Saturday, January 30, 2021

Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima


Opening Passage: 

Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven. When she came the beauty of the llano unfolded before my eyes, and the gurgling waters of the river sang to the hum of the turning earth. The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood. She took my hand, and the silent, magic powers she possessed made beauty from the raw, sun-baked llano, the green river valley, and the blue bowl which was the white sun's home. My bare feet felt the throbbing earth and my body trembled with excitement. Time stood still, and it shared with me all that had been, and all that was to come. (p. 1)

Summary: Antonio is growing up in Las Pasturas, a New Mexican town with old roots that is in the process of being torn apart in slow motion by the Second World War. His mother is a Luna, from the founding families of Las Pasturas, an agricultural family living a life of the earth, a life centered on homely hearth and priestly altar, structured in time by the dual clock of the lunar agricultural cycle and the liturgical year. His father is a Márez, a wild vaquero family, a people of the wind whose way is to live free on the grass-sea of the llano. It is a discordant pairing, and creates the first problem that Antonio must navigate as he grows up, how to be a child of both.

Las Pasturas is a Hispanic community, very Catholic in the loosely catechized and purely pragmatic and not always happy way that small Catholic towns often are. Christ and the Virgin hear prayers; in confession sins are forgiven; in communion you join with God; confirmation is the mark of becoming an adult; the priest can exorcise devils with holy water and the Church buries the dead on holy ground that souls might rest; as for anything else, it's left in a murky confusion about which most people are thoroughly incurious.The Church is part of the landscape; it is undeniably important, but it is important almost entirely by being there, like the earth, like the wind, like the unstopping tale of time, something that all have to take into account and that very few try ever to understand beyond what is required for living in the landscape. Antonio, however, we find to have the destiny of a learned man, and he has a thirst for explanation that is not so easily satisfied, and he faces the problem any such person will have in such a community: endless questions and no real answers.

Las Pasturas also has old roots, and the Spanish when they arrived found contact with Indians, Pueblo and Comanche, and the local culture still has memories stretching back to pagan days. The town is in a curious location, surrounded by water, with its one dry side actually stretching over an underground lake, and the local god, a great golden carp, is still remembered. One of the key events of the tale is when Antonio is shown the great golden carp and revels in its beauty; it is what he expects an experience of a god to be, unlike what he seems to have when he takes his first communion. This is the second discordant pairing Antonio must navigate as he matures: his heritage includes the almost overwhelming, and stern, and utterly mysterious, landmark of God's Church but also the beauty and thrill of the god of the waters whom one can see. But between God and god it seems that nothing but a forced choice is possible; Antonio spends much of the book struggling between his admiration of the golden carp and his guilty feeling that it is a sin.

Antonio does not fully manage to come up with a solution to either of these dilemmas -- in a sense, the solution will just be the kind of life he eventually leads, because neither is the sort of problem that can be solved by a young man once and for all -- but he is able to begin his way because of Ultima, the curandera, who understands the local families and who somehow lives in such a way as to bridge some of the gap, preserving old ways but blessing in the name of the Holy Trinity. Antonio sees this play out in a great shamanic battle of good against evil, as Ultima uses her curandería to fight the selfish malice of the local witches, with their brujería. It is a community that has no doubt whatsoever that there are curses and witchcraft and devilry and ghosts; there are too many strange events and it is too easy to find malice that is almost inhuman and, whether it has power or not, has an insatiable thirst for meddling with the ordinary harmony of things. Ultima saves one of Antonio's uncles from a curse by the daughters of Tenorio, and breaks her normal rule of non-involvement to face down Tenorio and his daughters, turning their own cursing against them. As the daughters of Tenorio die, Tenorio himself becomes more and more malicious and willing to commit evil, stirring up a literal mob with torches against Ultima as a witch, trying to get his revenge on anyone he can.

