I belong.

The following is a call to Europeans to be proud of our heritage when it is under such irrational, ignorant, emotional and misguided attacks by the world at large.

What wonderful worlds I belong to as a European and especially as a Western.

Firstly, I belong to Homer’s Iliad, the most insightful epic of man’s anger and grief, and of a father over the body of his son – a story of the futility of war. Nothing ever written since captures war at its most violent, of a hero who makes Marvel heroes look simplistic children.

And then as an European Athenian I belong to the depths of the Greek culture: the idealism and love of the human body; Greek literature, drama, its humanistic philosophy embedded in sculpture, architecture and buildings proportionate to the human body, and its science.

I belong to Euclid, to Galen, and Ptolemy and a host of others who founded the rational investigation into the truth of things: who established the fundamentals of Maths, physics, and medicine.

More importantly, I belong to Aristotle – the summation of philosophical reasoning of Socrates and Plato – the reality of the world, truth and the glorious victory over atheism, relativism and nihilism.

In Aristotle’s lectures, we have the complete answer to issues which challenge us today. No modern philosopher can defeat Aristotle in his basic principles of being and searching for Truth. One either agrees with the conclusions brought about by his line of his logic on “being” or becomes a nihilist, atheist, relativist and thus believes nothing – even the existence of one’s self. One has to take the line of perfect logic of Aristotle or give up – there is no squeezing, sneaking out of his logic and the logical foundations of the conclusions of his thought. Socrates revealed that line of questioning. Not one contemporary scientist, media personality, politician, educationalist, professor today can challenge him. They don’t because Aristotle would raise too many unassailable contradictions in their assumptions prevailing today in the institutions of our modern world. The modern world is frightened of logic, and the Laws of Nature from which our reasoning is generated. Gravity obeys the laws of gravity: man is guided and should obey the laws of nature embedded in his conscience.

To reinforce my belonging to Aristotle, I proudly belong to the world of the 12th and 13th Scholastic philosophers and theologians, especially St Thomas Aquinas, who extended and reinforced Aristotle’s reasonings with the rules of logic and argumentation. No truth can be established without submitting to the process of establishing a first, and second premise which should lead to a valid conclusion. Students were trained in solid logic and to establish valid premises needed to read a wide history-spanning set of authoritative books. Schools and universities, such as Paris and Oxford in the 13th century_were built on the these foundations, the foundations laid by the Benedictine monks and Aristotle.

Our moderns are bereft of the whole world of reason, a world full of screaming, generalisations, biased assumptions – empty of truth – “truth” a term avoided in the world today .
I am proud of Alexander the Great, one of his main aims was to spread Athenian culture to all of mankind, establishing Greek theatres and academies in Afghanistan and Persia, intermarrying with an Afghan princess, melding his army with Persians, sending commentaries back to Aristotle of his scientific discoveries – all with the hope of civilising the world with a sense of shared humanity. Extending this, I belong to the world of the Western European conquistadors and colonisers of the Americas, Africa, the Pacific and Asia. The wonder of the huge masses of peoples of this world escaping from the horrific, barbaric, inhuman practices which dominated their lives, being replaced by the graces of Christianity. We catch some joy in this conversion in the joy of Mexican music today, of which many cannot see that our world would have had that joyful folk music developed over the centuries if not for the wholesale destruction of our Medieval lifestyles by the scourges of industrialisation of the West and the dour conversion of Northern rich Europe to Protestantism.

I belong also to the great Roman writers, their urbane reflections on life, their expressive, intelligent and moderate understanding of the human condition. And their prose style is unbelievably beautiful. I belong to their great achievements in engineering, architecture, and above all to their belief in the universality of the rule of law, a belief that at least has been extended to the modern world – the idea of the unity of universal law, in a multicultural environment.

