Friday, September 15, 2023

The Burden Rests Squarely in One Place


The West is entrenched in what the philosopher and psychologist John Vervaeke has called a “meaning-crisis”; whilst the institutional Church has entered an authority-crisis. I submit that the Church’s reclaiming of its mission is the only way out of the meaning-crisis of the West—a crisis that the West has successfully exported to almost every part of the globe—and at present the Church remains utterly unfit to take up this mission.

Can Hermetic Magic Rescue the Church? Part I: Acknowledging the Crisis and Breaking the Spell, by Sebastian Morello (as referenced in a Paul VanderKlay video here).

Amen.  A paragraph I have written, in less efficient and effective ways, many times.  There is only one way out of the meaning crisis (and, inherently, to move back toward liberty) in the West, and that is for the Church, and for Christians, to stand up.  Instead, as Morello will offer, the Church has failed and is failing at just the time when it is needed most.

When I say this, I predominantly have in mind the Catholic Church (being, as I am, a Roman Catholic).

But the shortcomings are not limited to the Catholic Church:

The ugly internal power games, moral relativising, and neo-caesaropapism of Orthodox senior clerics, however, have hugely undermined the authority of their offices, and it’s not even worth remarking on the state of the Anglican Communion and the various Protestant sects.

The corruption I have seen in the Orthodox Church I occasionally attend is no different than the corruption in broader society – power over truth and justice.  As for many protestants churches, the worship of militarization and the fifty-first state contribute to a loss of credibility.  Further, flying the flag of the enemies of Christ is a visible sign of how lost many congregations are.

The fact is, all the baptised are in the same boat when it comes to the current crisis: the institution that the Incarnate Word established on earth to lead “all nations” to “all truth” has lost its authority (Mt 28:19, Jn 16:13).

The hierarchy of the Church has almost entirely lost authority in the eyes of the rest of the faithful.

This is because in most cases and for most topics, the Church hierarchy says nothing different than does the culture around it – just not as effectively and not nearly as entertaining.  In other words, why should anyone pay attention?

The progressives never believed that the law of the Church, the dogmas of the Faith, or the moral law had any claim on their intellect or conscience in any case, beyond what they individually chose to accept.

This is no different than the progressives in larger society.  No norms, no culture, no tradition, no objective values, no natural law.

The trads always believed they were bound by such things, but see now that something’s happened to the Church’s government that makes it no longer trustworthy, and thus they look sideways at anything coming out of Rome.

Also the same thing that is happening in larger society.  “What happened to the rules?” the “traditional” conservatives ask.  The ruling progressives are hypocrites.  Etc., etc., etc.

A few years ago, I challenged a bishop over what I judged to be his breaking of employment law and violation of Catholic social doctrine. A priest soon wrote to me, expressing his horror at my lack of “caution” in challenging the “Lord’s anointed.” Interestingly, this priest didn’t tell me that I was wrong, only that the bishop shouldn’t be challenged seemingly on no other grounds than that he was a bishop.

Power.  It is the game the left plays.  It isn’t a question of right or wrong; it is only a question of power.

That the Church’s ministers are managing decline and have capitulated to the post-Christian world at every step is an open secret. During the COVID pandemonium, the Church’s bishops closed the churches. The Bishops of England and Wales pre-emptively begged the government to authorise the closure of their churches before the government had even proposed such measures.

This event really was the ultimate blow.  The secular authorities played their hand at dealing a death blow to Church authority, and not only did Church authorities go along with it, many led the charge.

The hierarchy effectively proclaimed that, at a time of widespread alarm and instability, the Church would not be there for the faithful. Worse still, it would help to foment the draconian measures, power-grabbing, and destruction of civil liberties by state governments.

And the timing could not have been more appropriate – if you want to crush the Church:

For the first time in the Church’s history, the Apostles’ successors apocalyptically cancelled the festive liturgies of the Easter Octave. The Church’s teachers in effect declared that sanctifying the faithful, preaching the Gospel, and making disciples of all nations, did not constitute ‘essential services.’

While strip clubs and pot shops stayed open.

Over the last century, the Church has undergone the greatest apostasy in its history. And yet, amazingly, people are still sporadically converting to Catholicism. In the West, such people—especially young people—are coming to the Catholic Church through the traditional liturgy and the wider trad movement.

I see similar moves to the Eastern Orthodox Church and to Protestant churches that stick to traditional, Biblical, principles when it comes to today’s cultural disasters.  It is to conservative traditions and denominations where the people are turning.

