Saturday, September 03, 2022

Gregorius Magnus

 Today was the feast of St. Gregory the Great, also known as St. Gregory the Dialogist, Pope and Doctor of the Church. From Book IV of his Dialogues (Chapter 59):

And here also we have diligently to consider, that it is far more secure and safe that every man should do that for himself whiles he is yet alive, which he desireth that others should do for him after his death. For far more blessed it is, to depart free out of this world, than being in prison to seek for release: and therefore reason teacheth us, that we should with our whole soul contemn this present world, at least because we see that it is now gone and past: and to offer unto God the daily sacrifice of tears, and the daily sacrifice of his body and blood. For this sacrifice doth especially save our souls from everlasting damnation, which in mystery doth renew unto us the death of the Son of God: who although being risen from death, doth not now die any more, nor death shall not any further prevail against him: yet living in himself immortally, and without all corruption, he is again sacrificed for us in this mystery of the holy oblation: for there his body is received, there his flesh is distributed for the salvation of the people: there his blood is not now shed betwixt the hands of infidels, but poured into the mouths of the faithful. Wherefore let us hereby meditate what manner of sacrifice this is, ordained for us, which for our absolution doth always represent the passion of the only Son of God: for what right believing Christian can doubt, that in the very hour of the sacrifice, at the words of the Priest, the heavens be opened, and the quires of Angels are present in that mystery of Jesus Christ; that high things are accompanied with low, and earthly joined to heavenly, and that one thing is made of visible and invisible?

Idealess Words

 In Alciphron VII, Berkeley has Euphranor give three distinct arguments based on verbal phenomena that we can have meaningful language without cashing it out into clear and distinct ideas.

(1) Words are signs, but in the case of other signs, we find signs that are intelligible, but do not require us always to connect them with ideas, even though there are ideas to which they can be connected. For instance, counters in card games represent money, but to use them, it's completely unnecessary to keep track of this. You can just play for chips in poker, not keeping track of the money until later you cash them out. Thus we have signs that can meaningfully be used as signs without determining their ideas, because they can be cashed out in ideas later on. This is not unique to game counters; we do the same with figures, where we can get the right results just by manipulating the symbols using the right rules. By extension, it seems that this can be true of words, as well.

(2) Words themselves seem to have uses, connected to "influencing our conduct and actions", that are not connected to "marking and suggesting distinct ideas". This can happen because they are used to formulate rules or "by raising certain passions, dispositions, and emotions in our minds." Thus it seems that a speech intended to direct us to actions or to excite us in some way can be meaningful as such even if we are not attaching distinct ideas to all the words.

(3) Ideas as such are wholly inactive; agents and actions therefore cannot be ideas or like ideas. Words for agents and actions, therefore, do not stand for ideas but for the agents and actions themselves. But we understand agent words (like 'I' or 'myself') and action words (like 'memory', 'will', 'love', or 'hate').

It's easy to miss that these are three distinct arguments and concern three different phenomena, and thus describe three different ways in which words can be used meaningfully without being connected to clear and distinct ideas. The counter use of words, (1), involves use of words in their own right that can eventually be cashed out into clear and distinct ideas. The influencing use of words, (2), involves use of words as parts of a discourse that holistically can be effective even if not all the words are connected with ideas. And the agential use of words, (3), involves use of words that Berkeley claims never have any clear and distinct ideas attached at all. The three together form a stepping structure, as we get purer cases of idealess meaningful words -- (1) points to words that have a capacity of being cashed out in terms of ideas, although we are not presently cashing them out that way; (2), at least as Euphranor develops the argument, indicates words that get their meaningfulness from being in a larger discourse which is performing an intelligible function (this is probably not intended to be a necessary condition, though, as when we shout 'Stop!' at someone); and (3) is concerned with words that Euphranor claims cannot have any consistently associated ideas at all.

Euphranor goes on to give a fourth, more notorious argument, namely the argument based on the premise that there can be no abstract general ideas. This argument doesn't deal with a distinct class of words, though; Euphranor explicitly links general terms to (2) -- we use general terms to "direct us in the disposition, and management of our affairs".