One of the things that the novel does well is capture the New Mexican landscape as a real character of the story. There is a reason New Mexico has as its sobriquet, the Land of Enchantment. The land itself interacts with you. I remember it well, swimming in the Pecos River, looking out the car window at a thunderstorm in the distance, racing and crackling like a thing alive, looking down on the world from the Sandia Mountains. It is a land of beauties and sublimities, which are just one step away from magic and divinity. You are not surprised to hear stories of ghosts and curses and saints and strange mental affinities; take them as tricks of the mind or not, strange things happen in the Land of Enchantment, where mountains and deserts and plains can all come together and lend each other incongruous properties, where the land is not quite like any other in the world.

Ultima does not provide Antonio with answers to all or even most of his doubts and questions, but she does provide one very crucial thing: a clear demonstration that good is in the world and that it can always overcome evil. The world is a world in which soldiers can be so traumatized in the war that they are never again right in the head, in which people can be malicious just for being malicious, in which people decent enough when things are normal can be stirred up as mobs when they no longer understand what is happening, in which sickness and death are around every corner. Good exists, however, and life is worth loving. If it comes to a struggle between evil and good, good can always win. But it is not a minor matter. There is also always a cost.

 Favorite Passage:

"Are you afraid?" she asked in turn. She put her bowl aside and stared into my eyes.

"No," I said.

"I will tell you why," she smiled. "It is because good is always stronger than evil. Always remember that, Antonio. The smallest bit of good can stand against all the powers of evil in the world and it will emerge triumphant. There is no need to fear men like Tenorio." (p. 98)

Recommendation: Recommended.


Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima, Grand Central Publishing (New York: 1999).

Friday, January 29, 2021

Dashed Off II

typology as theological diagrammatics

"Christ died, indeed, as the spiritual shepherd of the sheep, but Abel did not die on account of his having literally followed the occupation of a shepherd." (Fairbairn) -- But this is false and in any case assumes (1) that it is not part of the occupation of a shepherd to bring offering of his own flocks to God and (2) that Cain did not kill Abel, in part or in whole, because of the offering.

"Every type necessarily possesses a prophetical character, and differs from what is commonly termed prophecy only in this, that it prefigures, while they foretell, coming realities." Fairbairn

likening oneself to God, living according to nature, following reason

bodily goods, goods of soul, external goods
Plato, Euthydemus 279ab; Philebus 48e; Laws 631bc, 743e
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1.7 1098b

the Clitophon as an attack on Antisthenes (Brunnecke, Kester, Souilhe) -- this has an attraction, despite a certain implausibility
Thrasyllus links Clitophon with the Republic trilogy; Grube thought it a fragmentary preface to Part I of the Republic, a reaction to Republic I, with the rest of the Republic in answer

Human life is built out of layers of final causes.
(1) imminent physical & biological
(2) rational function in the rational community of the human race
(3) volitional

"Every muse is indeed beautiful, but the use is not similar in all." Maximus of Tyre

boulesis (wishing for good), chara (delighting in good) and eulabeia (turning from bad) as found in some form in every virtue

"daimones are in species animate, rational in nature, passional in soul, airy of body, and everlasting in time." Apuleius, God of Socrates

"The person who never made a blunder never made a discovery." Samuel Drew

Romantic love is sexual affection doing good to the one for whom the affection is held.

Romantic love is a valuable thing; but it is less eternal, less holy, and less rich in value than the conjugal bond itself.

There is no revolution that can cure general rot.

self-policing as an essential pillar of free society -- the idea that formal police should be aiding the citizens themselves

The autarchy of eudaimonia is inherently social.

virtues that have a special role in training of virtue: prudence (obviously), filial piety, friendliness, religion

In being a sage, one sage is by nature friend to another sage.

"Our whole kind is naturally inclined toward association, and the first and most elemental form of community is that instantiated in marriage." Hierocles, in Stobaeus, Flor. 4.22.21

Studiositas imitates divine love of truth.

prudence : providence :: justice : moral order :: fortitude : divine forbearance :: temperance : Supreme Ultimate

An essential component for a meaningful life is hope; because we cannot simply force ourselves to hope, but must find reasons to hope, we cannot in any strict sense 'give our own lives meaning'.

