What follows is the text of a short talk I gave recently for a small discussion group on the narrowly-bounded theme of the decline of Western civilization.
The topic that G has proposed for this evening is, in his words, How have the foundational values of the West been eroded over the past 50 years, and what are we to do about it? As for the second question, I don’t have a clue–other than to observe that the world, having regressed to a state of irredeemable moral and intellectual barbarism, is long overdue for another flood.
Continue reading “A Love Sonnet to Post-Sixties Modernism”
In the context of Brett Kavanaugh’s protracted lynching by the Democrats (temporarily in abeyance, though orders of impeachment are already being drawn up), I re-publish the following, originally posted in these pages in February, 2018. An essay on Kavanaugh’s Senate agon will follow in due course.
It is admittedly hard for social conservatives not to take pleasure in the discomfiture of so many sanctimonious, progressive males who have been cut down by the biblical scourge known as the #MeToo movement: Patrick Brown, for instance (most recently among them), who having stabbed so-cons in the very backs upon which he was carried to victory in the Ontario PC leadership race, has now been hoist with the petard of the progressive politics he belatedly and cynically adopted. Continue reading “Me-Tooism, Still”
What follows is part of the introductory lecture for a course, entitled Plato and Platonism Through the Ages, which I have taught at U of T’s School of Continuing Studies
Plato and Platonism is a course I have long wanted, and long plotted, to teach here at the School, though in effect, I’ve been doing so in every class I’ve ever presided over since the first, lo those many years ago. There is nothing in the history of Western philosophy, theology, and literature that does not bear the imprint of Plato’s influence, so that the history of Western thought and letters is, in essence, the history of Platonism.
Continue reading “Plato’s Enduring Influence”
As you’ve probably heard (if you’ve read the Toronto Star, watched CBC, or monitored the progress of Andrea Horvath’s nervous breakdown), Doug Ford—a vulgarian of Trumpian deplorability—has already undermined the foundations of Canada’s ancient democracy, by tabling legislation to reduce the number of the Toronto City Councilors from 47 to 25, and–that despotic gambit having been declared unconstitutional by the courts–, invoking the “notwithstanding” clause.
As with the deplorable Donald (Ford’s American Mephistopheles), the only question now being adjudicated by the progressive media is hermeneutical: whether Ontario’s Premier is best described by the adjective “Hitlerian” or “Stalinist”. We have recently entered (irrevocably, it seems) upon an age of verbal inflation of Venezuelan proportions, fueled by an oversupply of manufactured indignation, chasing a scarcity of plausible injustice. Continue reading “Ford and Toronto’s Great Consult; or, Chartermania, Still”
The sex abuse scandal has silted up again from the miasmal swamp of corruption and hypocrisy that is the Catholic Church. For the liberal media, and anti-Christian crusaders everywhere, the clergy’s abuse of children—as opposed, say, to the abuse of children by teachers in their progressive elementary school “sex-education” curricula–is the gift that keeps on giving. But the same progressives, who normally caper across the moral high ground with hircine sure-footedness, now find themselves stranded on a precipice of doubt as to how to respond to the recent 11-page letter of indictment by Archbishop Vigano. Continue reading “The Alternative Lifestyle of Catholic Priests: Vigano’s Letter”
What follows is the text of a column published in Catholic Insight in May, 2010, and concomitantly posted on Priceton.org. I re-post it now because of its depressing topicality, in light of the revelations about Cardinal McCarrick’s illustrious career of homosexual depredation. Apropos which, I will be posting an essay in due course on the recent remarkable and courageous letter by Archbishop Vigano denouncing the “homosexual current”, as he calls it, that is deeply entrenched in the hierarchy of the Church. Continue reading “The Alternative Lifestyle of Catholic Priests, Still”
Whenever one hears the dreaded Orwellian pleasantries “diversity”, “tolerance”, or “inclusion”, one knows that another of one’s fundamental democratic liberties is about to be rescinded by the revolutionary guard of progressive orthodoxy. Having witnessed the progressive–in both senses of the word–erosion of the freedoms of speech, religion, and association in Canada, which have fallen faster than Cold-War dominoes, I now hear myself repeating the words of Shakespeare’s Edgar: “The worst is not. Do not say the worst, so long as you can say, ‘This is the worst.’” Only a dystopian novelist could have foreseen all the moral and institutional novelties that have been foisted on the rest of us in the past couple of decades, or still await us over the sunny horizon at the end of the road to the post-modernist paradise.