Friday, September 02, 2022

Dashed Off XXI

 Formal heresy is the attempt to make the faith as you wish it to be.

modality & difference from the given
p is the given -- Tp
there is a different from given where p -- Diamond(p)
p regardless of differences -- Box(p)

five "differentiae temporum"
past, present, future, possible, imaginable
(imaginable was controversial because it was often thought to include impossibles)

three kinds of skeptical argument or debunking: futility, perversity, jeopardy

the absolute power principle: What God can produce by means of secondary causes, he can directly produce and preserve without them.
-- this needs specification about the production and the 'what'

Chauvet treats as distinctive to the sacraments what is in fact not distinctive to them, but common to other things.

Heidegger's ontophilology

A relationship with another person is a co-making.

Heideggerians regularly attribute to language what belongs to wisdom.

Humans become wise by responding to wisdom.

Chauvet overestimates 'ethical testimony' at the expense of theosis.

Bread and wine are born within markets.

Prophecy is the mediation of destiny.

'Symbols' in Chauvet's sense cannot work by magic; they work by signs and causes.

People show up for easy benefits.

the doctrinal version of kitsch

positive vs negative freedom from pain

Every philosophy is a world that opens out onto other things.

Who reads enough poetry will eventually wax philosophical.

being systematic vs constructing a system

potentiality, participation, and finality as three ways different existents are not wholly separate

history of philosophy (as a field) as structured by specific wonderings (Aristotle)

'a philosophy' as an intellectual image of being

resemblances -> forms
contiguities -> measures

being (ens) as the formal, internal law of philosophizing
-- being as first understood, and similar communissima, the seminal reason of inquiry

the transcendentals as the conditions for the possibility of HoP

problem : HoP :: fact : historical inquiry

domains of almsgiving
(1) necessitas extrema
(2) indigentia
(3) superfluum

modern video games as guided story-making

"A person, an event, a natural phenomenon is perceived as mysterious or sacramental, i.e., as bearing and mediating the presence of God, only insofar as it actualizes our innate capacity for God." Richard McBrien
"Our radical capacity for God (which God has implanted in us as part of our historical human nature) makes possible our knowledge and our freedom."

Some of what are seen as disagreements between partisans of a school are not the disagreements they seem to be, because they really consist of the partisans working out very different parts of a big system, with whatever actual disagreement there might be arising from simply not having worked out all the details thoroughly.

the survival value of patience

The mutual assistance of marriage has several levels or aspects: courtly, formal level; a casually intimate level; a representational level in which each is proxy for each; a neutral, cooperative level as fellow workers; etc.

the oscillation between yang forms of thought and yin forms of thought

the inconsistencies between Millian and Kantian liberalism (one reason why defenders of liberal political philosophy are sometimes incoherent is that they are trying to split the difference and mix and match)

Every subject of action has an object in action.

probability and the metric structure of possibility

- held by all
- held by many
- held by some
- held by all of the wise
- held by many of the wisest
- held by many of the wise
- held by some of the wisest
- held by some of the wise

extrinsic probability as a second-hand intrinsic probability

Wang Yangming's pure knowing (liangzhi) and the agent intellect
-- inquiring so as to know as extending one's pure knowing in various tasks

Everying is necessary or contingent -> principle of sufficient reason
Everything is actual or potential -> principle of causality

Formal systems are understood by looking at what breaks them and how they break.

rare but not chance as a mark of intellect -- one would have to distinguish this, however, from rare-but-not-chance (due to the nature of a paucity), scarce nature, like when a birth rarely happens because a population is small, as well as rare-but-not-chance (due to natural operation limited to few opportunities). We do in fact distinguish these, but usually by 'cheating' based on our prior knowledge of intelligence. Both of these last are accidental rareties, though.

The purpose of a model is to sort inputs and outputs.

the mass weights of vast numbers of little irrationalities and failures

The two-party system is by nature a single power alliance bifurcated into two purely structural factions.

Deference to experts is a practical activity that is governed by practical reasons.