The mere fact of changing style or structure of governance does not get rid of sociopaths.

Divine providence is prior to heaven and earth, but is not ancient; it is senior to high antiquity, but is not old.

Good businesses do not so much have stakeholders as make them.


Even if they marry young and live a hundred years, spouses only have each other a little while.

rule of law as precondition for self-governance

Typological reading is a skill of faith, not a method, although as with any skill or art, various methods can be articulated within it by looking at patterns in how the skill fulfills certain purposes.

reading the OT as typology vs. reading the OT as providential history vs. reading the OT as example

The view that the Tabernacle represents the universe is too widespread to be dismissed lightly, found in Philo, Josephus, some of the rabbis, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Chrysostom, and Theodoret.

A common error of accommodationism in interpreting OT symbolism is assuming that if something is an accommodation it can be nothing else. But there still must be a reason why this and not that is accommodated, and this reason may make it also a type, or a key link in a providential sequence. Accommodation is just adaptation of an existing vocabulary for one's purposes, and those purposes may be manifold.

The reference point for the identification of sexes is the procreative structure of the species.

There is no single art of interpretation, but many interpretational arts.

'Interpret agreeably to Reason' as a general maxim of hermeneutics (Seiler)

Whether it's true that reason enjoins the rule "always use the same words in the same connection in the same sense" depends on what reason is doing. Likewise, whether an intelligent writer employs according to common usage depends on what the writer is doing. A discourse does, however, have to be in some way unified and intelligible to be successful.

dogmatic, polemic, and prophetic functions of parables

conscientious objection a block against persecutory schemes

Discovering the mind of a writer is an exercise in hypothesizing.

The difficulties Calvin consistently has with NT citation of OT texts shows clearly enough that his approach to exegesis of the OT is not adequate; it results in the NT authors repeatedly appearing, by 'pious deflection', to twist and modify as to equivocate with a foreign sense. He does not do as he should and learn from apostles how to read the OT in light of Christ.

the aspects of good kingship
(1) equitable (epieikes)
(2) clement (eugnomon)
(3) unoppressive (abares)

phronesis as including enkrateia and autarkeia

polis = "a plurality of human beings dwelling in the same place, governed by law" (Dio Chrysostom)

rights as just dues

Rights require discernment; they cannot substitute for it.

Societies in the modern world protect the powerful by selectively enforcing deontology and oppress the weak by selectively enforcing consequentialism.

OT is to NT
as providential context (NT as end)
as type (NT as exemplar)
as sharing principles (conformity)
as material condition

People complaining about Aristotle's 'metaphysical biology' always substitute one of their own, and not ever a better supported one.

"The very form of a work of art shows its character as *addressed*." Charles Taylor

Democracy overassimilates justice to fairness, aristocracy to order, monarchy to loyalty. The best societies find a way to triangulate justice by means of these three.

bringing the outer world into free play within oneself

mimesis → free play → expression

Morality contributes to human-wholeness.

higher and lower equalities
the hierarchy of equalities
-- We all in fact recognize that some equality is superficial and some substantive, some trivial and some profoundly meaningful, some morally indifferent and some morally significant.

joy at other's joy: compersion; joy at other's grief: Schadenfreude
grief at other's joy: jealousy; grief at other's grief: compassion

Before one can assess probabilities, one must identify relevant possible states; this can only be done by induction.

One cannot give an account of induction without regard for issues of classification.