I belong to over five thousand years of the ancient Jewish traditional beliefs of One God and the concept and practice of holiness in worship and life – beliefs which attracted many a Greek and Roman 100 BC. No other religion on earth promoted the need for individual personal holiness as its main characteristic. Thus I belong to Catholicism – the fulfillment and extension of Judaism’s hopes and expectations, and of its ritual – the promised future of mankind – universal holiness. Anyone experiencing the liturgies of the traditional Catholic or Orthodox Church world experiences the worship of the Temple of Jerusalem. The priest in the holy santuary ascends to the altar to offer the holocaust demanded by Moses, incense abounds, the sacrificial prayers are made accompanied by the psalms of David, which Jesus and the Apostles obeyed, and which the monastic Catholic church recites still today. The victim is killed, the blood collected, the priest consumes the victim. It is finished – the sacrifice to bring holiness and love into the world. And the people are then invited to consume the holy victim. This is what I and others participate and belong.

I belong to Western Europe, the conquest of Charlemagne and the idea of a unified Europe under a Catholic rather than Roman model: shared power between Emperor, his kings, their parliaments, and the Church – the alien concept of “sovereignty” did not exist. The Church and kings exchanged roles when needed to supervise law and order in their kingdoms.

I belong to the Benedictine monks who from 600 to 1200AD guided the kings and peoples of Europe in the scholarship and historical foundations of the old world, who re-established learning, created schools and universities, hospitals, hundreds by hundreds of welfare homes for the poor, the beaten women, abandoned children, the unemployed – far more in proportion to any modern city of town. Not because of economic, social or health reasons but because they loved their charges – suffering and death required a sacrificial loving man or women to nurse them – all who gave up their lives to unpaid virginity and purity- that sacrificial impulse an extension of the holiness of the daily Mass. People in trouble need the presence and touch of love – love of God conveyed through the presence and touch of a monk or nun. The social and other problems will always be with us – but not that loving touch of a monk or nun.

I belong to the new words invented in the 12th Century: words like gentleness, dear, delicate, beauty, charity, compassion, courtesy, grace, humility, peace, purity, tenderness, patience, devotion. They were invented or rather secularised by the lay people attending Mass. They needed these words to express a new consciousness about our relationships to each other. New words are invented to express new ideas and relationships. Look at those words and see the huge impact the Mass has on our lives and the ongoing relationships between people even in the 21st century. Even “hello” used to mean “hail” – wishing you good health or even the more Catholic meaning- “wholesomeness”, wishing you are full of God’s grace.

I belong to world of chivalry. The cult of chivalry has spread from the 12th Century Catholic noble to all men, even up to the 19th Century. Children and adults were read stories about chivalous men and events for centuries – chivalry dominated literature. Chivalry means that I am bound to protect the weak and poor, women and children. I must not fight anyone man on the ground, or who is lesser than me in stature and weapon. For the commoner, fists are equal weapons (knives are for cowards). I must especially give way to women: open doors for them, ensure they are seated first, doff my hat to them, and the same rules to the elderly and infirm. No man may strike a women or ignore chivalrous behaviour or he will be expelled from the company of his peers.

I belong to the Medieval peasant and his village. I wake early and attend 7am Mass, say Lauds and Prime of the Little Office of Mary when I hear the bells of the monastery ringing, we stop work for a few minutes for Angelus to honour Mary. We go to work till 3pm when I hear the bells announce Nones and start finishing off the day’s work till dinner and we all go to Vespers at 7pm – the whole village. And afterwards we go to the pub – with the whole family and drink our beer well, and sing our ancient songs. I meet my lord to discuss improvements to the estate. We get on well and we enjoy each other’s company, after all, we have shared our families’ lives for over 300 years!
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I am reminded every day by those bells that the work I do must be done with excellence, no matter what it is because it is all for God and His Mother, and for the increase of grace in my soul when at last I face my Saviour at death and yearn for the bliss of love in heaven. Nothing else except serving God in daily tasks really matters.

I do not belong:

I do not belong to the French revolution and which is still developing and continuing and deepening its atheism, socialism, capitalism and democracy, which sets me against my lord and Nature itself. Or the Protestant revolution which takes away my Mass, and my precious religious monks and sisters.

I do not belong to ugly railway lines and engines, to enclosures, to landless labourers forced to the huge mills and now to ugly multi-storey buildings full of slaves at desks, to concrete jungles and asphalt roads, cars, and streets full of families who are foreign to each other. Before World War I, streets were full of houses built to accommodate large families, living with people of similar cultures. They formed bonds with each other and forged real communities of extended families and neighbours distantly related to them. From those communities arose a real living culture. They have now gone except among strongly bound religious commmunities like the Moslems, Lebanese Christians and Polynesians in Sydney, or among some Mexican communities in the USA.