Ameliorative analysis is always relative to a specified problem.

The importance of most things depends in part on their sequels.

Relativism, over time, becomes opportunism.

Military occupation requires either (1) elimination of all threats or (2) numerical supremacy or (3) power of indefinite reinforcement.

"Intelligence is the faculty of *being* in general only because it is the faculty of *infinite being*." Rousselot
"The soul is in sympathy with being as such because ultimately it is capax Dei."
"Every act of intellection not only supposes that reality is intelligible, i.e., can be brought to light, but also that reality is somewhere understood, somewhere completely brought to light."

In a healthy educational system, the teachers are more the representatives of the parents than of the state.

The most fundamental precondition for immortality of soul is divine life, i.e., that there is inexhaustible life.

To say that free will is 'not worth the cost' of evil is to say that people, and in particular human beings, are not worth the cost of evil, which is false, for persons are subsistent value.

horse gaits
  - walking, about 6.4 km/h
 - trotting, about 13-19 km/h
 - cantering, about 19-24 km/h
 - galloping, about 40-48 km/h
depending on horse and terrain, a horse can cover 35 to 100 miles in a twelve-hour period, allowing for reasonable rests
-- relay horses (e.g., Pony Express) were limited to 10 miles of hard ride.

facultative vs directive ends

"All things, by desiring their own perfection, desire God Himself." Aquinas

You will draw your gospel either from divine revelation or from gossip.

The vulgar Marxist makes the same mistake as the vulgar capitalist and thinks of everything in terms of capitalism.

Reducationisms have historically been attempts to take things that look beautiful to others and make them look ugly -- e.g., see woman as a bag of viscera, see the world as dung in a mule's anus, see human thoughts as just chemicals in gray matter, see God as father-obsession, etc.

Legitimate critique is never just a pair of ugly-making glasses.

probabilities, probabilistic agents, networks of probabilistic agents, weighted sets of networks of probabilistic agents

Probability theory should be seen as possibility-weighting theory. The weighting need not be interpreted as certainty, in any sense of the term.

Great philosophy needs a poetic background, like Homer, or the Psalms, or the Classic of Poetry.

translations as school-of-though diversifiers

aphorism-meditation as a mode of philosophy

the expressiveness of natural scenes as a sign of 'the soul is in a sense all things'

sameness -> hierarchy of samenesses -> Selfsame

fraternal deference as the appropriate attitude to the saints.

The Incarnation and the Five Relationships:
God as King
Father as father (through the Son 'Our Father')
Son as Elder Brother (the Incarnation like us in all things)
Son as Husband of the Church (through the Spirit, the Lamb for the Bride of the Lamb)
Son as friend (through the Spirit -- 'I call you friends')

Amrit, the nectar of life in Vedic hymns, is used figuratively by the Guru Granth for something "within man and received by God's grace" (SGG 1056, 1238); it is linked to Naam (Name) and Sabda (Word) (SGG 729,644,538,394); it cures all craving (SGG 594). It is also used as the name for the lustral waters consecrated by Guru Gobind Singh when creating the Khalsa (Khande da Amrit, nectar touched by sword), and thus for the lustral rites for initiation into the Khalsa.

in life, in love, in laughter's leap,
in reach of reason's rightful ray

privileges, immunities, discretions

educational systems as administrative appartus

the conferential equations of love

The things of reason are lovely things;
they shine with inward light,
more structured far than snow-flake forms
that fall on winter night.

"The knower and the known are more united than are matter and form." Averroes In III De An comm V.

In a consumerist society, everyone chooses the propaganda they will consume.

Thursday, September 01, 2022


 * Cathy Mason & Matt Dougherty, Murdoch's Ontological Argument (PDF)

* Sam Buntz, Medicalising Art

* Richard Marshall interviews Matthew D. Walker, Contemplating Aristotle on Contemplation

* Jason M. Baxter, The Waste Land at 100, at "First Things"

* Ruxandra Tesloianu, Somatic Evolution: We contain multitudes

* Hannah Kim, Park Jiwon on Why Crows Aren't Black, at "Aesthetics for Birds"

* Apoorva Tadepalli, The Wondrous and Mundane Diaries of Edna St. Vincent Millay

* David Polansky, Bromides of the expert class

* Charlie Camosy interviews Elaine Riddick, a survivor of forced sterilization, at "The Pillar"

* Taylor Patrick O'Neill, Was Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange a Personalist?

