians

acts of conscience
(1) witness
(2) bind or incite
(3) accuse, torment, or rebuke

Every human person is a tribunal by virtue of being a person.

conformity-vainglory vs manipulation-vainglory

Protests make for piecemeal politics.

The strength of the Industrial Revolution was less discovery than replication. Many had been the ingenious inventions that had not diffused through society, but with the Industrial Revolution, inventions and discoveries became much more likely to be copied.

The First Amendment presupposes the freedoms it protects; it does not define them.

the idea of morality implicit in the idea of the incorruptibility of the soul

The book of Revelation thinks in terms of scrolls even though Christians early on preferred codices.

Social demand creates a field of viable possible technological discovery.

doctors refusing to do what they do not have the technical ability to do // refusing to do what they do not have the legal ability to do // refusing to do what they do not have the moral ability to do

the external world & the *surprise* of resistance

the world as unplanned experience, as cause, as expressive field, as intersubjective medium, as divine manifestation

The artistic act
(1) the Muse
(2) creative imagination (productive intellect)
(3) technical skill
(4) associative imagination
(5) body
(6) material
(7) luck

Attacks against the Catholic Church are always inevitably adapted into attacks against Christianity; attacks against Christianity are always inevitably modified into attacks against religion in general.

It has to be possible to reason intelligibly about functions independently of objects, or we can't use functions.

A great deal of political power resides in being the option already there, and more yet in there being no obvious alternative.

counsel, petition, adjuration, command

"The mind is not the sum of its works, though it includes them all." Sayers

the spatial and temporal peripheries of empire

Aquinas's eucharistic hymn as "a virtual transubstantiation of language" (Hugh Kenner)

Genuinely rational discussion grows from love, whether of a person, or of truth, or of something similar.

memory disk (floppy)
1971 IBM 23FD (Minnow) [8-in read only]
IBM 33FD (Igor)
1972 Memorex 650 [read-write capability]
1976 IBM 43FD [dual head read-write]
IBM 53FD [double density dual head]
Shugart SA-400 [5.25-in]
1980 Sony [3.5-in]

aesthetic, juridical, and moral extension of terms

"People are never more sincere than when they assume their own moral superiority." Thomas Sowell

term -> juridical operationalization -> juridical extension

"...we correctly call nothing false except it possesses some imitation of a true thing..." Augustine

Alienation is always with respect to the needs of human nature.

"If we found sick people, we wouldn't make ourselves sick so that we should be equal, but we would try to heal them to our ability." Maimonides (Responsa 263)

deontologies (ethics based on fundamental obligations)
I. positivist: fundamental obligation is made
-- -- by God (divine command)
-- -- by society (social)
-- -- by individual (egoistic
II. naturalist: fundamental obligation is revealed
-- -- by God (revelatory)
-- -- by reason (rational)
-- -- by instinct (biological)

sage rationalism vs general rationalism (cp consensus sapientorum vs consensus gentium)

form as exemplar-potential, potential exemplarity

supernatural : instrumental motion :: natural : natural motion :: preternatural : neutral motion :: counternatural : violent motion

"...he appointed certain of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel." I Chr 16:4

Ps 111 and the Church in divine liturgy

Acts 28:22 -- "with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against"

"Christian marriage is above the strength of human nature in our present fallen state, and needs Christian grace." Brownson
"Christian marriage proceeds on the assumption that man, with the grace of God, is free to love, and can love, and faithfully perform, if he chooses, all that is implied in the marriage contract."
"On Protestant principles, orthodoxy is *my* doxy, heterodoxy is *your* doxy."
"I am as good as you, does very well, but, you are as good as I, is quite another affair, and few will accept it, who have not the supernatural virtue of Christian charity."
"The real obstacle in many minds to the acceptance of Christian faith, is the want of belief in the freedom of God."
"Motives of credibility as methods of proof should be adapted to the peculiar character and wants of the age, or class of persons addressed."
"The secret of convincing is not to put error out of the mind, but truth into it."
"Communion between God and man is possible, although only like communes with like, because man has in his own nature a likeness to God. Human reason is the likeness in man of the Divine reason, and hence, nothing hinders intercommunion between the reason of God and the reason of man."

(1) the need for religious sentiments and incentives
(2) the need for religious organizations and institutions
(3) the need for religious ministry as a tradition

the Divine Word as first precondition of testimony

to reflect, to understand, and to aspire

Zhongyang 16: the extraordinary authority of spirits is seen in that, not being sensed, they nonetheless draw the behavior of others after them.

"When I turn to being, as it is in itself, it reveals two faces: being and non-being." Edith Stein
"From a purely ontic viewpoint, we cannot think of momentary actual being as existing all by itself -- just as we cannot think of a point outside the line, nor of the moment itself without duration in time."
"My present being is at once actual and potential being; and insofar as it is actual, it is the actualization of a potency that already existed earlier."

Mara bar Serapion on the "wise king of the Jews"

literary problems, perplexities, and arguments (problems are solved, perplexities navigated, and arguments successfully concluded)

thinking, interthinking, cothinking
thiking to a person, thinking with a person

regularly entertaining vs believing

"...the pattern of the creative mind -- an eternal Idea, manifested in material form by an unresting Energy, with an outpouring of Power that at once inspires, judges, and communicates the work, all these three being on e and the same in the mind and one and the same in the work." Sayers

knowledge of how vs know-how (these are Steven Jensen's "materially practical knowledge" and "virtually practical knowledge")

All non-ought propositions may be reformulated as ought-propositions for thinkers and doers in contexts to which the non-ought propositions are relevant.

preterliterary vs counterliterary authorial disruptions of narrative

democracy as the irregularly oscillating rule of the contradictory

tribal rites as converging loosely and approximately on ends of natural religion

X counts as Y
-- properly (because it is Y)
-- by quantitative measure
-- by appearance
-- 'for practical purposes'
-- -- -- operationally/technically
-- -- -- juridically
-- -- -- morally

"Every inclination of anything, whether natural or voluntary, is nothing other than a certain impression from the prime mover, just as the inclination of an arrow to the target is nothing other htan a certain impression from the archer." Aquinas

I think; therefore there is an act directed toward the good of thought.

three marks of final cause: 1) term of change 2) first in disposition 3) per se object of inclination

"The intellect first apprehends being; second it apprehends that being is understood; and third, it apprehends that being is sought." Aquinas

If anything were predicated univocally of God and creature, the creature would have to be God, which is contradictory, or God would have to be a creature, which would be contradictory.

To treat workers with dignity requires treating them as more than workers.

(1) What exists in itself may also exist for another, and thus appear as phenomena of some kind.
(2) The forms of mind by which we cognize the world cannot be said to be merely subjective.
(3) Our representations of the world presuppose the world as cause.

"The given subject of every kind of philosophy is the real word, both the external and the internal." Solovyov

two kinds of theories of cognition
world : form :: mind : material
world : material :: mind : form

'It is possible that there are contingent things' is a necessary truth; contingent things are only possible relative to some power. Therefore there is or are some non-contingent, i.e., necessarily existing power or powers.

Suppose per impossibile that the good and bad are just boo and yay. It is still the case that
(1) Your boo and yay can be inconsistent.
(2) Boo and yay can be more or less inclusive of other boos or yays.
(3) Boos and yays are not all of equal importance or urgency or spontaneity.
(4) We may boo and yay booing or yaying.

"many things are required for the necessities of human life that cannot be managed by one alone" Aquinas

Not all disordered uses directly impede human good.

fantasy in the negative sense as concerned with reward without work or merit

Courts and tribunals merely imitate externally what every person is with respect to himself or herself.

Values vary according to ends.

The gap between heaven and hell is the vastness of the human spirit.