And then contraception, feminism, fabian socialism combined with greedy capitalism broke the family apart: it broke fathers and husbands (having no natural leadership role denied them, and seeing their trade disappear by capitalist corporate multinational replacements) alienated from their wives who now became breadwinners and now combining the roles of housework and the slavery of employment. The natural foundations of the family and authority forced by the law, council planning, and the economy is the death of natural authority. Children are now temporary “wards”of the state, especially at school where all the anti-natural ideologies are inculcated into their minds – the parent’s authority is of the lowest level in planning a curriculum. Are children educated to obey their parents without question? Or parents and other being Nazi, which has become a term of abuse for the very word “natural authority” written in the heart of Natural Law “Obey thy father and mother.”

I do not belong to the so-called “media” full of mindless cant, over-ridden by ads, thick sentimentality or exagerrated violence, stories of “relationships” eventually leading to fornication. All honour, purity, and any grasp of real goodness, real extended family life has disappeared. It is totally godless and at base totally meaningless. The insertion of coloured, gay, cross-gendered cast makes all seem normal. The teeth have been pulled of real demonic monsters: Dracula becomes a comic character. There are real demons inserting thoughts into our souls all day long to choose seeemingly-less inconsequential lesser goods and which persons are pulled without access to grace towards hardening their hearts against angels guided by the Holy Spirit to choose a higher good – be it turning off the league match and helping with the dishes or the kids. Damnation awaits the modern soul who habitually ignores the calls to grace!!

So, I look around me, my block of flats and the street, and see not one family celebrating Christmas but just an excuse to exchange presents, replace a Saint with a Santa, and have a family get-together. Might as well choose December 21 – the solstice – as the date for all it matters to our world. God is born to mankind and is ignored. Same as with Easter – have it at the other solstice. Worship the bunnies and enjoy the eggs. Ignore the passion of God suffering on the Cross and rising, conquering Death, to open the gates of heaven for those who love Him. He wondered on earth when he returned would there be any left who had faith. At present, the West deserves a great chastisement to remind them of who and what they are!

IX – Modernity and Literature

PART THREE: Literature – Enlightenment Propaganda

Before the lofty idealism of the Humanism of the Renaissance, European literature was eminently practical.

A. Poetry and Drama

Lyric poetry honoured God or one’s chivalrous lover, epic poetry recounted the exploits of heroes such as Charlemagne or Roland. Prose reached its heights in clear, logical treatises of philosophy and theology. Or was used as ribald commentary on society. The origin of drama was in the liturgy of the Mass and the cycle of the Catholic year: the very popular miracle and moral plays of Medieval Europe.

There was no school of intellectuals judging literature as works of art. Medieval society and its art was unselfconscious. Moderns would say, naive.

The Medievals lived close to Nature. Everything was seen and felt to be connected. This meant that in the arts, the writer’s imagination knew no bounds. Anything and everything could be put together to show connections. Up to and including the Metaphysicals, Poetry was able to connect thought and feeling through the metaphors of a nature lived among men. Nature and word were joined. Shakespeare’s muse is full of the connexion of life, nature, meaning, men, and a commonality of unity of man with nature.

With the beginnings of Modernism in the late 17th, Classicism heralded the break between man and nature, even though Pope and Dryden invoke Nature as their goddess, it is a goddess undressed by their own rationalism. The Classicist is emotionally removed and examines his art, his forms, as a Newton or a Descartes. All cleverly effete.

Drama divided into the Comedy of Manners and the more serious French imitations of Ancient Greek and Roman tragedies.

The Romantic poets of the 19th Century contrived a unity of man with nature, but the horse has bolted. Nature is now remote and lost. It is a nostalgic discovery of the daffodils. A nostaglia matching the Romanticism of a Wolf or Schubert Lieder.

By the 20th Century, poetry and drama become the tools of social commentary. Ideology dominates. Or it weeps at the destruction wrought by Modernity. The Poet is alienated, as is the Dramatist and Painter, the Artiste. And as Modernity creates a universal ugliness of implemented ideologies into life, the artist paints ugliness to challenge and to reflect the ugliness of Modern Society.