* Jake Monaghan, Idealizations and Ideal Policing

* Richard Helmholz, Magna Carta and ius commune (PDF)

* Kate Finley, Abortion, Adoption, and Integrity (PDF)


* As Nick notes in the comments, a Cambridge Element just went up today on Lady Mary Shepherd, by Antonia LoLordo. It is free until September 15. Just from a brief look through, it seems to be a very solid introduction to Shepherd's ideas.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022


 EUPHRANOR:-- Pray, was it not the opinion of Plato, that God inspired particular men, as organs or trumpets, to proclaim and sound forth his oracles to the world? And was not the same opinion also embraced by others the greatest writers of antiquity?

CRITO:-- Socrates seems to have thought that all true poets spoke by inspiration; and Tully, that there was no extraordinary genius without it. This hath made some of our affected free-thinkers attempt to pass themselves upon the world for enthusiasts.

ALCIPHRON:-- What would you infer from all this?

EUPHRANOR:-- I would infer, that inspiration should seem nothing impossible or absurd, but rather agreeable to the light of reason, and the notions of mankind. And this, I suppose you will acknowledge, having made it an objection against a particular revelation, that there are so many pretences to it throughout the world.

[George Berkeley, Alciphron, Dialogue VI.ix, p.  272.]

Berkeley has a footnote for the opinion of Plato -- Plato's Ion

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Far Now from All the Bannered Ways

The Dark Hills
by Edwin Arlington Robinson 

Dark hills at evening in the west,
Where sunset hovers like a sound
Of golden horns that sang to rest
Old bones of warriors under ground,
Far now from all the bannered ways
Where flash the legions of the sun,
You fade—as if the last of days
Were fading, and all wars were done.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Logres IX

 Book I continued

Chapter 23

In the last years of King Uther Pendragon, troubles arose on every side, as Saxons and Danes, hearing of good land in the British isles, multiplied on every side. The king, too, began to endure ill health, suffering gout in his hands and feet, as well as other illnesses; but the task of a king does not grow less. Seeing that the Danes were committing outrages in every place, he called together his barons, who were eager for vengeance against the interlopers. Therefore, at the king's behest, they gathered together their forces for the fighting of the foe. But the king was unable to lead due to his health, and those who led in his place were not his match, with the result that the host was scattered, with men fleeing on every side.

At this time, Merlin counseled Blaise to leave the lands north of the Humber and take residence for a time near Ineswitrin, or, as the Cambrians call it, Ynys Witrin, the Isle of Glass, for it was at that time better protected from the raids of the Saxons and the Danes. Thence Merlin came to Cardoel at a time when the king was particularly incapacitated from his illness; but the boy met the king with good cheer.

"You are greatly sick," he commented, "and greatly afraid."

"Indeed," said the king, who thought now that Merlin had come that there might at last be comforting news. "You know well that I am beset by foes, and many of my men have been slain by them."

"This is because the arms of your people will avail nothing without a good lord at their head," said Merlin.

"For the love of God, Merlin" said the king, "give me advice as to what should be done."

"My king," said Merlin, "I will tell you, but it is for your secret ears alone. Gather your host again, and when they have answered the summons, cause yourself to be borne out to them in a litter, and prepare yourself to fight your enemies. I tell you truly that you will vanquish them, and by your victory, the whole land will see the value of a king. But when you are done, your time begins to come to an end. Make a division of your treasure, showing yourself to be to the end a king who is considerate of his people. Your wealth will do you know further good. Treasures and honors only weigh down the soul, and as your life comes toward its final day, you must show yourself aware of what is beyond the grave, beyond the point at which all earthly joys fall aside, in the life perdurable. God has given you much, and now you must give in return."