The essential idea of mathematical physics is analyzable quantitative invariance, captured in the equation to zero. The limits of its inquiry are at the unanalyzable, the simply unquantitative, and the unpatternedly variable.

status-rights, role-rights, contract-rights

magic trick as visual and auditory puzzle

(1) Everything new is an act of a potential, in which the effect is.
(2) Every act of a potential is also an act of an actual.
(3) The potential and the actual are not the same.
(4) Everything new is the act of something other than that in which it is.
(5) What is new begins to exist.
(6) What begins to exist is the act of something other than that in which it is.
(7) To be the act of something other than that in which one is, is to be cause by another.
(8) Therefore what begins to exist is caused by another.

"One may transmit evil to a human being by flattering him or giving him comforts and pleasures; but most often men transmit evil to other men by doing them harm." Weil

Labor rights depend on free exchange, reciprocity, and merit.

In death, resurrection, and ascension, Christ in His physical body foreshadows the destiny of His sacramental body.

"The promulgation of natural law is from this, that God has place din the human mind the natural knowing of it." Aquinas

moral sentiment as natural desire

"Practical rationality has the status of a kind of master virtue." Philippa Foot

Medical research is a scientific study of a particular kind of good-for and bad-for.

Explicit attention to what is known, within a practical context, motivates.

a readiness of preference for thoughtfully rational balance

Concepts are the smae for all in much the same way things are.

"The continuity of life maintaining itself throughout constant change is an analogue of the unchanging divine life." Edith Stein

The state is created to provide guarantee of three things of importance to common good: the coherence, the unity, and the organization of civil society.

theistic arguments in domain of (1) being (2) order of being (3) intellect (4) will (5) appearance in experience (6) society

"As man sinned against the infinite, so also he must suffer a penalty of infinite intensity, he must suffer one of infinite duration." Bonaventure

Bonaventure holds that our sins call for a triple endlessness of punishment:
(1) as we appointed no end in our sin, there is no natural suspension of penalty
(2) as we sinned against the infinite, there is infinite duration
(3) as it is not repented, the penalty is not reversed.

Explicit psychological continuity of consciousness is not smooth but made of interwoven, interpenetrating, and overlapping recollections and anticipations.

God as the pre-self of the self

each humanitarian tradition as a way to God

the authority of the idea of being (Rosmini)

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Up Toward the Placid Moon

 The Tides
by William Cullen Bryant

The moon is at her full, and, riding high,
Floods the calm fields with light;
The airs that hover in the summer-sky
Are all asleep to-night. 

There comes no voice from the great woodlands round
That murmured all the day;
Beneath the shadow of their boughs the ground
Is not more still than they. 

But ever heaves and moans the restless Deep;
His rising tides I hear,
Afar I see the glimmering billows leap;
I see them breaking near. 

Each wave springs upward, climbing toward the fair
Pure light that sits on high—
Springs eagerly, and faintly sinks, to where
The mother-waters lie. 

Upward again it swells; the moonbeams show
Again its glimmering crest;
Again it feels the fatal weight below,
And sinks, but not to rest. 

Again and yet again; until the Deep
Recalls his brood of waves;
And, with a sullen moan, abashed, they creep
Back to his inner caves. 

Brief respite! they shall rush from that recess
With noise and tumult soon,
And fling themselves, with unavailing stress,
Up toward the placid moon. 

O restless Sea, that, in thy prison here,
Dost struggle and complain;
Through the slow centuries yearning to be near
To that fair orb in vain; 

The glorious source of light and heat must warm
Thy billows from on high,
And change them to the cloudy trains that form
The curtain of the sky. 

Then only may they leave the waste of brine
In which they welter here,
And rise above the hills of earth, and shine
In a serener sphere.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

I Am the North Wind Bold!

 The Four Winds
by Mary E. M. Richardson

What is the North Wind's boast
When like a mighty host
From the bleak Arctic coast
It rushes forth?
"I am the North Wind bold!
I bring distress and cold;
I come like Viking old,
From the chill north!"

What does the East Wind sing,
When like some frantic thing,
Flapping a noisy wing,
It flies apace?
"I come across the main!
I dash across the plain
With storm winds in my train!
I vex and chase!"

What do the West Winds say
When o'er the lands they stray,
Driving the clouds away
With might force?
"Beyond the Rocky crest,
Far in the boundless west,
Where sinks the sun to rest
We have our source!"

How speaks the sweet South Wind
In zephyrs soft and kind:--
"For me the trees have pined 
Through wintry hours!
Far over the Southern Sea,
From land of Araby,
Come I to whisper thee
Promise of flowers!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Juan de la Cruz

Today is the feast of St. Juan de Yepes y Álvarez, better known as John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church. From The Dark Night of the Soul (Book I, Chapter V):

By reason of the concupiscence which many beginners have for spiritual consolations, their experience of these consolations is very commonly accompanied by many imperfections proceeding from the sin of wrath; for, when their delight and pleasure in spiritual things come to an end, they naturally become embittered, and bear that lack of sweetness which they have to suffer with a bad grace, which affects all that they do; and they very easily become irritated over the smallest matter—sometimes, indeed, none can tolerate them. This frequently happens after they have been very pleasantly recollected in prayer according to sense; when their pleasure and delight therein come to an end, their nature is naturally vexed and disappointed, just as is the child when they take it from the breast of which it was enjoying the sweetness. There is no sin in this natural vexation, when it is not permitted to indulge itself, but only imperfection, which must be purged by the aridity and severity of the dark night.

Monday, December 13, 2021

O Christmas Tree

 As we approach Christmas, we enter one of the two (the other is Easter) periods of the year in which large numbers of people claim that all popular Christian things are really pagan things. Some of this is perhaps Puritan hangover; some early Protestants refused to celebrate Christmas because they read the symbolism as Catholics acting like pagans. If you have a religion of almost pure text and moral discipline, you naturally read any substantive symbolism as a sort of heathenry. Some of it is out-of-date anthropology still floating around. It's this that gives us the entirely unsubstantiated notion that the eggs and bunnies of Easter trace back to pagan fertility celebrations. And some of it is just an irrational taste for pissing on other people's customs; one often recognizes these people by the fact that the insist so vehemently that this or that custom is really some other prior custom, even if it is quite clear that the current custom is not practiced as a continuation of the prior custom, based entirely on superficial resemblances. And, of course, there is an enjoyment in feeling oneself more knowing than the masses, even if the feeling is entirely founded on illusion.

So let's take the Christmas tree. Decoration of trees happens occasionally in various cultures. They are easy to decorate, so that's not surprising, and this fact does not actually help us to determine how Christmas trees originated. The earliest independent confirmations we have of actual Christmas trees are from the sixteenth century in Alsace and Bremen, but these are presented as if it is obvious what they were, which strongly suggests that it was not a new custom. Prior to this, we do have occasional references to the decoration of branches or boughs for Christmas, references that go back a few centuries further, and while some of these seem to have just been hung up by rope (like we do with mistletoe, but probably in a larger display). It's unclear whether this practice is really the precursor of Christmas trees, or Christmas wreaths (which is likely), or both. There are cultures that currently today display decorated branches in a fashion somewhat like the modern Christmas tree. The most commonly noted is the chichilaki, or St. Basil's Beard, a custom that grew up along the Black Sea. As far as I know, we don't actually know the origin of this practice, but it's not impossible that it goes back quite far. Current Georgians will often have both Christmas trees and chichilaki, so they don't see them as the same thing, but that doesn't eliminate the possibility that they may be two different branches of earlier bough-decorating customs.