B. The Literary Novel – a Modernist Invention

The Literary Novel is a Modernist invention. The Modern novel is about man, his thoughts, his feelings, his interactions with others in his world. A novel is judged on how it is “true to life” – a life centred on man. The novel is judged to be good if it simulates the reality of character, plot, life, psychology, the interactions of human relationships.

It is no coincidence that the first novelists were from the late 17th Century – the beginnings of Deism and Modernism. The world no longer wanted to hear about God – so “divisive”. Reality excluded God and Man’s relationship with God. The Novel became the new vehicle for exploring the Modernist’s world, ostensibly more real. But how real is the exploration of reality if a person’s life is centred on God. The life of many people is religious: people pray, address their God all through the day, are aware of themselves as part of a religious story which takes place daily. Yet, this huge aspect of life is ignored in the novel. Let us also consider the very real conflict some people every day one has with “conscience” at its very depths – the fight with God. You will not find that in “realistic” novels.

The most realistic personal writings in the past were by the saints: such as St Augustine’s “Confessions”, Dante’s trilogy, St Catherine’s “Dialogue of Divine Providence”, and St Teresa of Avila’s “Autobiography”. These works reveal very deep reflections of the relationship of the soul and God in dealing with the challenges of life, stream-of-consciousness narration, totally honest, humane, and almost “modern” in their understanding of what it is to be a human being – a normal, everyday person in their struggles in life.

It is not until the end of the 19th Century, that the novel, especially the historical novel, becomes of age: popular, universal, and the main means of Modernist Liberal propaganda. And this trend extends right into the 21st Century. Novel after novel explores social, political and religious injustices. First, the villains are the aristocracy, the Tories, Catholics and the higher Anglican clergy – the enemies of the Liberal Revolution. The villains then become the rich, the capitalist, the bourgoisie. And then, in the late 20th and early 21st century, the villain is anyone who dresses well, has taste, who has manners, or who is a “fundamentalist”, a bigot – but must be a religious bigot.

It is interesting to watch films adapted from older stories. The heroes, who once were virtuous chivalrous nobles, are reinvented as rebel teenagers, or “cool” and slovenly – the new virtue: being true to the freedom of one’s emotions, a real “dude”. Any control over one’s behaviour is seen as aristocratic pretence!

C. History Literature
The writing of History by academics is an Enlightenment Project – interpreting events in the past in the Spirit of Progress and Humanism, with the over-arching theme of showing just how evil the Catholic Church and its impact on delaying Progress and Civilisation.

Edward Gibbon’s mighty work – The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – gives free rein for the author to interpret every event involving the Church in the poorest of light. The Enlightenment interpretation of History becomes the main theme of 19th Century English historians and continues right through the 20th Century.

D. Contemporary Novels
There is little of value in reading present day novels. Many portray the dull, grey lives of people caught in the hopelessness of Modernity: broken marriages, lonely women and abandoned children. Many rely on including immodest sexuality and general acceptance of immorality to identify with the reader. Many portray the challenge of people from multicultural backgrounds adjusting to modern life – with the approval of the author on the side of the modern rather than the traditional.
Novels for men rely heavily on violence, sex, war, and heroes whose heroism omits any other virtues than courage and manly skills. There are no manly heroes in modern novels full of gentleness, kindness, grace, modesty, charity, etc. It would seem inconceivable now that a hero could be manly and courageous and virtuous!! So much for Gawain, Percival, Lancelot and Galahad!

E. The Catholic Novel
Intellectual Catholics in the 20th Century tried to employ the literary novel as a means of portraying Catholic life: Mauriac, Bernanos, Greene and Waugh being the most famous. But they had bought into the Modern agenda. The Catholic novelist had become too aware of modernistic criticism of their novels based on “bringing God” into everyday life. So Catholic novelists based their plots on the main character experiencing some moral dilemma which would be solved in the end by some act of moral heroism generated by Catholic belief. The characters are portrayed as anti-heroes, extreme personalities, ignoble, or self-righteous: all it seems with one eye on the modern critic, who would insist on so-called “realism”.