Continue reading “A Progress Report, and a Modest Proposal to the Clergy”
Several years ago I began a still-unfinished series of posts in these pages entitled Paradise, Purgatory, and Hell: A Dantesque Journey through Northern Italy. At Part Thirteen, I have scarcely gotten beyond our first port of call. In recording the trials and tribulations that beset the visitor to that glorious country, and the woes of modern travel in general, brevity is out of the question. Once the trauma of that trip has worn off, I might well complete the series. Meanwhile, Mrs. P. and I have just returned from our fourth Italian odyssey. Here follow a few random observations, along with words of warning for those who imagine themselves brave enough to follow in our footsteps.
The complete collapse of Italy’s political institutions happened to coincide with our most recent four-week sojourn there this past May. It’s telling that neither I nor Mrs. P noticed anything out of the ordinary. Over the course of the past century, government in Italy has been more the exception than the rule. It is no coincidence, accordingly, that the traditional location for the entry into the mythological Chaos is in Italy, near the ancient Greek colony of Cumae, just north of Naples. We are now hearing grave warnings from diagnosticians of the European pathology that Italy may become the next Greece. They say this unconscious of the irony, since Italy was “the next Greece” two thousand years ago, when becoming the next Greece was a glorious thing. Continue reading “News from the Italian Front”
What follows is one of my many attempts to synopsize the argument of Christian Harmonistics. None has ever been entirely successful; it is impossible for any author to describe his own work, let alone a work that is 600 pages long. But here goes…
Christian Harmonistics: The Analogy and Collision between Mythic Theology and Biblical Truth
in the Apologists, Medieval Poets, and Mythographers
Christian Harmonistics traces the survival of a late-antique mythic theology within the context of Christian biblical-historical orthodoxy, and its compensation of conventional historicist approaches to religious imagery, the truth of the sacred text, and the nature of the Divine. The argument progresses both topically and chronologically through the early Christian and medieval literary tradition, examining the writings of the second-century Apologists, Origen, the biblical and moral Latin poets, medieval literary theorists, mythographers, and commentators on Ovid.
Continue reading “Christian Harmonistics: A Synopsis of the Argument”
What follows is the Preface from my Christian Harmonistics: The Analogy and Collision Between Mythic Theology and Biblical Truth in the Apologists, Medieval Poets, and Mythographers, soon to appear (Deo volente) in bookstores everywhere…
Origen’s method of biblical interpretation has been associated in the controversies of the Church with that radical wing of Christian hermeneutics which practised an extreme form of allegory known as “allegorism”. But allegory, in general, is a subversive instrument–when it is not directed at the sacred writings of a rival culture. In the Etymologiae, Isidore of Seville defined allegory as “saying one thing to mean another”. Since in the Bible it is the Deity who is presumed to be speaking, positing what is in the Divine Mind is a Promethean adventure. The first allegorist, according to the terms of the definition that Isidore bequeathed to the Middle Ages, was certainly Satan, who decrypted the divine equivocation for Adam in Eden, arguing that what God had said of the Tree of Knowledge and its toxic fruit He did not literally mean. (Amongst the more fundamentalist biblical exegetes of the Reformation, allegory was indeed often condemned as “Satanic”.) With regard to the biblical Eden story, Origen is, as we shall see, not satisfied even with Satanic convolutedness: he cannot find in his armour of faith a defence against the relevant doubts, specifically, the doubts of a Greek philosopher who is loath to imagine that the Divine Being could have, like some common gardener, planted a palpable tree in some physical garden in the first place. For Origen, the story of the Garden of Eden is what we in the post-twentieth-century world would call a myth; it has less value as a statement of literal, empirical fact than as a poetic model of invisible processes that unfold, as Origen is prone to say, “inwardly”. It is a statement, that is, not of historical but (in Jung’s phrase) of “psychic reality”: the reality comprised of contents and dynamisms located in the interior world of every man, including the biblical reader.
Continue reading “Christian Harmonistics”