Actually setting up trees for the holidays seems to have developed in Germany (like a lot of our modern Chrismas customs). Usually these seem to have been used as dancing poles or as the heart of a bonfire, but we know that in the sixteenth century they were sometimes decorated and sometimes were instead decorated with candies and fruits which were then given out to children. The practice seems to have become popular among Lutherans in some German towns and cities as an alternative to the nativity scenes popular among Catholics; for this reason, Catholics in German regions only slowly started setting up Christmas trees, since it was often seen as a Protestant custom. As it spread, however, Reformed Protestants also tended not to have them, seeing them as Lutheran thing. And, indeed, it was seen as a Lutheran practice by Lutherans, as well, which is perhaps why the legend sprang up that the Christmas tree (or sometimes Christmas tree lights) was invented by Martin Luther. The legend is hard to trace, as well, but it may have done some work later in a more ecumenical time by making it easy for non-Lutheran Protestants to accept it as a generic Protestant practice rather than (as it often originally seems to have been seen) as the Lutherans misdrawing the line between Christianity and Catholic paganism again.

It's usually thought that the custom started spreading in the Franco-Prussian war, in 1870, when one of the morale-building things done by the Prussian army was to set up Christmas trees for those of its soldiers who had the custom; thus a very large number of German men had their Christmas celebrations with a Christmas tree that year. In any case, the custom did spread in Germany. In Britain, Queen Charlotte (who was German) had occasionally set up a tree for Christmas parties; Queen Victoria had liked the trees so much that she had one every year, and the custom spread in Britain the way customs like wedding dresses spread -- middle-class and upper-class women imitating Victoria. The Christmas tree was spreading in the United States as a cultural practice among German immigrants, even those who did not come from regions in Germany that practiced it. This is a common phenomenon, in which highly distinctive and noticeable cultural traditions spread among immigrants even if it was not their practice in the homeland, like Scottish immigrants with tartan, as a sort of heritage-marker. Thus it was largely practiced in Pennsylvania and New York, and it's thought that it may have started spilling outside the German immigrant communities in part due to imitation of Queen Victoria again -- at least, wealthy Americans in areas that already had Germans putting up Christmas trees may have taken Victoria's tree as a sign that this was a respectable thing to do, and thus followed along. The practiced solidified and became universal in the twentieth century in the most American fashion possible -- department stores and businesses started putting them up. From the US it has been spreading throughout the world, as everything that ends up in American movies spreads throughout the world.

Ironically, the song most closely associated with Christmas trees -- "O Tannenbaum" -- which was written in 1824, had nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas trees or Christmas. It's an adaptation of an older folk song about an evergreen fir tree. As far as I know, we don't know the exact path by which it became associated with Christmas trees, but as the standard English translations eventually all started mistranslating 'Tannenbaum' as 'Christmas tree', the association was locked in.

In any case, unless you think dancing, or bonfires, or decorating branches are intrinsically pagan, there's no evidence whatsoever that any customs pertaining to the Christmas tree are of any pagan origin whatsoever. All our earliest evidence about any specific meaning it has associates it with Christmas. All our best evidence is that it's a late medieval or early modern practice, and it spread because it is a very distinctive and visually appealing practice and the ease with which it allowed guilds, businesses, and wealthy families to mark a celebratory season.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Links of Note

* Victor Gijsbers, Perceiving causation and causal singularism (PDF)

* Jamie Turner, Ibn Taymiyya on theistic signs and knowledge of God (PDF)

* Gesine Borcherdt interviews Byung-Chul Han, in Byung-Chul Han: "I practice philosophy as art"

* Milena Ivanova, When is a scientific experiment like a beautiful work of art?, at

* Helen De Cruz, How can wonder transform us? 

* Meg Wallace, Circus and Philosophy: Teaching Aristotle through Juggling, at "Aesthetics for Birds"

* Joel Michael Reynolds, Against Intuitive Horribleness, on philosophy of disability

* Ragnar Van Der Merwe, Whewell's hylomorphism as a metaphorical explanation for how mind and world merge (PDF)

* Huzeyfe Demirtas, Causation Comes in Degrees (PDF)

* Aleksandra Bessonova, On Intuition and Creativity: Invention in Early Soviet Thought

* Early modern 'letterlocking', in which they would fold their letters a particular, complicated way as a safeguard against tampering, exemplified by Mary, Queen of Scots

* Daniel Hoek, Forced Changes Only: A New Take on the Law of Inertia (PDF), looks at the question of how Newton actually understood his First Law.

* David Egan, Where the Light is Better, has some interesting critical comments on the recent PhilPapers survey.

* Amod Lele, What we learn from the negative moments in Plato and Thucydides

* Susan Waldstein, The Two Births of Christ in Aquinas and De Koninck

* Marcel de Corte, Reflections on the Moral and Political Work of Charles De Koninck

* Ed West, The unbearable whiteness of being an academic, on the recent epidemic of academics faking minority status

* Markus Strasser, The Business of Extracting Knowledge from Academic Publications, looks at the problems of building academic search and discovery schools

* Abigail Iturra, The Imaginal as Spectacle: An Aristotelian Interpretation of Contemporary Politics (PDF) -- you'll need to go down to 'External Links' for the paper itself. It's at a fairly abstract level, but I think the argument is quite a good one.

* Ljiljana Radenovic, Empathy Revisisted

* Fay Weldon, "Christmas Calendar", the worst Christmas story ever. Of course, if you know anything about Fay Weldon, who famously once got into trouble pushing an advertising campaign for vodka with the slogan "It gets you drunker faster", it's certainly a deliberate worstness. It starts off innocuous enough, but once you start paying attention to the story, the things that are just 'off' start multiplying.

Abyss & Sea: Author's Note, Table of Contents

 It is often interesting to look back at how a story develops. Sometimes things happen too quickly to pin down exactly how things came together, but in this case the development is quite stretched out. In middle school, reading Lord of the Rings and (what I liked even more) The Silmarillion, as well as Stephen R. Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle, I started working on a set of stories about a kingdom. Most of those are not relevant, but what is relevant is that the kingdom was called Taran Dis, and it was (under the obvious influence of Tolkien's Akallabeth and Lawhead's Taliessin) founded by a legendary hero, Disan, who came out of the west from the fall of Atlantis to aid the natives against a terrible foe. The people who arrived with Disan could speak to ravens and had a number of wondrous treasures. They built an extraordinary castle called Neyat Dis, which was bigger inside than outside and which had indoor gardens that seemed as if they were outdoor gardens. And in those stories there were spirits associated with the natural features of the universe, among whom were Fath, Fulnë, Trethin, and the like. Thus we have what would eventually become the first fixed point for this story: Disan, a king under the protection of the spirits of the natural world who can speak to ravens, who survives the fall of Atlantis, or Taran Atal, as it later was called. 

That was about it, but it was inevitable that bits and pieces about the disaster that had led to Disan's flight would start cohering, and about Taran Atal itself, derived from Tolkien, or Lawhead, or Plato (second-hand at first, then later directly). Nothing very specific or precise, except for one thing. When I was in high school, this connected up with a completely different line, due ultimately to reading Lovecraft, about what I called the children of Nu (the name coming from, but the substance not very influenced by, Egyptian mythology). As Lovecraftian creatures go, they were very toned down, but the essential idea was that their existence is inconsistent with the existence of the world as we know it; whatever they may be in themselves, they can only manifest in the world as a sort of negative space. There were (I think) six of them, each with different features; the Lovecraftian origin is shown by the fact that one of them was called the Goat, but the two most important for those stories were the Keeper and the Hound. As that idea developed, the Keeper acquired the destiny that at the end of history he would destroy and be destroyed by the greatest hero in the world, who was an independently growing idea. And that independent line of thought was that Taran Dis would rise and fall, and then after a long interval an even greater Empire would arise, partly building on the foundations of Taran Dis, and then fall, and the greatest hero in the world was the last heir of that Empire. Given that, it was natural to connect the circuit: the Keeper destroys Taran Atal and leads to Disan's flight; Disan founds Taran Dis, which rises and falls; Taran Dis makes possible the splended Empire, which rises and falls; the Empire makes possible the great hero who destroys the Keeper. Thus the second fixed point: Taran Atal is destroyed because it is seduced by the Keeper. The picture of the Keeper locked in granite, through which one can see his form, goes back all the way to this.