"Alas," said the king, "as I look over them, it seems that our years together have been too few."

"Your calling and my calling are very different," said the boy to the king, "but I am glad that they have brought us together on the same road this little way. I have loved you much. But all the good deeds of a life are as nothing compared to a good end. Now we part, for you must do the work of a king. For king you are Uther Pendragon, and may you never be forgotten for it."

"This I will do in any case," said King Uther Pendragon, "although it seems strange to fight in a litter."

"You have achieved greater things by stranger means, my king," said Merlin. "And now I must take my leave."

"Before you go," said the king, "tell me how things go with the child."

"Of what is beyond the bounds of our lives, it is pointless to inquire," the boy replied. "But I will let you know that your son is kept well and taught well."

"Will I see you again?" asked the king.

"Once only. But tell Sir Ulfius to pay particular attention to any instructions that I might give." And with that, Merlin left.

The king summoned again his host, and this time he went to battle with them, carried in a litter. The host of Logres clashed with that of the Saxons and the Danes on the field at St. Albans. The Saxons and the Danes were routed in a humiliating defeat, with many slain before the British swords. Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias did great deeds upon the field. Octa surrendered, and all his sons. Thus the land was at peace. Then, reflecting on the advice of Merlin, the king went down to Trinovant, which is also known as Londinium, and there he brought with him his great treasury, giving his goods to good men and women, and to the needy of his realm, and to the doing of fair almsdeeds. What was left he gave to the holy Church. He kept back nothing for himself.

Then he was a long time sick, growing ever more so, and at the end had grown so feeble that he could not speak or move, but only stare at the ceiling. Then Merlin returned and the barons told him that the king was dead.

"The king is not yet dead," said Merlin. 

"He has neither spoken nor moved for three days," replied the barons.

"You shall hear him speak once more," the boy replied. Then Merlin and the barons came to the bedchamber of the king, and opened all the windows; Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias, as well as Mabon, the king's valet, were there, as well. And Mabon said to the king, 'Lo, Merlin is here."

And at the name, the king turned toward Merlin and recognition flashed in his eyes. Then Merlin said to all who were in attendance, "Still yourselves and hear now the last words of the king."

Merlin bent down and whispered in the king's ear. "You have done well, and made a good end, if your conscience has been cleaned by pardon. I tell you that your son Arthur will be the next king of your realm after you, and by the grace of Jesus Christ, he shall complete in its full glory the Round Table that you have begun."

Then he said aloud to the king, "My king, do you ordain that your son shall be king after your days of this realm, with all of its appurtenances?"

And King Uther Pendragon spoke in a clear voice, saying, "I give him God's blessing and mine. For the love of God, let him pray for my soul, and if my blessing means anything, let him claim the crown and take the throne righteously and in a worthy manner."

"You have heard the last words of the king," said Merlin to those gathered round. 

Thus passed Sir Uther Pendragon, King of Logres, Duke of Britain. The barons and knights did him great honor and the fairest service that they might, interring him as befit a king. Many mourned him, and not least Queen Igraine, and there was great sorrow.

But the realm grew violent after his death, as baron after baron reached out his hand for the prize of the crown, and the shadows grew with malice throughout the land.

Chapter 24

For some time after the death of King Uther Pendragon, Merlin went from place to place throughout the land, setting in place things whose design he alone knew. But there came a day when Merlin knew by his special sight that his mother had died, and he fled weeping to the north and its forests, and lurked there like a wild thing. He lived and slept in the open air, alone except for a wolf, to whom he gave the name Bleiz, which is a Breton word for 'wolf'. Those who lived in the nearest villages called him Lailoken, and they whispered of strange things happening in the woods wherever he was found.