"There is truth in a symphony, composed to imitate a tempest, when the music of the symphony, its harmony and rhythm, make us hear a noise similar to the tumult of the wind and the roaring waves, which clash with each other or break against the rocks." Du Bos

All claims about relevance are normative.

animals, plants, and environments of thriving
-- it doesn't seem that this can be equated with a right of place, because (1) getting that specific would require a lot of experimentation and trial & error; (2) ecological balance, limitation of noxiousness, etc., clearly have to play a role; (3) this will often not involve a common good relevant to our choices.
-- but clearly we can see that there is often better or worse here, and sometimes (pets, zoos) this clearly intersects with our responsibilities.

advisory, hortatory, consolatory work as the key parts of ministry (taken generally) as a humanitarian tradition

Codes of conduct often extend punitive reach without extending due process, and in practice they often deviate from being used as an instrument of positive exhortation, becoming an instrument of criticism and coercion.

Sacraments are juridical by being sacraments, acts in the Kingdom of God.

lists: ordered vs unordered; filled vs open; finite vs infinite

Human rights are only possible if human nature is itself a participation in a natural juridical system.

"They alone are god-love to whom wrongdoing is hateful." Democritus (B217/D81)

There is a structural difference between not including something in the scope of a law and having mercy on it as a violation of law, one not given adequate account if we assume that sanction makes the law.

Electron spin is the angular momentum of 'flow of energy' in the electron's wave field. It is analogous to a classical circularly polarized wave. (Cf. Hans C Ohanian, "What is spin?")

the artistic phenomenon of excess to the point of mediocrity

Moderation is the better part of skill

analytic : synthetic :: condign : congruous

the Taijitu as a sort of transcendental ecology

The moral teachings of Jesus are not found only in His words, but in His miracles, in His life and death and resurrection, and in His Church.

All love creates deontic structures.

The divine is that for the sake of which wisdom commands.

Facts are norms for reasonings.

"Nothing good or evil is included in the mere use of a name, apart from the actions which are associated with that name." Justin
"Rulers who prefer popular opinion to truth have as much power as robbers in the desert."

Traditions are structured by fides, virtus, and pietas.

A performance is always a completion of something, the finalization of material into actual form.

play in text
play in read-through
play in rehearsal
play in performance

Ethical values are also aesthetic values, but their role and character qua aesthetic is distinct from their role and character qua ethical, and one artistic challenge is coordinating them both in a way appropriate  to each. (Success in this is one of the reason for the greatness of Fra Angelico or Jane Austen.)

Artistic evaluation incorporates aesthetic evaluation, aesthetic evaluation incorporates artistic evaluation -- each imperfectly, yes, but it is the negotiation by which great art is formed.

play-pretend as playing at pretending (If you play-pretend at being a lion, you are not faking being a lion, trying to pass yourself off as a lion, but something much more like playing a game in which you represent yourself as a lion.)

Actors pretend in order to perform, but the performance is not itself adequately characterized as pretending.

"'Pretending' is an intention-dependent concept; one cannot pretend inadvertently." Anscombe

In play-pretending you can pretend to wag a tail you don't have simply by play-pretending (although you could also use a prop). In dissimulation-pretending you would need at least a plausibly tail-like prop.

The key characteristic in Anscombe's notion of consequentialism is *outweighing* (this is why Ross gets counted) such as to rule out *indefeasibility* (this is why Mill is not counted).

When people are being attacked, telling them they cannot ever defend themselves forcefully is in most circumstances not nonviolence but complicity with the violent.

Apologetics must discuss the prophecies because it is part of the faith that Christ was prophesied.

three requirements for partaking the Eucharist (Justin, First Apology, 66)
(1) acknowledged truth of doctrine
(2) cleansed by baptism for remission of sins and regeneration
(3) regulate life upon principles laid down by Christ

"Only bad fortune reveals a great example." Seneca
"Never is the proof of virtue mild."

Men Resemble Heaven and Earth

Men resemble heaven and earth in that they cherish five principles. Of all creatures, man is the most skilful. His nails and teeth do not suffice to procure him maintenance and shelter. His skin and sinews do not suffice to defend him; though running he cannot attain profit nor escape harm, and he has neither hair nor feathers to protect him from the cold and heat. He is thus compelled to use things to nourish his nature, to rely on his intelligence, and not to put his confidence in brute force; therefore intelligence is appreciated because it preserves us and brute force despised because it encroaches upon things.