The final fixed point of the story arose in 2014. My students were taking an in-class Ethics test, so I had time on my hands, and I wrote the earliest version of the poem that ends the story, "Abyss and Sea". And with it came the idea of Baia and the story. And therefore the third fixed point: The story must end with Disan, having barely survived, not knowing what we know, that Baia is already dead.

Everything else was put in as the story grew, although some parts were from Plato, and I think the semblance of life is a much-modified version of an idea from Rudolf Steiner's account of Atlantis (or maybe it's one of the other lost continents that the thought existed, I don't recall exactly) -- basically he claims that at some stage of civilization a very different kind of humanity used not mechanical power but vital power for engineering. The Courts of Day and Night are versions of the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court -- this is why the powers associated with treasures taken from the Court of Night are all fairy-powers. The pacts and the covenants are probably influenced by Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and its occasional mentions of the Raven King's pacts with the natural world. Other things were just improvised. But this was not in any real way set beforehand; it's what happened to crystallize around the three fixed points, along with everything else. Some of this works; some probably will need some tweaking eventually.

Given how the story was written, there's not really any chapter-structure, but the story is in any case organized more like a poem than like a plot.


Stanza 1: Disan's First Visit to the Porphyry Mountain; Baia's Circuit
 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Interlude: The fleet is built and signs of something wrong with the realm accumulate
 10 11 12 13 14 15

Stanza 2: Disan's Second Visit to the Porphyry Mountain
 16 17 18 19

Ending: Disan and Baia make the fatal mistake of agreeing to delay the flight
 20 21 22


Saturday, December 11, 2021

Abyss & Sea 23

(And finally we come to the end.)

All over the Great Realm there was devastation like that which Disan and the Sorean fleet could see, but these things we can only know from what little can be pieced together from scattered remnants who by happenstance survived. Everywhere there was destruction, but most of it is beyond all human memory. Only the Powers that govern the world saw the whole.

It is said that the great Khalad Mountains burst open and spewed out fire and molten stone across the western half of the land, and that fishing boats scattered in view of the Golden Shore saw entire mountains glowing in the distance. It is said, too, that the fountains and springs of Ezrym began to boil with a sulfurous smell, and that a great chasm tore through the land at the Great Canal as both banks suddenly splayed apart and the sea rushed into the space. It is said that the great orikhalh walls of Talamir were torn from their foundations and twisted like paper. The entire land seemed to tip itself into the sea, or else the sea somehow rose up to invade the land, and with a great turmoil of waters, the Porphyry Mountain, the greatest human palace that has ever been or that ever shall be, sank beneath the waves with only foam to mark its place. It is said that, in the months that followed, many corpses continued to wash up on the Chipou shores, tangled in the flotsam, bloated with ferment and partly eaten by the fish. Sailors have legends that ships in fog or storm sometimes by some strange enchantment come across some of the highest peaks of the Khalad mountain range, now mere rocks in the sea, and that these places are haunted by ghosts. What is known is that in clear daylight you may diligently search the seas where the Great Realm once was and find no trace of land. 

The Sorean isle, too, crumbled into the sea. Many saw it as it did so. With it went down all life on the island, except for the ravens and some other birds that were wise enough and strong enough to fly through the storm to the ships. Disan saw none of this, for he was sinking into the sea, only half-conscious, as it happened. Down he went, or rather tumbled, for he had no sense of direction, and would likely have drowned. But as he came near to death he seemed to see, or at least later vaguely remembered that he had seemed to see, an Ezryman child in the depths, one form taken by Fulné of the sea, and he seemed to hear the sea around him speak to him: "Foolish king, your people still require your service." Then he seemed to move at great speed through the depths, and broke the surface. The last thing that he later vaguely remembered, although he could never say whether it was real or just a dream concocted by the mind of a drowning man, voices all around, although very distant, and hands on his shoulders, and then all went black.

What is known is that he was pulled from the water, very near death, but only very near. He woke up briefly at some point later in an unfamiliar room. His throat and sinuses felt raw and his head throbbed with pain, sometimes hard enough to bring tears to his eyes. It was dark, but a stormy-green light came through a narrow windows, enough to see some things. It was a state room in a ship, in one of the ships in which Disan had placed some of the treasures to be sent ahead; he could see on the floor the long, narrow crate in which he had carefully placed the Black Tapestry of Maia of the Pearls. There was a cage for ship ravens along a wall. It was covered with a blanket, but the blanket had partly slipped, and Disan could see none other than Ker, hunched down and obviously unhappy to be on a ship, peering at him. He wondered how Ker had come to be there. Then he tried to sit up, but it set him to coughing, which was painful in his throat and head, so he sank back down. As he slipped back into sleep, just before all went black again, he prayed that Baia had evacuated with the ships at Mir Salal.

Outside the storm only grew louder.


Abyss and Sea 

The thunder shatters air and will, the rain is cold, the lightning fierce.
The world is battered, broken, upside-down; its heart is deeply pierced;
and all our hope beneath the wave is sinking now, beyond our reach.
Not wealth nor strength nor lore can move the lands to rise; they, shattered each,
are crushed beneath the heavy sea, and nevermore will they return.
Yet I recall the shining streets, the lamps that seemed like stars to burn,
and I remember meadows, fields, and mountains like a summer dream
surrounding cities bright with lights that like the snow in sunlight gleamed. 

On sandy shores we once would walk and feel the salty, sea-sent breeze,
but nevermore shall footsteps grace that sand; the roaring, angry seas
have seized it all in chilling grasp and nothing free of flood remains
save fragments made of memories, their razor edges trimmed with pain.
And I recall the winter snows on little houses, trim and neat,
where children played with shouting voices, endless games, and nimble feet,
but where are they? They too are gone. The earth and sea will spare no soul.
They spared not me, for what they left to sigh and grieve is not the whole. 

 The storm is pounding; not a sound can break its roaring, rumbling wall,
but still inside I hear the songs that honeyed voices used to call
beneath the dewy apple trees in autumn days, cool, crisp, and clear.
The trees are driftwood-dead and lost; the songs are dim in yesteryear,
but I can feel the ache inside, and I can feel that they once grew,
and I can feel the loss of glories past that you and I together knew.
But harsher still the tearing pain, suspended doubting, cold as stone,
of never knowing where you are: Are you alive? Am I alone?

Friday, December 10, 2021

Abyss & Sea 22

(One more installment after this, probably sometime this weekend)

After he had sent Asaia on her way, Disan turned to the work of organizing the fleet from Soromir. It was mostly numbing and tedious work, but it was punctuated by one event of extraordinary excitement; someone tried to assassinate him.

He was at the docks for a meeting with a number of captains to discuss various problems associated with the great embarkation, and he had just left it in the company of a few of his guards. The dock was quite crowded, as it would be with so much going on, and in the midst of it all, a man rushed at him with a knife. Disan, purely reflexively, dodged it and Disan's men wrestled the man to the ground very roughly. The would-be assassin was a Sorean merchant who had just come from Tavra up the Great Canal with a shipment for provisioning the fleet, but it was impossible to get any coherent story out of him; he seemed to have no motive, and, indeed, seemed not to understand himself what he had done or why he had done it. When Disan asked him about his stay in Tavra, he broke down into further incoherence, and apparently could remember nothing clearly about it.