There was in those days, a saintly man named Kentigern, whose mother was Teneu, the daughter of King Leudonius of Lothian, also known as King Lot, a man of terrible temper. She had had a love affair with a nobleman of Rheged, and they had a child. Furious, the king attempted to throw her, while still pregnant, off a cliff; but, falling into the lake below, she survived, and because of an empty boat nearby she escaped to a place called Cuileann Ros, where she gave birth to Kentigern. The boy she raised with the help of St. Servanus, also known as St. Serf, who was ministering to the Picts, who became as his foster-father. St. Serf called the boy Mungo, which was an expression meaning 'Dear One', and the boy was often called that even in later life. St. Mungo began himself to do missionary work in the kingdom of Alt Clut, along the River Clota, near the villages of Cathures and Mellingdenor, founding a church in the latter place. For some years he worked in his mission. However, a king rose up who was wicked in thought and deed, named Morcant Bulc; he would later be the same King Morcant who assassinated the great King Urien of Rheged, thus destroying the power of the old northern kingdoms to resist the Saxons and Angles. In those days, he was still allied to King Urien, but he was suspicious of all missionaries as possible spies, and expelled them from his kingdom.

Thus it was that St. Kentigern was traveling in the woods where rumor said that Lailoken was to be found, and as he sought water, he came to a spring where Merlin sat, with the wolf Bleiz at his feet, a wild and naked young man with piercing eyes. When Merlin saw him he laughed and said.

"Here is the bird that never flew,
Here is the tree that never grew,
Here is the bell that never rang,
Here is the fish that never swam.

And St. Kentigern, seeing that the young man was dangerous, and not understanding the import of the words, said warily, "Will you let me have a drink of water?"

Merlin said nothing, only looking at him, but St. Kentigern knelt and drank from the spring. Then St. Mungo said to the wild young man, "I do not understand the words you said before."

To this Merlin replied, "Because the bird and the tree have passed, but the bell and the fish are yet to come. But from them will rise a great city."

The saint did not understand this either, but he sat on a stone to rest his feet and looked at the wild man. They were both silent a moment, then Merlin said, "O Ruler of heaven! Why have you not made all seasons the same? The times come, the times go. Though spring provides the leaves and flowers, summer gives the crop and autumn gives the harvest. But for each there is an icy winter, devouring and laying waste to all. After the king comes the Saxons."

Then St. Kentigern said, "Perhaps some king will rise who will defeat the Saxons once and for all."

But Merlin shook his head. "This is not how they will leave."

"There is more to you than meets the eye, I think," the saint said.

"True," replied Merlin, "for although this may be said of anyone, it is especially true of me. I was christened to delay the Antichrist."

"This is a strange place from which to do that," replied St. Kentigern.

"And how would you know such a thing?" replied Merlin. "But it is true that most of what is to be done is to the south, in Logres."

"Then why are you here in Alba instead?" asked the saint.

But Merlin was silent. Then St. Kentigern said, "I adjure you, by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and by the holy Virgin and all the saints, tell me who you are. Who are you, and who are your father and your mother."

Then Merlin said, with a bitter laugh, "My mother was a good woman, whose good name should never be associated with such a man as I. I was conceived in thought by the devil to be the Antichrist, but I was saved from that fate by the piety of my mother and my teacher, who baptized me a Christian and taught me the path of justice; by their prayers the powers with which I was born have been turned to a godly end, to delay the Antichrist's coming, that men may yet have time to repent and that the choirs of the holy Church may be filled as God has planned. My name is Merlin, and I was the prophet who came to Vortigern, and who aided Ambrosius and Uther in their undertakings; I will raise up a great kingdom in preparation for the manifestation of the cup of Christ, and fulfill my task of delaying the Antichrist, entirely alone through the ages until at last I fail, and am killed by the Antichrist three times over."

But St. Kentigern shook his head. "I know nothing at all of any this, but this I know: Whatever your past, whatever your future, this is not your great task, even if your task involves these things by happenstance. Your task is the task every human soul shares, to practice virtue before God and man in faith and hope and love, with the aid of God's holy grace."

Merlin was silent again. Then St. Kentigern rose and said. "I have been overly concerned with my own troubles, having been exiled from my home by a wicked king, and should perhaps take my own advice. May I say the holy mass here?"