From Yang Chu's Garden of Pleasures, Chapter XVI. Yang Chu's Garden of Pleasures is Anton Forke's 1912 translation of the seventh part of the Liezi, which purports to give the views of the philosopher Yang Zhu (also known as Yang Zi). Yangist philosophy had a period in which it was apparently extremely popular, but we don't actually have any direct information about Yang Zhu; Mencius argued against him, attributing to him the view that you should act for your own good. The Yang Zhu chapter is much more likely to be someone's attempt to expand on this idea than to be anything connected by actual tradition to Master Yang himself; the chapter's Epicurus-like hedonism is not obviously consistent with the particular version of Taoism that seems espoused by the rest of the Liezi. The "Yang Zhu" section is famous for its claim that all a man needs in a life is "a comfortable house, fine clothes, good food, and pretty women" (Chapter XIX).

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Common Doctor

 Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church. One of his most famous works:

Pange Lingua
by St. Thomas Aquinas
Edward Caswall, tr.

Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King,
destined, for the world's redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.

Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wondrously His life of woe.

On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law's command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.

Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;--
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing,
newer rites of grace prevail;
faith for all defects supplying,
where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
and the Son who reigns on high,
with the Holy Ghost proceeding
forth from Each eternally,
be salvation, honor, blessing,
might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia.


Andrea di Bonaiuto. Santa Maria Novella 1366-7 fresco 0001

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Wenstra on Virtue Signaling

 Evan Wenstra has a forthcoming paper on virtue signaling in the unfortunate genre of analyses that do not analyze the term being analyzed but analyze instead of what it looks like it might be if you ignore its actual use. In particular, it's one of those that takes 'virtue signaling' to mean either 'signaling your virtue' or 'signaling what virtues you consider important', despite all the endless evidence that it means 'trying to treat one's signaling of virtue as equivalent to virtue'. Wenstra comes right out and states it: "Virtue signaling is the act of engaging in public moral discourse in order to enhance or preserve one’s moral reputation." He justifies this with a footnote to Bartholomew's essay, which was a key influence on the spread of the term, but this is not at all what Bartholomew says. As Bartholomew describes it, virtue signaling is a kind of "camouflage" and "disguise" that "comes from mere words or even from silently held beliefs" and is contrasted with being virtuous by doing virtuous things. Wenstra's description is so absurdly broad that it would include defending oneself from scurrilous attack, which is not at all what people mean when they talk about virtue-signaling. He continues, "What makes the act in question an instance of virtue signaling is not the content of the moral expression itself, but rather the status-seeking desires of the person or corporate entity making it." But this is also not the point; Bartholomew, for instance, gives status-seeking as an explanation for why people virtue signal, not as a criterion for what it is. And you have only to look at how the term is used in social media to see that this, not Wenstra's description, is more or less how it is understood when used at large.

He also makes the error, which has become increasingly common, of confusing virtue signaling with moral grandstanding as discussed by Tosi and Warmke; Tosi and Warmke explicitly do not treat their account of moral grandstanding as an account of virtue signaling. Wenstra's reason for conflating them is that the definition of moral grandstanding "coincides with the commonsense understanding of 'virtue signaling'". I think Wenstra is not quite getting Tosi and Warmke right (e.g., they repeatedly characterize it not as enhancing or preserving one's moral reputation but as trying to impress others with how moral you are, which is easily seen to be not at all equivalent when you start thinking through different cases). But as we've seen, even if we take Wenstra to be getting Tosi and Warmke correct, he only can say this because he mischaracterizes 'virtue signaling'. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Today is the feast of SS. Timothy and Titus, who were companions of St. Paul. They both have letters addressed to them in the New Testament, of course, but it's often forgotten that Paul lists Timothy as co-author of 1 and 2 Thessalonians (with Silas), 2 Corinthians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians. (He is also mentioned as being with Paul, although not as author, in Romans.) Now there's no doubt, for a number of reasons, that Paul is the principal author and the primary person responsible for all of these. 

