Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Making Dogma

The vice of the modern notion of mental progress is that it is always something concerned with the breaking of bonds, the effacing of boundaries, the casting away of dogmas. But if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas.

Heretics, Gilbert K. Chesterton (eBook)

Many animals make tools.  Man is something more; man makes dogmas.  Man piles conclusion on conclusion, developing a philosophy, a religion.  By doing so, he becomes more human and less like a tool-making animal. 

Therefore, if man is to be considered as advancing, “it must be mental advance in the construction of a definite philosophy of life.”  And he must consider this philosophy right, and other philosophies wrong. 

Does this mean to suggest a rigid process – once one conclusion is reached, it can never be altered or challenged.  I would think not.  It does mean that it must be understood well by those doing the challenging; the reason it was once accepted must be understood as well.  this should be expected of those challenging existing dogma.

Since the Enlightenment, if not the Renaissance, man in the West has worked to overturn long-developed dogma – dropping one doctrine after another, growing evermore skeptical.  Challenging definitions, finally sitting as God – with no creed and no foundation:

…he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.

Coming to the point where man believes in absolutely nothing – or, at least, nothing comprehensible.

Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are least dangerous is the man of ideas. He is acquainted with ideas, and moves among them like a lion-tamer.

But aren’t those who are most certain of their philosophy also the most bigoted?  Chesterton says no:

In real life the people who are most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.

Our time offers stark examples of this: the bigoted are rioting on the street, holding no conviction other than destruction; the bigoted are chastising you for not wearing a mask, holding no conviction for science. They know nothing of truth, all-the-while claiming, violently, to be the keepers of the truth.

Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are most dangerous is the man of no ideas. The man of no ideas will find the first idea fly to his head like wine to the head of a teetotaller.

We see this in the empty heads filled with ideas of violence and revolution; we see this in the empty heads believing that they are all front-line soldiers in the war on a seasonal virus.

Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed.

We really know nothing of what we believe until we are challenged.  As we are challenged, we better understand the commonsense, or lack thereof, of our beliefs.  This is certainly true of our inherited Western traditions.  It is playing out evermore visibly today, with the growing cultural and political divide in society.  Yet Chesterton saw this coming more than one-hundred years ago:

The great march of mental destruction will go on.  Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed.

As Christianity is destroyed, it is not being replaced by nothing; there is no possibility of a void in religion.  There will be a new creed:

A creed (also known as a confession, symbol, or statement of faith) is a statement of the shared beliefs of (an often religious) community in the form of a fixed formula summarizing core tenets.

Today, one side holds a much stronger conviction of their creed than does the other; those desirous of destroying Western Civilization are far more religious than those who claim to defend it.  It is a religious community willing to put words into action.  This shift has been ongoing for centuries, accelerating rapidly before our eyes in the last months and years.  We haven’t seen the worst of it yet:

Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer.

And you thought it couldn’t get worse after we accepted that boys could be girls and girls could be boys.  Chesterton offers that it will get sillier than even this (and, therefore, more serious).

Conclusion

There are no rationalists. We all believe fairy-tales, and live in them.

There is no life void of narrative.  We see the narrative of those sucking the joy out of life, those smashing windows and those wearing masks.  They live in a narrative and fervently believe the narrative. 

It must be the same for us, those in search of peace and liberty in this world:

Let us, then, go upon a long journey and enter on a dreadful search. Let us, at least, dig and seek till we have discovered our own opinions. The dogmas we really hold are far more fantastic, and, perhaps, far more beautiful than we think.

Without this, there is no life, there is no liberty.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Wisdom and Understanding

 

Job 28: 12 But where can wisdom be found?

Where does understanding dwell?

13 No mortal comprehends its worth;

it cannot be found in the land of the living.

 

Look around us today: is wisdom and understanding found in the living?  Laughable.  If wisdom and understanding won’t be found in the living, then we must look to the dead (custom and tradition) or to God for these.

But society does not want to look to the dead or to God for these; in fact, society is choosing to ignore or even destroy both the dead and God. 

These mortals do not comprehend the worth of this wisdom and understanding.

I look at the world and see no understanding

I'm waiting to find some sense of strength

 

I need to live life

Like some people never will

So find me kindness

Find me beauty

Find me truth

 

Here before me is my soul

I'm learning to live

I won't give up 'til I've no more to give

No more to give

 

-          Learning to Live, Dream Theater

Friday, August 7, 2020

Mea Culpa

I must clear my conscience of something. 