As the West continues to plummet into its now unavoidable civilisational collapse, we shall see the rise of all kinds of superstitions and witchcrafts, which will likely serve to bestow a religious character upon the technocratic age of bio-government and transhumanism that we’ve now entered.

Man will always worship something.  When Nietzsche announced the death of God, he did not claim that God would be replaced by nothing.  Instead, He would be replaced by the superman. 

In the current situation, it seems that the remaining Church’s faithful will persevere by opting to double-down on the devotional life. This is exactly what all the committed Christians I know are doing. They’re taking stock of the collapse of our civilization and the utter sterility of the institutional Church in the face of it, and in response they’re deepening their spiritual lives and clinging to Christ.

I will mention something I have started.  I am spending significant time on the Sermon on the Mount.  Verse by verse, really dwelling on how I measure up (not well) and where I fall short (most of it).  I am thinking that when I get through it, I will just start over.


What I’m pointing to is the imperative to re-enchant our world, and in turn encounter the God whose emanated likeness it is. …But to respond thus, the Church, in the titanic task of unshackling itself from the modern paradigm, may have to offer a chair at its table to Hermes Trismegistus, perhaps next to Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and so many other greats whom it has retrospectively baptised.

This conversation is happening.  While I cannot say if Jordan Peterson started it, he certainly accelerated it.  The aforementioned John Vervaeke is involved, as is Jonathan Pageau, Paul VanderKlay and many others.

Restoring any kind of credibility will not be the work of decades, but of centuries. By then, it may be too late.

Yes, it may take centuries, but it won’t be too late.  To quote G.K. Chesterton:

“Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”


Morello has written a part 2 and a part 3.  I will get to these in time, but I provide the links if you want to read ahead.


  1. It is not the Church, but the Holy Ghost who is to lead us into all truth. His "job description" is laid out in John 16:7-15 - conviction of sin, guide into all truth, & glorify the Son. The Church today is a bureaucracy & has little place for Him, so He doesn't bother them much anymore.
    I have been looking at & pondering it, & especially I John 2:27:
    But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
    Wait, WHAT!? " need not that any man teach you..."
    Now my best guess is that this is a state that we have been meant to grow up into the whole time; now the fledglings are being nudged toward the edge of the nest.

    1. I totally agree. The Spirit and the Bible are like 2 sides of the coin. They are in cooperation not conflict, and the action is in each believer's heart.

    2. "It is not the Church, but the Holy Ghost who is to lead us into all truth"

      So, we have no need for pastors or priests, no need for a shepherd to tend the flock? No need to gather corporately?

      Can you point to a proof-text on this, please?

    3. Not absolute need. But a great blessing and a part of the intended normal life of the church. Note that the verse itself is teaching coming from an apostle. But the words are clear.

      1 John 2:27 "27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him."

  2. As the venerable non-believer Thomas Paine put it, "These are the times that try men's souls." The other Thomas I have in mind is The Man for all Seasons. Thomas More did not seek out opportunities to display his principles, but when the occasion arose, he stuck to them snd played the man. Or rather the Christian. I am aware, as I learned from Groucho Marx, that no perfect society, much less a Church, would have me as a member. I am not surprised that politics goes on in my own Orthodox Church, and that the clergy sometimes act more as businessmen then as shepherds of souls. And, again no surprise, that they lack courage and readily close up shop when Caesar "requests". But, as a clergyman I attend to my liturgical duties, and, as a Christian, say my prayers (including those for my hierarchs), confess my sins, receive the sacraments. I leave the rest in God's hands, as a Christian should and as a Stoic ought to, once it becomes clear how little is in my power. I am not afraid to profess what I believe theologically and politically, and I will honestly answer any questions posed to me about such. I know from especially the medieval political theologians that even bishops can, and do, err on moral and political issues. If asked about, for instance, my reaction to my Church's capitulation to the covid restrictions, I am willing to confront my superiors, if necessary, as St. Paul put it, to their face. But, I do not look seek out opportunities to do so. What can we all do in such times, I suggest: perform our duties and, especially, say our prayers, especially for those who hate us

  3. It gives me a bit of a funny feeling, seeing this realization of advanced decay slowly spread over the world, and watching people, even normies, begin to respond to it.

    Partly an appreciation of the magnitude of the change, but I think most of it is an unpleasant expectation that the response will NOT turn out to be a gradual withdrawal of all the insanity and hubris and the rest. That will come, surely, it will have to. But there's a lot of painful lessons in our future before it can happen. A Leviathan's worth of institutional and ideological filth exists that will not be going quietly.