We don't know for certain what it says about St. Timothy's contribution to our New Testament -- there are too many possibilities. But E. Randolph Richards, in his Paul and First-Century Letter Writing, says,

Whatever the role of named cosender, it went beyond courtesy, presence, connection or favored status. I must conclude that a named cosender, at least after the early letters, had a different -- presumably larger -- role than the other team members. Otherwise, I see no explanation for some team members being in the letter address while others are in the concluding greetings, especially when Timothy appears first in the address, then in the greetings, then back again in the address. 
[E. Randolph Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing, IVP Academic (Downers Grove, IL: 2004) p. 105.]

According to tradition, St. Timothy was first bishop of Ephesus and was stoned to death when he tried to preach the gospel at a religious festival devoted to the goddess Artemis. St. Titus became the first bishop for Crete and died of old age.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Three Poem Re-Drafts

I Know Not How

I know not how the world was born,
yet born it was.
I know not how the veil is torn,
yet torn it is.
I know not how God gives His grace,
yet this He does.
I known not how moons formed in place,
and yet they are.
I known not how worlds can endure;
they travel still.
I known not how stars meet their fate,
and yet they will.

I known not how the mighty suns
that brightly shine
in burning vessels swiftly run
through space and time,

nor know I how your love has come
upon my heart,
nor how this is, nor how it ends
or even starts,
though yet it like a wind descends
to blaze like stars,

nor how it is that you can be,
and yet you are.

The Unicorn Rite Catholics
The Unicorn Rite Catholics sing their Mass,
lifting their voices to the God of creation,
singing the introit and collect of the day,
today, this day, that the Lord has made,
today, this day, on which they all hearken.
   There is healing in the horn,
   the light of sun and moon;
   but reverent or relevant,
   the Mass is finished soon.

Antiphons rise in a fountain of prayer,
glorias lift up in heartfelt rejoicing;
blessed like balm is the holy union,
like great grace their deep communion;
and every credo is hale and holy,
and every word bears the kiss of peace.
   Perhaps one day I'll see the shine
   of crystal catching star;
   perhaps in some oneiric time,
   or foreign country far.

Love's Madness

Three parts make up the kiss of love:
lips that press,
mixing breath,
union of the souls
with bond as grave and strong as death.
the lover and the loved,
are one
in gift of beating heart;
each to each gives person whole,
becomes for each
a living part.
Insuperable impulse,
blessed wound,
immutable act of ardent will,
burns away all lesser things
in peace
that pierces every shield I make;
O blow from single glance
that snares me
and my heart
O sacred glance
destroy the link
of flesh and soul:
O love that separates like death
undo the whole!
O peace destructive!
Severing bond!
O leap into the darkness bright
in endless radiance of light!
The heat of love
with reasons beyond reason's reach;
in my madness I understand
things that reason cannot teach.


Suggestiveness, not articulateness, is the ideal of all Chinese art, whether it be poetry, painting, or anything else. In poetry, what the poet intends to communicate is often not what is directly said in the poetry, but what is not said in it. According to Chinese literary tradition, in good poetry "the number of words is limited, but the ideas it suggests are limitless." So an intelligent reader of poetry reads what is outside the poem; and a good reader of books reads "what is between the lines." Such is the ideal of Chinese art, and this ideal is reflected in the way in which Chinese philosophers have expressed themselves.

Fung Yu-Lan, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, Bodde, ed., The Free Press (New York: 1966) p. 12.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Relativity of Vote Weight

'Democracy' is of course a variable word. In the strict sense, democracy is rule by the Demos and based on something like the following principle:

(1) Every citizen, by being a citizen, equally has the right to vote in all matters of legislation.