But one would be then led to believe that Catholicism is nothing but morality – hardly a religion which moves and directs one’s emotions, thoughts, perceptions, interactions with others … totally opposite of the writings of Catholics in the Catholic world who are totally unselfconscious of Catholicism affecting their life.

F. Conclusion
The contemporary media of novels, film and TV dramas are devoid of life. Predominant is the sensational: extreme blatant in-your-face violence and sex, end-of-world scenarios, fantastic super-heroes, or dark portrayals of the everyday life of broken families, abuse, rape, angry men and women. Or progressive propaganda stories which take pleasure in cynically reducing any seemingly “good” or traditional life-style as basically hypocritical and corrupt.

Moral and cultural and subjective Relativism and Reductionism reigns supreme. There is no real substance of beauty, truth or goodness about contemporary culture. No real end nor resolution to life’s problems. Nihilism underpins it all. Concepts of “being nice” and “being tolerant” are pulled out of a hat to save the plot and redeem the hero. No storyline is allowed to really examine where in the “hat” these values come from or why they are there in first place.

That Horrible Word, “Sin”

The Modern world spurns this word. All sorts of evil connotations arise at its very mention: guilt, psychological assessment, right-wing fundamentalism, hypocrisy, etc.

So, let us start once again at the beginning:

All things are good. Everything made is good, according to their natures: the atom, the stars, the planets, all living things, even earthquakes and tidal waves – all being true to the nature, the pull of things to be as they are. Everything which exists is good for the fact of existing is good – the very wonder of being here, now, it is. All is good.

But things decay, die, cease to be. And things change and become other things which themselves are good. Nothing in the physical world of nature is forever: galaxies may form and expand to gaseous nothingness, suns die and become black holes, plants and animals die and create other forms of living matter. It is good that things fulfil their natures. All things move towards their ends, pulled to join with other things. There is a universal gravity of all things to become. Yet, none becomes perfect. That is the nature of things.

Man is a living thing. Man has a nature, a nature to fulfil as a living being but also as a knowing, willing thing. A man thirsts to know the natures of things. A man hungers to be fulfilled as a person. But as a person he cannot be fulfilled without his heart and mind completely in unity with a reality beyond the limit of his own imagination. He seeks happiness, but which cannot be found unless his mind and heart are at one with truth greater than the present, and with and in a loving personal relationship which never dies.

So, on the one hand, man is good, and to fulfil his nature he must not only fulfil the demands of physical existence, but also the seemingly unreachable happiness of his mind dwelling in and attaining truth, and his heart’s true desire to be in love forever.

Anything which leads him to the fulfilling of his nature is good. All things are good. All things can lead him to fulfilling his nature.

But Man is a willing thing. Man has the ability to choose among an endless array of objects, things, events, etc., in order to attain his end: being a living thing and gaining possession of the truth and fulfilment of his person – unity with personal goodness.

Choices are to be made: what will this choice lead to? One thing may lead to death. I die if I take this poison; I live and continue living if I don’t, yet the poison may not kill me, but cure me of a sickness. The poison is good but bad in some circumstances. In one circumstance to choose poison is to choose a lower good – nice-tasting drink, satisfying, but deadly in one amount; or life-giving in another amount. The best choice is one that leads to the higher good.

All choices are between a higher good and a lower good. We make mistakes in choosing between goods. We do not always know the full nature of a thing or act, and so we act against our natures in ignorance. We lack the full truth of nature. Or, we deliberately choose the lower good for purely selfish reasons: we choose to continue watching TV rather than help wash the dishes: both of which are goods, but one good is higher than the other.

To choose the lower good is to go against our own nature, which is to reject the end for which our mind and heart yearns for. To choose to continue watching TV instead of helping wash  the dishes is to prefer one small satisfaction of our desire to making wholesome the order of the household, social harmony, family peace, these latter being helpful in our living on earth and ordering our habits towards the goal of being in unity with total goodness.

This little choice of the lower good strikes against our end. It strikes at the heart of what we are to be. Animals do not do that! Every person on earth does do that: choose lower goods and not goodness! That is what is called “sinfulness”. These choices deny our natures. We raise our fist at our own nature. Actually, we have raised our fist against the whole universe: the universe of things do not do what we do –  all other things obey their own natures. We don’t.