Then Merlin received the sacrament of confession from St. Kentigern, and St. Kentigern said mass and gave his blessing to Merlin. When they were done, Merlin said to St. Kentigern, "Do not be troubled; I know you intend to go on pilgrimage to Rome. Go thence, and when you return you will find spiritual strength in Cambria, and before the end of your long life you will return home where the holy dove will come to you with consolation."

All of this came true; St. Mungo went to Rome, then studied with the saints in St. David's in Cambria, and returned to Alba at the invitation of King Rhydderch Hael, where he had a mission between the braes of Glenapp and the Nith, until he returned again to the villages by the Clota, where he was visited by St. Columba. And after he died, a very old man in his bath, he was recognized as saint because of four miracles, involving a bird, a branch, a bell, and a fish.

As for Merlin, he bade farewell to the wolf Bleiz and took himself south. The villages in the area where he had lived as a wild man remember him to this day, although in later times they mixed up his tale with that of other men, and will point out to you the places where the lunatic Lailoken walked and a mound that they say is Merlin's grave. But this was the grave of a different man with a similar name. In truth, Merlin's fate was otherwise. He went down to Ineswitrin, where he was welcomed with open arms by Blaise, and they stayed together for some time, talking of many things.

After he had refreshed his spirit with Blaise, however, Merlin made his way to Londinium, and there he changed the course of Britain and all the world.

End of Book I, "The Devil's Son".

Book II will be called, "The Swords of Destiny".

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Fortnightly Book, August 28

She is not any common earth
Water or wood or air,
But Merlin's Isle of Gramarye
Where you and I will fare.

 Terence Hanbury White was born in Bombay (modern day Mumbai) in 1906. He eventually went to Cambridge, where he wrote his thesis on Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. It was only in 1937, though, after he had written a few science fiction novels and stories, that he picked up Malory and was struck that the whole tale was structured like a well-plotted tragedy and that the characters were all very plausible and realistic. He began to write a novel based on it, as a preface to Malory, that would deal with the various aspects of the story and that would make its heavy and serious theme palatable by drawing out the humor of some of Malory's actual characters. This was published in 1938 as The Sword in the Stone, and was eventually followed by three more works: The Witch in the Wood, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind. These all were re-written during the Second World War, in ways that are usually considered to make the stories somewhat darker than they had originally been, and combined together into a long work, The Once and Future King, which is the fortnightly book.

The Once and Future King has four parts:

(I) The Sword in the Stone
(II) The Queen of Air and Darkness
(III) The Ill-Made Knight
(IV) The Candle in the Wind

And traces the story of Arthur from his birth to just before his death. The entire tale takes place in the late Middle Ages of an alternative Britain, sometimes called the Isle of Gramarye, in which our historical kings of Britain are mythical, and explores the themes of Might and Right in ways that reflect on the terrible wars of the twentieth century.

Doctor Gratiae

Today is the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, Doctor of the Church. From Tractate 83 of his Tractates on John:

One may, indeed, hope for pardon who does not love, but he hopes in vain; but no one can despair who loves. Therefore, where there is love, there of necessity will there be faith and hope; and where there is the love of our neighbor, there also of necessity will be the love of God. For he that loves not God, how loves he his neighbour as himself, seeing that he loves not even himself? Such an one is both impious and iniquitous; and he that loves iniquity, manifestly loves not, but hates his own soul. Let us, therefore, be holding fast to this precept of the Lord, to love one another; and then all else that is commanded we shall do, for all else we have contained in this. But this love is distinguished from that which men bear to one another as such; for in order to mark the distinction, it is added, as I have loved you. And wherefore is it that Christ loves us, but that we may be fitted to reign with Christ? With this aim, therefore, let us also be loving one another, that we may manifest the difference of our love from that of others, who have no such motive in loving one another, because the love itself is wanting. But those whose mutual love has the possession of God Himself for its object, will truly love one another; and, therefore, even for the very purpose of loving one another, they love God. There is no such love as this in all men; for few have this motive for their love one to another, that God may be all in all.


Marc-Antoine Charpentier, "O Doctor Optime", Pour Saint Augustin (H.307).