Naturally, this is not what most people mean by 'democratic' most of the time. In modern times we often talk about democracy in talking about 'democratic elections'. Now, as the ancient Greeks quite correctly recognized, all election systems for legislatures are by nature inherently not democratic but oligarchical, because they are based on the principle of restricting the access of citizens to legislative voting power, and all sufficiently large election systems necessarily create a class of Eligibles, People Capable of Being Elected, in contrast to those who, practically speaking, stand no chance of being elected. The only genuinely democratic method for representative democracy is sortition, choosing by lot, because then it's still genuinely true any citizen can become a representative. There are ways to have oligarchies without elections, but all election systems, introduced into a society, create oligarchies. They are, in fact, quite effective at doing so.

When we talk about 'democratic elections', then, what we really mean are elections with extra concessions that alleviate their oligarchical tendency. A common, and commonly discussed such concession is something like the following principle:

(2) Every citizen, by being a citizen, equally has the right to vote in elections.

This universal suffrage principle is sometimes confused with a very different concession you could have:

(3) Every citizen, by being a citizen, has the right to vote in elections with votes equal in number to every other voter.

You could have the universal suffrage principle without much caring about the equal number principle, and vice versa; the universal suffrage principle is about how votes are made and the equal number principle is about how votes are counted. You could have a voting system in which everyone could vote but some people got one vote, some people got two votes, for any reason whatsoever. Likewise, you could have a voting system in which not everyone equally has the right to vote, but, when they vote, everyone has an equal number of votes.  Both of these give you a sense in which you can say your election is democratic, i.e., makes democracy-leaning concessions.

Both (2) and (3) are often confused with yet another principle:

(4) Every citizen, by being a citizen, has the right to vote in elections with a vote of weight equal to every other vote.

This equal weight principle is an independent principle, as it concerns not how votes are made, nor how they are counted, but the effect that they have. You can have (2), (3), and (4) in any combination. But there are problems with (4) that don't arise with (2) or (3), and the primary problem is that whether votes have equal weight is relative to measure, and there are many different measures you can use. Two votes of equal weight by one measure can fail to be of equal weight by another. This just follows from the fact that equal weight is a matter of the consequences.

Weight of vote, to be more exact, is a matter of how your vote contributes to the result in light of every other vote. This depends, of course, on exactly what overall population you are considering; in Presidential elections, even if votes weigh equally in a state, they don't weigh equally across jurisdictions of any states, because they are different elections, albeit for the same office. 

In one district I may be voting in a larger population than I would be in another, thus diluting my vote. One could thus say that my vote weighs more in a smaller population than in a larger population. The relative voting population, however, could be actual voters, likely voters (and there are several different ways of measuring who counts as a likely voter), or eligible voters.

If A has a vote in a gerrymandered district clearly designed to favor a given result and B has a vote in a district not so gerrymandered, someone could say that their votes do not contribute equally to the respective results of their districts, and are thus not of equal weight, even though A and B are not in the same voting population and even if the voting populations are the same size.

If people wanting A can easily vote and people wanting B can only vote with difficulty (e.g., due to geographical location in the district), even in the same voting population, do their votes weigh equally? We don't often think about whether vote-weighting should consider difficulty of voting, but nothing about the weight of a vote relate to other votes rules out doing so. It seems that we could see this as a bias in the system that favors a vote for A over a vote for B even if they are counted the same when given, thus increasing the ease of A winning over the scenario in which difficulty of each individual vote is the same across the board.

One thing that often comes up in equal weight discussions is how many candidates there are are, which affects how much the vote captures the preferences of the voter.

One could use other measures, for any number of purposes, but the point is that whether two votes are of equal weight depends on the measure being used, and the measures are not guaranteed to give you the same result. Thus one should not talk about equal weight of votes without specifying a measure of weight and (in practical applications) why that measure is the relevant one to use.