    It's also funny to think of how this conversation began quietly among people who had no audience or stake beyond their own interest in the matter, and slowly worked its way up the respectability stack until it's now almost breaking out to the normies. The opposite of Hayek's trickle-down marketplace of ideas with its influential intellectuals at the top. Those intellectuals turned out to be empty virtue-signaling husks, following rather than leading.

    When an acute understanding of the decay that we're living through begins to reach the normies... that's when things are bound to get messy. I've yet to see anything touched by the them that doesn't rapidly degrade as a result. I realize I'm being uncharitable, but on the whole it's a fair generalization. Normies want quick and easy solutions, preferably implemented by someone other than themselves, and that's a wide open door to corruption, in every sense.

    1. Cosmic, the "trickle-up" has been something to behold. I especially see it in those who considered themselves the model liberals who have seen their beloved "church" turn on them.

      Could Jordan Peterson ever have imagined that he would choose to be hosted by Ben Shapiro (setting aside the foibles of each)? Brett Weinstein questioning "the science"?

      It is trickle-up, no doubt. But still, no foundation under them - they still see the solution in man.

  4. I follow news about the Southern Baptist Convention where the same movement left is happening. The leadership is at odds with the small church pastors and the vast majority of the congregations. One commentator said that the issue is that the managerial class doesn't just run the Deep State, Corporations, and NGOs. They also run the large church conventions. Anywhere there is power the managerial state is in charge. It makes sense.

  5. (Orthodox convert, here, in the interest of transparency...)
    Bionic, you mention your personal practice: I am spending significant time on the Sermon on the Mount... Not that you need my approval but this is outstanding. Don't stop.

    I will give you my experience in response to what you describe. Nothing has formed me against this tide of meaninglessness more than praying the Psalms. Sure, I've tried to transfer to praying the Horologion, or the Anthologion, or one of the various other prayer books available, but I keep returning to the Psalter.

    However, one thing that has expanded my perspective about, not just my personal piety, but the Church as a whole, was reading/praying through II Chronicles. TL;DR summary: There will be times when the leadership [of the Church] will “not do what is right in the sight of the LORD,” during which God allows things to happen to teach or correct us. These times can be short, or they can last decades. Only remember that these times will end. Then, leadership will “do what is right in the sight of the LORD.” Again, these times can be short, or they can last decades. The common understanding is that in the end, the LORD is there and knows and is working.

    By accepting this is the only way I can attend Liturgy. The only way I can stand up. That and reading Ps 36/37 and Ps 115/116 over and over.

    On to the next good thing.

    1. Justin, I have also been going through the Psalms. Prays of praise, prayers of despair, prayers of hope, prayers of salvation. We need all of these always.

  6. The Anthologion, which is a great blessing for daily liturgical use, is largely composed of Psalms, as is its source book, the Horologion. The liturgical offices of the western church, the Breviary, for example, is largely grounded in the Psalter. The same is true of Matins and Evensong in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

  7. "Restoring any kind of credibility will not be the work of decades, but of centuries. By then, it may be too late."

    "Yes, it may take centuries, but it won’t be too late."

    This has already been mentioned numerous times, but it is worth repeating. The situation we find ourselves in will end...someday. It did not happen overnight nor will it be changed immediately, but it will be resolved.

    As human beings and as Christians, we are all guilty of thinking that our problems will be corrected quickly. If we just say and do the right things, then everything will fall into place. Which may be true, but...there is the matter of time and we are impatient.

    The behemoth of human civilization (modern or not) took thousands of years of piling lie upon lie to reach the place we are today. Even though the foundations are crumbling beneath us, the lies are still being added and there is no end in sight.

    We need to learn how to step out of the temporal and into the eternal manner of thinking. We tend to think of the Church as mature, and perhaps even past its prime, but, if one day with God is as a thousand years with men, then it can be seen that two thousand years of church history with men is as two days with God. Two days! In other words, the Church, in God's eyes, seen from an eternal point of view, is barely newborn and needs constant care and attention in order to survive, live, and thrive.

    Put this way, it is not difficult to understand that we have the rest of our lives to work on the "structure", following the "plan", knowing that our own individual efforts will not amount to much (more than likely, not even be noticed) and that we will probably die without seeing any substantial, ground-breaking change for the better.

    But we push ahead regardless, believing, because that is all we have.

    "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." -- Hebrews 11:1

    1. Roger, as you note, we may still be living in the early Church.

      We can become more Christ-like, we can raise healthy children, we can live by shining Christ's light. Beyond this...we aren't really called to much more.