Yes, I know, one will say, we are not perfect. We are not perfect as living things because we cannot always choose to stay alive or to grow physically. But we all have used our very freedom, the very noble, dignified ability to choose, as a means to undermine nature: our nature. This habit of Man is bad!

There are even worse choices – to choose things which attack another’s nature and at the same time our own: to give in to anger, lust, envy, sloth, greed, and do murder, theft, and adultery to appease our prideful desires. Not only are we, of all things in the universe, oriented to weakness in choosing goodness, but also we do great harm to others as well as ourselves.

We choose also to ignore this state of being Man, and deny that things are good, that reality is a wonderful thing, full of things, of being, of goodness, of truth. We choose to deny that we have a nature pointed to goodness. We deny that there is any real goodness, that it is all a man-made subjective reality. Yet, we are really cowards at heart, because we do not act on these denials: we want goodness of ourselves, we see the goodness of others, we hope for goodness, we thirst to be loved, to love others, and we thirst for the truth about nature. And all to avoid guilt: the guilt which comes from actually seeing the nature of ourselves, our true end, and our failure to reach for it. We shake our fist but only the truly insane act on that total denial.

And guilt is bad. Yep. Guilt implies punishment. There is a deep-seated understanding in us all that some kind of justice exists. We certainly are not slow to demand justice when it does not concern the faults of ourselves: we can easily become social justice warriors, or religious fundamentalists accusing the unfaithful. Our sense of justice is of course true. The demands of Justice means punishment: good shall be rewarded and evil punished – the heart of all morality, the basis of order in society.

How to escape this quandary? The quandary? Avoiding the implications of being a human being and guilt, yet not wanting justice to fall on ourselves?

Our hearts need healing. We need to be loved out of ourselves. We need to touch true love, to really feel and to really know that we are loved despite of ourselves. We need to be shown mercy. We need to see and to know goodness physically – no airy-fairy intangible goodness. We need our minds, and our thoughts to be enlightened in the darkness of our hearts – for our hearts will cover up truth so quickly to prevent the light! And only something acting outside of ourselves yet inside ourselves in our hiddenness can heal us. Our poor, poor, frightened, wounded hearts!!

Now, let us cut to the chase!

All the above is not new. Every man since time began has faced this problem. Every wise man has commented on it – the problem of sin, guilt and justice. From the beginning of time cultures, societies, have all tried to solve the problem. The solution is obvious: religious belief. That there is goodness itself, that man has to face up to that goodness, that there is ultimately goodness and justice. That goodness will be rewarded and evil ultimately be punished. That sin, guilt and punishment are with us, unavoidable.

You cannot avoid the problem by skirting around it by claiming it is all a social or political issue, pure evolutionary constructs of society. Why? because one has to make choices between what kind of society or political system will suit your own concepts of goodness. You will be forced back to one of two choices: either it is all subjective – any goodness system I choose is purely for here and now; or governed by an objective observation of nature and man.

The Nazi, the Pol Pot, Hannibal Lector, or the saintly: nothing to choose between them. Evolution depends on the word “fittest for survival” – note the word “fittest”, and “survival”. Why should one accept either word, unless one had already made a judgement about nature having laws, about survival being a good! If nature has laws written into itself then so has man.

Either there a reality in the words “goodness” or there is nothing good nor evil, but my thinking makes it so. No-one really acts on the latter option. It is unsustainable. And so  we are left to religious solutions.

Note please, that this whole essay does not mention God. Well … it does. The word, goodness derives from the word, God. I know it hurts, but once one realises one cannot escape the reality of goodness one cannot escape the reality of Godness. And why does it hurt? Because we are guilty! We cannot escape guilt, because we cannot escape sin.

Could goodness itself be so real and physical to touch us and reach into us and heal our wounded hearts? Could goodness be true, straight up front, clear, absolute “mano e mano”, man to man? Could goodness speak and say “I love you, I who made you, forgive you for offending against the very nature I gave you.” Could goodness instead of punishing us reward us for sinning by saying “I will give you your very heart’s desire: pure love physically forever and ever.