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“tolerance”, or “inclusion”, one knows that another of one’s fundamental democratic liberties is about to be rescinded by the revolutionary guard of progressive orthodoxy.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.
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.
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.
What follows has been excerpted from the introductory lecture for a course I have taught at U of T’s School of Continuing Studies on the literature and philosophy of the Renaissance…
For the next few minutes, I am obliged to address the question of the defining nature of the Renaissance, on which historians of every subsequent generation down to our own have spilled seas of ink. Of course, there is an antecedent question–whether there was a Renaissance–, which is surely more than merely academic.
About the only thing that historians agree on is that the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteen centuries was neither unique nor unprecedented. That is, there have been innumerable efflorescences of civilizational and cultural brilliance throughout human history, and almost every one of them can be (and has been) conceived as a revival or rebirth of some antecedent “golden age”. Indeed, the remarkable fact about civilization–at least until relatively recently–is its more or less unbroken continuity.
The following has been excerpted from the introductory lecture in a course I have taught at U of T’s School of Continuing Studies on the literature and philosophy of the ancient Greeks…
Homer’s two epics, the Iliad and Odyssey, are not only the earliest works in the European canon; but along with Plato’s dialogues and the Judaeo-Christian Bible, they represent the common foundational matrix out of which the entire intellectual and literary tradition of the West has emerged. All of European literature is in a sense a protracted sequel to Homer’s Trojan theme; and Western philosophical speculation might aptly be described as a mere by-product of the commentaries on Homer that continued to be written in every generation in the West for two and a half millennia after the death of the Ionian Bard.
I am currently reading a biography of John Adams by David McCullough, the widely-respected, Pulitzer-Prize-winning American historian. A decade ago, his work on Adams was adapted by HBO into a seven-part mini-series. On the basis of his popular acclaim, I have always assumed that McCullough couldn’t write. I’ve been wrong.
In 1780, with the outcome of the War of Independence still very much in doubt, Adams left France for Holland to secure a loan from Dutch bankers for the American war effort. While residing in Amsterdam, he enrolled his thirteen-year-old son, John Quincy, in the ancient and prestigious University of Leiden. John Quincy had accompanied his father two years earlier on the arduous trans-Atlantic sea-voyage from Massachusetts to France, and during his two months aboard ship, redeemed the time by studying and becoming sufficiently fluent in French to serve as Adams’ interpreter at the French court. At the University of Leiden, John Quincy took classes in philosophy, classics, law, science, and medicine. The lectures were delivered in Latin, of course. Continue reading “A Different Species: Notes on the Yukkiness of Progressive Self-Absorption”
Have you ever encountered someone whose invincible ignorance on any given subject exists in precisely direct proportion to the self-satisfaction and certitude with which he presses his arguments? Someone so obtuse that, when you (with a little too much subtlety) point out the superficiality of those arguments, he doesn’t even realize he’s been insulted?
This scenario seems unavoidable whenever one falls into the company of a militant atheist. The phrase itself seems paradoxical; yet, the maddening irony is that the opposition to religion has become fiercely and fanatically dogmatic. Today’s atheists are determined to save the world from religion, even as they make fun of yesterday’s theists for being determined to save it from sin.
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: A Psychological Primer”
The American Psychiatric Association
DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS
ADDENDA FOR 2017
Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS):
Trump Derangement Syndrome is the latest (though most virulent) strain of a general and besetting condition of liberalism—catalogued in the DSM for previous years under Conservative Derangement Syndrome (CDS)–, whose aetiology can be traced back to the late Sixties. After short periods of latency, it breaks out on the political Left whenever its opponents are in power or contending for power, and manifests itself in a rabid detestation that overwhelms the human capacity for rational cerebration or discourse. As of the time of writing, there is no known treatment or cure. Continue reading “Tears, Rage, and Trump Derangement Syndrome: Analyze This”