Disan pondered all sides of this, and said to himself, "'Beware the Honey Witch, for she has power from the Court of Night to bend the mind.' We should have paid your message more attention, Envren." He selected a number of trustworthy men, carefully making sure that none of them had any connection to Tavra, or had even traveled there in any time within the past few years, and sent them on to protect Baia in Mir Salal with a letter. He spent a great deal of agonized thought on how much he should say in it, and finally, and with considerable reluctance, concluded that he should not explicitly mention anything about the assassination itself. First, he did not want to worry Baia; second, the attempt had been clumsy and apparently even haphazard, which suggested to Disan that there was no systematic plan; and third, it seemed best in general to keep knowledge of the assassination attempt to as few as possible, until further investigation turned up more information. He had misgivings, however, and not long after the guards had been sent, he considered having them called back to change the letter; but he did not do it.

Other than the considerable worry and anxiety caused by this event, much of Disan's time consisted in reviewing lists and checklists and talking with supervisors. As the embarkation day for the first fleet drew near, there were the expected stacks of messages bearing excuses, but Disan was pleased enough that anyone was arriving that the bare fact that the population of Soromir was obviously and visibly swelling made the excuses easy to dismiss. He looked forward to actually completing this stage, knowing that the later stages would be harder. And everything was proceeding on schedule, which was something of a wonder.

Soon the embarkation day for the first fleet arrived. It went without an actual hitch, but there were so many people in Soromir that it was a far slower process than Disan had hoped. He went down to the docks himself and spent an immense amount of time and energy trying to keep the process running smoothly. There are few things more effective at resolving many kinds of problems than the word of a king, but even kings cannot solve problems that pile all around them in masses, and Disan was quite overwhelmed.

He had just seen off a boat carrying elderly passengers and some cargo to a ship in the harbor, when the air grew suddenly very still. There seemed no wind at all below, but high above dark clouds began swiftly to gather. Even the sea seemed to quiet down in some hushed expectation. Then he, and everyone else in sight clutched their ears. Disan kept his feet, but more than few people collapsed to the ground. A vast and fathomless voice resounded through the air. It did not come, as voices usually do, from a direction. It came from all directions. It did not, as voices usually do, lightly touch the ears through the air. The entire ocean of air seemed to speak. You felt the force of its words with your whole body as if they were great waves in the ocean. For it was not a voice. It was The Voice.




At this, the earth began to make a strange groaning sound. The wind began to pick up. Lightning flashed in the sky.



There was a great cracking noise from the earth. Rain began to fall, first slowly and then heavily, and finally in torrents, soaking them all, but nobody in the rain could run to shelter due to the overwhelming power of the Voice.



And with those final words, it seemed like the entire world went mad. If you ever stood on a boat when suddenly it lurched to the side, knocking you down, this is what everybody felt, but it was the very land itself that lurched. Anyone who had been standing, like Disan, was knocked flat. The earth began to shake heavily. Disan attempted to invoke the pacts and covenants to calm the earth, as he had done before, but he knew as he did so that it would not succeed, and it did not. There were no pacts and there were no covenants. The rain fell in sheets and began to be mixed with hail. The people at the docks began to stampede toward shelter.

"No! No!" shouted Disan as loud as he could. "To the ships! To the ships!"

Most still drove inland, never to be seen again. Some heard him and he began to get them on ships at the docks and on boats to take them out to the ships anchored farther out.

But the boats and ships were themselves beginning to have great difficulty. The semblance of life in the ships, even without the pacts and covenants, was friendly, but without the pacts and the covenants they could not seamlessly and easily respond to their crews as they once would have. This would not in itself have been devastating, as all sailors begin their experiences with ordinary boats like fishing boats, rather than the great ships of the Sorean fleet, and they knew their trade as no sailors in the world have known since. But no experience, no skill, was adequate to the occasion. The sea itself began to go mad. The waves had no pattern and went as they would. They rose out of nothing and collapsed into nothing. They waved this way and that, north south, east, west, even some in spirals around and around. They collided into each other in a confusion no sailor could navigate.

Those who followed Disan crowded on the slippery docks to fill the last embarkation boats that were there. Disan at one point stepped in, his boots sloshing in the rainwater that was filling the boat, to help people get on board. He had hardly done so when the dock itself violently twisted and tore away. Those who were in the process of embarking collapsed on to Disan and those who were still on the dock were thrown into the sea and swept away. When Disan managed to untangle himself, he looked with horror at the chaos that he could see in Soromir even through the wind-gusting rain. So many were the lightning strikes that fires were springing up in the city despite the torrential downpour. The land itself seemed like a sea, waving slowly up and down with rumble and roar. Buildings collapsed like sand. No people could be seen anywhere anymore.

On the sea-side, in the harbor, one of the great ships laden with Sorean treasures was caught in a sudden whirlpool that formed beneath it. Around and around it went, its anchor-chain snapping like twine, down and down; but then suddenly the whirlpool collapsed, spitting out the ship with a force that drove it toward the cliffs overlooking the city. A great groaning and rumbling resounded even through the tumultuous roar. As Disan watched, still as stone, he saw the great cliffs on which Neyat Sor stood begin to crumble. One moment, one could still make out the shining, glittering spires of Neyat Sor. The next moment it was gone forever. The ship that had been driven toward the cliffs was caught in a cataract of rock. Sorean ships were built to be unsinkable. They could withstand any ordinary storm. Many had survived collisions with other ships. Ramming them would not harm them; reefs could not hurt them. But no human ship that has ever been made that can withstand an avalanche of boulders. They tore through its untearable sails as if they were wet paper. They splintered its invulnerable hull as if it were balsam. They poured through its frame as if it were not even there and the unsinkable ship sank like a stone.

The rain intensified as if the very heavens were falling on their heads. The sailors in Disan's boat attempted to navigate through the rabidly foaming, anarchical waves as they set the passengers to bailing out the rainwater. Slowly they made their way to the ships. But the seas were growing perilous with flotsam as well as wave, and the boat suddenly hit something. Disan, who had been watching all the devastation and had, without thinking loosened his grip from the terror of the sight, was thrown overboard into the shocking cold of the sea.

It was difficult to keep a head above the water, but he managed to do so.

"Overboard!" he heard someone call. But it was the last thing he definitely heard above the surface of the ocean, because his head was driven by a wave into something hard. He saw lightning in his head, and all went red. He was still conscious, but it seemed like his body would no longer obey; he was disoriented and knew not up or down. He hit something again and sank beneath the water.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Humanity Is the Love of Man

 Sincere love for men is the greatest result of love for the Lord of Heaven. This is what is meant by the expression "Humanity is the love of man." If a man does not love his fellowmen, how can one tell that he sincerely respects the Lord on High? The love of man is no feigned love since it must result in the feeding of the hungry, in the giving of drink to the thirsty, in the clothing of those without clothes, and in the provision of places to live for the homeless. Love has compassion for and comforts those who experience troubles; it instructs the ignorant, corrects the wrongdoers, forgives those who humiliate me, buries the dead, and dares not to forget to pray to the Sovereign on High for all men, living or dead. Therefore, in former times in the West, there was a certain man who went to inquire of a sage what he must do to be good. The answer was: "Love the Lord of Heaven and do as you wish." What the sage meant was that if a man chose to follow this wise advice, he would, as a matter of course, be unable to take the wrong path.

[Matteo Ricci, The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, Lancashire and Hu Kuo-chen, trs., Menard, ed., Institute of Jesuit Sources (Boston: 2016), Chapter 7, section 477, p. 313.]

The first quotation is from Mencius, the second a slight paraphrase of Augustine. In the works of mercy, Ricci doesn't here mention visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, counseling the doubtful, and bearing wrongs patiently; but it's possible that visiting the sick and counseling the doubtful may be taken to be directly implied. The other two are much more closely related to problems that the Chinese scholar interlocutor is having with this aspect of Christian doctrine; they will go on next to discuss what it could possibly mean to love a bad person.