I am not very good at writing of immediate events.  Writing on historical events or various aspects of culture and liberty, these I can handle.  These have been filtered by many, allowing me to benefit from the wisdom of time and place.

I spoke too soon regarding the death of George Floyd.  This has been weighing on me for several weeks; I have finally decided to deal with it publicly.

At the time, many of you kindly suggested that I spoke to soon.  You were correct.  So, regarding the aforementioned post: apologies.  Ignore the first paragraph; I am good with the rest.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Dialogos

The term dialogue stems from the Greek διάλογος (dialogos, conversation); its roots are διά (dia: through) and λόγος (logos: speech, reason). The first extant author who uses the term is Plato, in whose works it is closely associated with the art of dialectic. Latin took over the word as dialogus.

A wonderful conversation between Jonathan Pageau and John Vervaeke.  They cover much ground, especially regarding the recent events of the reaction to the virus and the tremendous uprising of protests and riots.  I will point to what I found as highlights.  Feel free, however, to listen to the entire discussion.

Vervaeke begins by walking through his thought process while reflecting on the situation of George Floyd, the riots, racism, the riots, etc.  He comes to understand that he is once again being traumatized in the same way he was traumatized as a child in his fundamentalist church – by a puritanical form of Protestantism.  Regarding the current accusation of racism and white guilt:

7:04: “I am being told that I have an original sin, not because of any act I have committed, but because of how I was born; there is an aspect of this that is unforgiveable; whatever I do to try an overcome this makes it that much worse; I need to be contrite until some external, obscure authority pronounces me saved.”

17:06: Vervaeke asks Pageau if the version of original sin that he was brought up with – whether or not it is the right version – is what’s at play in this movement right now.  Pageau’s answer touches on the dangers of bringing this idea of original sin into biology; this has been done before, and it doesn’t end well. 

The only way out for those who are deemed guilty of today’s original sin is to self-flagellate or to scapegoat – find someone guiltier than me and yell at them (and worse).  It seems to me that even this isn’t sufficient, as it does not bring forgiveness.

22:35: Pageau offers his “alternative” way of understanding original sin.  I won’t do justice to his answer by summarizing it.  If this is of interest, take a listen.

39:10: Vervaeke has an interesting observation.  There is an exclusive focus on one virtue in this race guilt, justice (in a very truncated view of justice), at the exclusion of all of the other virtues – both the Cardinal and Theological.  “We should at least be talking about the other virtues, all seven.”  Talking about justice without talking about wisdom is oxymoronic and very dangerous.

Pageau then relates this demand for justice to another complicated term – equality.  The problem is, there is no such thing as equality.  The desire for equality is a desire for power.

46:29: Pageau discusses the focus of Christianity on the poor.  The focus is on those who have, to give; it is not for those who don’t have to take.  Why can’t they just take it?  It is a self-defeating pattern, because there is always someone with less than you.  From Pageau:

I don’t excuse the peasants for killing the king, but it is still, kind of, the king’s fault.  He didn’t take care of the peasants.

53:15: listen to the next four or five minutes from this point.  If these few minutes are of interest, just listen to the rest of the discussion.  I will just touch on highlights:

Our current events are akin to the French and Russian Revolutions; the new atheists who made fun of Jordan Peterson talking about this just need to look around: it is happening right now; a meaningful discussion of the shortcomings of reason: there is an aspect of reality that cannot be accounted for.

We call murder immoral, yet we don’t create an eradication strategy for it.  It would result in a totalitarian state.  Which is exactly what is happening with covid…and, also, the current discussion of racism.  To eradicate these will require a totalitarian state (yet, as with murder, none of these will ever be eradicated).

Covid has awakened in us the desire to eradicate; this opportunistically flowed right into the discussion of racism: the desire to eradicate thoughts and feelings.  We know where that road leads.  We will find scapegoats and have public beatings.  Pageau then brings up René Girard and a quote from him from around 2007.  Girard saw this coming, something about bringing up the machine of antichrist: infinite victimhood looking for infinite scapegoat. 

We are facing the same problem now that we faced during the twentieth century.  Pageau warns: when the Nazis came to power in Germany, they were faced with a communist revolution.  The pendulum doesn’t just swing one way.

Most Americans are more distressed of the opposite party than they are of a foreign threat.  What does that mean?

Conclusion

The burning of the forest (as is occurring right now) includes the seeds for the next growth.  Unfortunately, there is destruction.  And we have kids.