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Abyss & Sea 21


After some discussion with Baia, the two monarchs immediately called a council of all the peers and, since Soreans regard master shipwrights as a sort of nobility, master shipwrights of the realm. This, while done with speed and even haste, took a week to organize. In the meantime, Disan ordered all the ships that had been built to be fully stocked and provisioned and Baia oversaw the sorting and, toward the end of the week, the beginning of the packing of items in Neyat Sor to be transported to the dock warehouses and, ultimately, the ships. It was busy work, and by the time the council came, they were both tired.

As to the council, it was not exactly a success, but it was also not the disaster Disan feared it would be. He began from the beginning, with the experience of the cavern and the message he had received; then he gave, more succinctly and without dwelling on details, the messages received from the Seven Sisters and in the inn that was not an inn. Disan had continually worried that everyone would think he had gone mad, so he called the guards he had had with him to testify of their experience to the council while under formal oath, since it was the only one to which he had any kind of witness whatsoever. Of course, the guards each could only testify that they had stopped at an inn that had seemed perfectly normal until it suddenly went completely dark and they had found them in a barn. But everyone listened attentively. Then Baia spoke of the occasional strange things that had happened, and particularly the earthquake, suggesting that these were omens. Finally, Disan gave, for their consideration, his proposed plan for evacuating the entire kingdom within the month, and the council broke for refreshment and reflection.

When they returned, there was considerable argument over what should be done. While Disan had feared that they would dismiss his plan completely, his fears were not fully justified; both Baia and Disan were well respected, and Baia's point about the earthquake did carry some weight with some of those at the council. Responses were baffled or troubled, but never dismissive. However, in the course of argument it became clear that there was wide agreement that his timetable was impossible. To leave so quickly would require them to leave almost everything behind, and haste was dangerous, and properly preparing for a journey took time, et cetera, et cetera. The council began to coalesce around an alternative plan to begin the evacuation in six months. Baia was able to argue them into agreement that there should be some advance ships sent out well before then to prepare the Axen and Wisan repair stations abroad to receive an influx of people, and Disan, seizing on a suggestion that had been made to leave in stages (they had meant, beginning in six months' time, but Disan ignored this), managed with difficulty to talk them into agreeing that the first major stage should set sail in two months. That nobody was satisfied with this was clear, but they did agree.

"Of course," Baia said drily when the council had been dismissed, "while you are hoping somehow to be able to talk them into moving faster, most of them are hoping to find ways to further delay it, and perhaps are hoping that something will prevent it altogether."

"Yes," said Disan, sadly. "I suppose we are all inclined to temporize. To leave all things behind and journey who-knows-whither on nothing more than a warning or a promise -- I doubt anyone can easily have so much trust. I sometimes wonder what they would do if we just left and told them to follow. Perhaps there are a few who would."

"Perhaps," said Baia. "But as we would then be breaking the law in the Orikhalh Tablets that for any anointed ruler to leave the borders of their kingdom, an anointed ruler must remain, perhaps they would simply use that as an excuse to dismiss us entirely."

"We have permission from the Powers."

"Yes, but nobody could make them believe that if they did not wish to believe it."

Such a large and public endeavor could hardly go unnoticed, and even if the other courts in the Great Realm had not had informants in the Sorean court, rumor, swifter than any Sorean ship, soon spread the news throughout the kingdoms. Rumor is not a kind or even an evenhanded reporter. Strange plans and bizarre motivations were attributed to Disan, and it would perhaps not have been uncommon to hear it said that he had gone even more mad than Canthan. A few letters even arrived from other courts with questions that, while very circumspect and indirect, were clearly attempting to gather further information. After some discussion, they agreed to send a letter to all the other courts explaining their intent and reasons and urging the other kingdoms to do something similar; Baia wrote the letter. In the next few weeks, the number of non-Soreans around Soromir and Neyat Sor increased noticeably, and some of them did not even try to keep secret that they had been commissioned to discover what was really happening in Sorea. Asaia was recalled to Tavra, ostensibly due to the severe illness of a family member, but, Baia suspected, probably also to be questioned for information.

Nonetheless, the plans proceeded. The ships were all provisioned. Places were set in Soromir and the other port cities of the kingdom to register for berth and sections of cargo hold. The population of Soromir slowly swelled, and many did register, mostly the very old and loyal or the young and adventurous. The more experienced of the former and the more responsible-seeming of the latter were given berth on the advance ships, which set out as planned. Of course, that was the easy part; Soreans send out ships all the time. The rest would be much more difficult.

A week into the second month, Baia set out of Mir Salal. Disan had been reluctant to agree to any plan splitting them up, but as Baia noted, if this were to succeed, they would have to ensure that everything was properly organized in ports besides just Soromir. And as it would give her the ability to see to her father's evacuation, Disan agreed, as long as Baia promised to return to Soromir as soon as organizing the first stage of evacuation in Mir Salal was done.

"No later!" he said when they parted. "I love you greatly. Return to me soon."

"As soon as I can," said Baia, and she was off.

A few days after she left, Asaia returned from Tavra. Disan, surprised, asked her politely how her family was, to which she glumly gave a vague answer, and then he sent her on to Baia in Mir Salal. What a strangely spiritless and moody girl, he thought as she left. But the endless lists of things to be done soon chased it all from his mind and he thought about it no more.

In Mir Salal, Baia found that she had her work cut out for her; very little had been done, and that in a piecemeal fashion. To meet the expected deadlines, she had to work very long days, and always fell into her bed at night, exhausted. This occupied almost all her time, but she did have two surprises that broke the monotony. The first was the arrival of Asaia, whom she greeted warmly and happily. Asaia was more moody and taciturn than ever, but always put off Baia's worried queries about her health aside, insisting that her place was by Baia's side.

The second was the arrival of an additional guard from Neyat Sor. Disan's message with them was vague, saying little more that there had been trouble, which he would talk about more fully when they met again, and asking her to be wary. This worried Baia, particularly the vagueness, which suggested to her that perhaps something very serious indeed had happened; but no matter how she pored over the letter, it was impossible to squeeze more information from it, and she was soon caught up in the organizing again. And, in any case, although Baia was more careful, there seemed no signs of any unusual trouble in Mir Salal.

As the day for the ships of the first stage to set sail approached, Baia began to receive letters from various nobles whom she had originally scheduled to go. Their letters held an endless number of apologies, but there was death, so funerals needed to be done, and there was illness, so they would have to postpone to the next stage, and various accidents had befallen that prevented them from getting to Mir Salal on time. It was a veritable epidemic of deaths, sickness, and accidents, and that was not even counting all the people who simply wrote to say that they could not make the deadline. Baia at first tried answering the letters, an action that did occasionally result in the nobles sending small groups, mostly a mix of people of infirm body or dubious character, but soon the letters were too many for response. Nonetheless, a handful followed through, not necessarily enthusiastic, but unwilling to break a promise given or to refuse to support their queen, and among the common folk in and around Mir Salal there was more willingness than Baia had expected. She was relieved. To be sure, the support and cooperation was mostly from people who were not well settled, for one reason or another, and therefore had less to lose in setting sail, but it looked very much like the first fleet of ships from Mir Salal would be, if not exactly full, nonetheless far from empty. Sometimes, however, Baia reflected that it would only get harder, and whenever she thought this, she felt deflated.

The day at last arrived. The whole endeavor in Mir Salal was behind schedule, but Baia was relieved that it was not by much. The very first ships could be loaded immediately and hold anchor at sea until the rest were finished, and it would not be more than a few days before she could return to Neyat Sor and see Disan again. She saw personally to her father's embarkation, then, having set people in charge of finishing, she returned to her father's now empty house with Asaia and her guards to prepare for the next day's loading. It was long, tedious work, and she soon had Asaia bring her bread and wine for a meal. Baia ate and drank as she went through list after list to makes sure that nothing had been overlooked. 

It grew warm and humid, then grew warmer and more humid; she found herself sweating and breathing heavily. Soon she recognized that the weather was not the reason; she felt ill. Moment by moment she felt more and more ill and it grew harder and harder to breathe. She stood up to call to Asaia for help, but the young woman was sitting on the floor, eyes glazed but weeping, staring into the distance, hugging her knees to her chest, and rocking back and forth slowly. Baia looked at the cup of wine and knew then that she had been poisoned. Honey Witch, she thought, but she said nothing out loud because she could say nothing through the constriction at her throat and her heavy gasping, growing heavier and heavier. She collapsed to the floor, writhing, still gasping.

She had a dim sense of some shouting and other people in the room, but she could not pay attention to that. Her vision went red, then black. As it did so, she seemed to hear a voice, a powerful voice, a voice that shook the air around her and reverberated through her bones, and yet somehow seemed very distant and far away, and slowly getting farther and farther away:


Music on My Mind


Sissel Kyrkjebø, "Ave Maris Stella".

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Aurelius Ambrosianus

 Today is the feast of St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church. From his work On the Holy Spirit (Book II, Chapter 12):

Consider meanwhile whether you can say that the Spirit effects all things which the Father effects; for you cannot deny that the Father effects those things which the Holy Spirit effects; otherwise the Father does not effect all things, if He effects not those things which the Spirit also effects. But if the Father also effects those things which the Spirit effects, since the Spirit divides His operations, according to His own will, you must of necessity say, either that what the Spirit divides He divides according to His own will, against the will of God the Father; or if you say that the Father wills the same that the Holy Spirit wills, you must of necessity confess the oneness of the divine will and operation, even if you do it unwillingly, and, if not with the heart, at least with the mouth. 

But if the Holy Spirit is of one will and operation with God the Father, He is also of one substance, since the Creator is known by His works. So, then, it is the same Spirit, he says, the same Lord, the same God. And if you say Spirit, He is the same; and if you say Lord, He is the same; and if you say God, He is the same. Not the same, so that Himself is Father, Himself Son, Himself Spirit...; but because both the Father and the Son are the same Power. He is, then, the same in substance and in power, for there is not in the Godhead either the confusion of Sabellius nor the division of Arius, nor any earthly and bodily change.

The Roman governor of Aemilia-Liguria, whose capital was Mediolanum or Milan, he was only a catechumen when he was forcibly made bishop by the people. Ambrose tried to get out of it, but the Emperor thought he made a great choice for bishop, and he was baptized, confirmed, ordained, and elevated to bishop all in the same week. 

Inexhaustible Truth and Unlimited Goodness's wish is to know inexhaustible truth and to enjoy unlimited goodness. But truth in this world is exhaustible, and goodness is limited; neither, then, can satisfy the desires of man's nature. Man's nature is bestowed on him by the Lord of Heaven, and he would hardly have bestowed it on him to no purpose. He is bound to cause it to be satisfied, and he is bound to satisfy it completely in the next life.

Matteo Ricci, The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, Lancashire and Hu Kuo-chen, trs., Menard, ed., Institute of Jesuit Sources (Boston: 2016), Chapter 6, section 383, p. 265.

Monday, December 06, 2021

Abyss & Sea 20


When Disan arrived home, Baia was out, so he used the time officially to transfer his status from Residence aboard the flagship to Residence again at Neyat Sor. He had hardly finished when Baia returned and he greeted her gladly.

"My queen," he said, and kissed her.

"My king," she said in response. "How was the Great Council?"

Disan sighed. "Troubling. We will have to discuss it later. How have things been here?"

"Well enough," said Baia. "There are still places that have not fully recovered from the earthquake, and I have been out and about to see them. And Asaia is still moody and I do not know why."

They had a supper together as Disan told of all that had happened while he was at the Porphyry Mountain. Baia listened somberly, and when he finished, she said, "It has reached the point that I feel that I no longer understand anything that is happening. We seem to be planning for a war with no identifiable enemy. King murders king. Strange powers from the Court of Night move events from the Porphyry Mountain. And who can understand what the Powers are doing?"

"Yes," said Disan, "but I think it is worse than that, because it is like coming to recognize that you never understood anything at all, that all that you thought was true is as false as counterfeit coin."

After a few days at Neyat Sor, there was report of significant delay at one of the major shipyards in mainland Sorea, so Disan went to inspect the situation personally. The problem was an ordinary logistical error, so it was not difficult to solve, but it was time-consuming and tedious, and it was all the more tiring by a late cold spell with a strong breeze. Because of this, on his way back to Neyat Sor, Disan and his guard stopped at an inn for an afternoon meal before continuing onward. The innkeeper seemed a jolly old fellow, and the inn common room was quite busy, with a bustle of conversation and laughter, with singing and even some dancing. Disan sat in a chair by the fire while his men ate nearby. It was a comfortable chair and he felt a little drowsy. Then he snapped completely awake, not at first knowing why.

The first thing he then noticed was that the fire was not leaping. It had not died down. It was not moving at all. The second thing he noticed, some dim some sense of which was probably what had actually brought him to attention in the first place, was that the entire room had gone silent. All his men were gone and the common room was completely empty, except for the innkeeper, who sat in a chair opposite him. But he was no innkeeper.

"Do you know who we are, O Disan, son of Rezan, son of Belan, King of Sorea?" asked the innkeeper who was not an innkeeper. 

"There are stories that one of the Powers, who is never given a name, shows forth in the appearance of an Old Man who meets travelers along the road. And I think we have met before in a cavern across the sea."

"Yes," said the Old Man. He rose and put his hand under Disan's chin and peered into his face with eyes that seemed to pierce through everything. Disan, who as king was not used to people touching him without permission, found it extremely uncomfortable.

Suddenly the Old Man dropped his hand and returned to his chair. "You have brushed the abyss, but you are not yet corrupted. Yet you dally. We gave you word by the Seven Sisters that you were to build a fleet."

"We have been building a fleet," said Disan.

"You were told to build a fleet but not for the abomination. We are also not blind. You have been temporizing, biding your time, hoping to stay in some middle path between the two demands that have been placed on you. And yourself have now met the abomination, and yet still you seek an irenic path. We tell you again, O King of Sorea. Judgment comes. Destruction is at the door. It cannot be avoided. Act accordingly."

Disan stared a moment into the unchanging fire. Then he said, "Is it really so impossible to avoid it? Surely you have other ways?"

"There are none."

"Do you not owe us anything at all? You called upon us in the War of Night and we came to your aid, and delivered to you the Court of Night."

The Old Man's grave face seemed to take on a faint cast of amusement. "Did you indeed? Were you the Golden Dragon who fought the Black Dragon for nine days and nine nights? Were you the unicorns who bore the brunt of the sorceries of the Court, immortals dying by the hundreds to save mortals, each one more precious and wise in lore than an entire human civilization? Were you the leocorns whose lion-like roars burst through the enchantments of the doors? Did you lay out the strategies and battle plans thousands of years before? Did you summon the great nations of the world to the right time and the right place? You could not even follow the instructions you were given. We do not deny that you contributed, as you were obligated to do by the Orikhalh Tablets, and for all that it was your duty, we have stayed our hand because of it in matters in which we were within our rights to be severe. But do you dare look at us in our face and proclaim that you do not deserve to be judged now, though you had aided us in a thousand wars before?"

Disan said nothing, and the two simply sat there for a brief moment in silence. Then the Old Man spoke again.

"We are not here to justify ourselves to you, for we are the Powers that govern the world and you have no authority to demand a justification from us. We are here to give you a message again, the gravest yet. But it seems to us that you will need more than just the message to motivate you, and we are not averse to giving it. Hear then the true story of what you call the War of Night, for the Court of Night was in no way the enemy that the Powers fought by means of it.

"In years past that are beyond all tally, the world was very different from the way it is now. In those days we raised up to assist us the most ancient races: dragon and unicorn, khalkythra and phoenix, griffin and leocorn, and many others for which you have no name. To you we gave the Gift of Fire, but they received Gifts without number. But in this time, creatures of the abyss entered in among us. They have no shape and no form. They cannot be seen or heard unless they wish to be so, and then they have merely the appearance that they wish to have. They are in this world only as a great emptiness and an all-devouring void. The greatest of these became known in the most ancient tongues as the Keeper of the Door, for it was through him that all the others came into the world. We called the most ancient races to war, and they were beaten back, although at great price. Many were lost, either corrupted or destroyed, no trace of their histories and their sciences and their arts remaining at all, except as reflected in the memories of those of the most ancient races that yet survive. Therefore we took thought for the day when the powers of the abyss would return, and we raised up the Court of Night and the Court of Day, and gave them Gifts of Dream and of Darkness, of Air and of Light, of Water and of Metal and of Wood. Co-equal and glorious they were in the beginning, mighty and splendid like a vision at the edge of your mind. There was no difference between dream and waking for them; what they dreamed, they made, and what they made had the powers of dream. Throughout the world they expanded, both great, both beautiful, and both filled with wonder. And then the Keeper returned.

"No less devastating was this war than the previous. But in the end the two Courts in alliance defeated him, they themselves, by their own wisdom and power. Their armies cornered the creatures of the abyss, dying by the thousands, and seven virgin priestesses, three from the Court of Night and four from the Court of Day, consecrated a stone with water and oil and light, sealing the Keeper behind it so that he could not enter the world. It was a terrible end; the creatures of the abyss tore them from within, and their blood poured out of their hearts. But they had foreseen this; they had begun the rite knowing that they would not survive it. With blood they made their final consecration and died, and the Keeper was locked out of the world. It was a great deed, but we warned them that their seal could not be flawless, and that the Keeper was not truly gone. Therefore both Courts vowed to guard the sevenfold seal. Both were devastated by the war, but as the Court of Night was the one that was least in ruins, the sevenfold seal came to them. And guard it they did.

"Over time both Courts grew proud, and they began to quarrel. And in those days, and not coincidentally, the Keeper found how to whisper through the flaws of the sevenfold seal, and he whispered in the ears and in the dreams of the Court of Night. Long were the years the refused to listen, but soon he whispered to them means by which they might have the advantage over the Court of Day, and in their pride they deemed that they could make just discrimination in the midst of temptation, and fell into the snare. Great were their victories over the Court of Day, and their corruption spread, and it was at its deepest when they seemed strongest. But the Court of Day was not weak, even in its disadvantage, and the two Courts ground each other into fragments.

"It was in those days that we came to the first of your kind, cold and wet and huddling in the mud and the caves, and we gave to you the Gift of Fire, which set all of your abilities to an inspired blaze. We selected some of you and gave you lesser gifts, this very land, the law of the Orikhalh Tablets, the pacts and the covenants, that you might grow great and wise. You are kin to fire, and fire has this quality, that kept in its hearth it is infinite boon, but when it breaks free it destroys all things, and the Orikhalh Tablets and the conditions of the pacts and the covenants we gave to you to be a hearth. In the meantime, the fragment of the Court of Night that continued the guard on the sevenfold seal grew more and more terrible, and it became clear that they were but puppets of another power. Therefore we summoned again the most ancient races that remained, with the remnants of the Court of Day and your grandfathers, and many others who would hear us. Thus the Court of Night, once glorious and beautiful beyond all dreaming, fell to judgment.

"But in that very hour, you too began to fall. We told your grandfathers to take nothing from the Court of Night without our permission, but they saw the wonders there and their hearts burned with covetousness. Foolishly thinking we did not see, they looted the Court, smuggling out what struck their fancy, including the sevenfold seal. Some of them laid their hands upon that holy stone, and through it the Keeper spoke to them, promising them all the dreams of their heart.

"Still we held our peace. There is one rule that governs all nations in this world, that those who rise will one day fall, and your weakness showed that you had already begun to decline behind the splendor of your appearance. Already you were beginning to overspill your hearth. Soon you would spread across the world in an uncontrolled blaze until you burned yourself out. The Orikhalh Tablets and the conditions of the pacts and the covenants were increasingly violated. We would have foiled your greatest ambitions, to preserve other good things in the world, and because of your oathbreaking and unfaithfulness, but other than that we might nonetheless have let you undergo your natural decline, but for one thing. Playing with powers you did not understand, acting with a hubris beyond even that of the Court of Night, you betrayed your allegiances and your vows before Illimitable Heaven, thinking to defy the Powers that govern the world, and you began to break the sevenfold seal. You said before that you delivered to us the Court of Night. No, but you joined forces with our enemy, and the enemy of everything else in this world.

"The sevenfold seal was finally sealed by seven voluntary sacrifices of blood in rites of consecration; it can be unsealed by seven voluntary sacrifices of blood in rites of desecration. Four of the seven sacrifices are already undone by the sacrifice of victims who were enticed by paying their families in gold and orikhalh or in other services. The rites of desecration required are difficult for your kind, and you are not a people much inclined to die, but you are getting more skilled at your wickedness, and  the rites will be finished at some point this year. The sevenfold seal will be broken entirely and the Keeper and his brothers will walk the earth again.

"In the meantime, we have not been idle, but we have played a game of care and precision. We have chosen the time for the seal to be broken, when a final set of traps have been set that will end the threat of the Keeper and his brethren. It is a time well into the future, and we do not give you permission to change it. Nothing in the world will stop us from preventing the seal from being broken before its time, and we will certainly not allow the Keeper to come forth with a faithless race of Fire as his puppets, turning our own gifts against us. Even now he uses you as shields, thinking that this provides him protection. It does not. The people of this realm will be destroyed, O King. But we would like, if we can, to save something of you. To that end, we have moved with great caution. The Keeper already has more influence than you know; already the substance of things is slowly being eaten away. We have had to restrict our actions carefully lest he discover too quickly what we intend. In the Porphyry Mountain we no longer directly act at all, and elsewhere only with the subtlest of touches. We spoke to you first in foreign lands, where his influence does not yet extend. Our second message we gave to the Seven Sisters long ago. We have reminded you of your duty in dreams. But now you have met the Keeper and he begins to suspect the nature of our actions, although he does not yet know the whole of it. So take the fact that we speak to you face to face on your own soil be a sign to you that all things soon will come to an end. This is our last message to you personally: Act the king, O king; summon your people and flee. The longer you delay, the less likely it is that any of you will survive."

The Old Man rose, but Disan spread his hands. "What can I possibly say to them? They will not understand. They will think I am mad."

The Old Man looked down at him with something like pity. "And if they do, what of it? Your people have brought judgment on themselves by the arrogance playing with what they do not understand. They cannot be saved except by taking the path of salvation, even if they do not understand it. Your task is to summon your people and flee, even if you do it alone. Wait too long and you will save no one at all."

The whole room became pitch black, and there was a considerable sound of stumbling and scuffling and swearing in the dark. Then one of Disan's guards happened upon the door and opened it. Light flooded in. Blinking against the sudden light, Disan and his men looked around, dazed, finding themselves not in an inn at all but in an old country barn.

When Disan returned to Neyat Sor, his first words to Baia were, "We have run out of time."