Mary and The Divine Comedy

Mary and The Divine Comedy

I’ve uploaded Episode 2 of Vocatio and this month we have been discussing Mary and the Divine Comedy. As usual, I wanted to post my presentation notes here in a blog post although I don’t have a transcript of the rather beautiful responses that my guests had so I encourage all of you to get the full picture by listening along.

Here is the video itself: 

And here are the excerpts:


The Blessed Virgin and the Divine Comedy: A Short Meditation on the Presence of Mary at the Start of Dante’s Spiritual Journey

Welcome everyone to today’s symposium which is titled The Blessed Virgin and the Divine Comedy: A Short Meditation on the Presence of Mary at the Start of Dante’s Spiritual Journey. Most of what I shall be presenting today will be Taken from excerpts of my upcoming book The Infernal Arcana: A Journey into the Christian Esotericism of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy

Part I: Introduction

There is an interesting connection, I would say, between Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and The Blessed Virgin Mary. For one, the Comedy is something more than simply a beautiful construction and a work of art. This is not so dissimilar from the controversies in the world surrounding Mary. For Catholic and Orthodox Christians, she is so much more than simply being Jesus’s mother. She is not simply just another woman—or even just “quite a very good woman” at that. She is the Theotokos and the co-redemptrix of Man. Contemplation of Mary is at the root of so many authentic spiritual experiences that it is hard to imagine that she was born a mortal. It is to her that we have attached the titles “Holy” and “Mother” or “Blessed Virgin”. Analogously, when Boccaccio attached the honorific Divina onto the Commedia, this was not idle praise. In the Comedy we will find the most perfect reflection of Sacred Scripture that literature could offer. In a very real sense, if “Literature” has a guiding spirit and soul which has been working through the centuries awaiting the culmination to be able to bear the message of Christ to its literary world, then the sacred and immaculate vessel that it has chosen to be incarnated is Dante’s Comedy.

It is a great pity that the preoccupation of Theology and Philosophy—and science contained therein, have all but ignored the depths of the Comedy. It is not so dissimilar to the treatment of Mary for even in the loftiest theological discourses on The Blessed Virgin, her position is almost a begrudging anomaly that is both celebrated and is wrought with peril. For the Christian is ever wary lest he forgets to avoid idolatry. Philosophy, even more so, seems to want nothing to do with Mary and study both in theological and philosophical circles seem to dwell more on answering the question of who the Divine person is—rightly so, and we certainly owe both our strict obedience—at the expense of any joy in delving into the mysteries of The Virgin. It is the same with the Comedy. In the circles of theology, the primary study is on the writings of the Apostles and the Saints; on Scripture. In philosophy, too, even in Christian philosophy, it is Aristotle and Aquinas that are just some of the preoccupations. The Comedy, therefore, just like Mary, sits at a point which is neither/or and both/and. The Comedy is not Scripture, yet the guiding intercession of its verses can lead men most beautifully to Christ. The Comedy is not philosophy or science, and yet its pages unfold the very metaphysical workings of the cosmos through intuitive beauty.

I shall remind everyone of what Pope Benedict XV said of the Comedy:

Indeed, while there is no lack of great Catholic poets who combine the useful with the enjoyable, Dante has the singular merit that while he fascinates the reader with wonderful variety of pictures, with marvellously lifelike colouring, with supreme expression and thought, he draws him also to the love of Christian knowledge, and all know how he said openly that he composed his poem to bring to all “vital nourishment.” And we know now too how, through God’s grace, even in recent times, many who were far from, though not averse to Jesus Christ, and studied with affection the Divina Commedia, began by admiring the truths of the Catholic Faith and finished by throwing themselves with enthusiasm into the arms of the Church. (In Praeclara Summorum, Benedict XV, 1921)

I am thankful that I did not intend this text to be read as an academic paper for I can say proudly with tearful gratitude how these very words have been, are, and will be true for myself. Like the Blessed Virgin always inviting me with warm embraces to gaze upon her Son, the Commedia so proudly, lovingly, and tenderly points towards the spiritual life and to Sacred Scripture with such grace and beauty that, like Dante meeting Beatrice, I could only describe it as amore.

Indeed, this is at the heart of what it means to read the Comedy for it is no longer the head which reads, but the heart. No, it is better to say that it is both head and heart which read united. It is the Sacred Heart living within us that guides all the faculties of the body, soul, and spirit to understand, touch, and beat with the Sacred Heart of the Poem like the unity of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It is the ability to read with intellect and heart united—through the mystery of the crown of thorns surrounding the sacred heart that holds the very key to understanding, intuiting, and touching the heart of the poem.

How can this be practically done? Reading the Commedia is difficult, but it is not because of some gnostic ideal of secrecy. No, there is nothing hidden from the reader. The entire text is there in plain sight. One need not even be a magister from some university or hold degrees in comparative literature—in fact these might be hindrances. One need not have been initiated by some society or rule in order to attain the fruits of contemplating the poem. Dante did not write for academics or strictly for seekers of spirituality, rather, he wrote for the academic of the soul; he wrote for the synthesis of the two. Indeed, if one wishes to properly read Dante, one need only look as far as Dante’s journey to understand how to begin: one must first descend in order to ascend. The reader must appreciate a new type of reading. Similar to the way ancient icons were “written” rather than painted. One meditates on icons rather than appreciate their artistic quality only. The mere ability to read—and, indeed, the mere ability to analyze literature—which may please academics in lecture halls—is to merely remain at the lowest possible appreciation for the Commedia. To read Dante for the didactic teachings of religious dogma may please our priests, but it still remains at the lower tier of understanding. The beauty of Dante’s Poem is to achieve the goals of these two currents without disobeying them. Mary, after all, was completely obedient to the Apostles even while being superiour to all of them. Saint John was obedient to Peter even when it was he whom Jesus loved. The lover of Dante, too, is supremely obedient to philosophy and religion. For the Medieval mind like that of Dante, nothing stands apart from anything else; nothing is divorced or set in opposition. There is a harmonic unity to reality; a marriage—even of opposites. To learn the Commedia is to also learn reality—to read reality with the eye of Poetry—the ideal meaning of Poetry that transcends meter and rhyme without annihilating the beauty of meter and rhyme. Therefore, the reader must transmute his regular ways of reading and analyzing. Even the caterpillar must disintegrate before it can achieve the vertical dimension. Just as a human is superior to the stone, but does not abandon the stone’s materiality, so, too, is the lover of Dante not divorced from the student of Dante, but transmutes him. Dante himself experienced this transformation when he says to Virgil: “’O glory and light of all other poets,/ let my long study and great love avail/ that made me delve so deep into your volume.’” (Inferno I, 82-4).

This is why, Dear Friends, I address you as “Friends” because I am no master or initiator or scholar or poet. I hope to merely be a “friend”; a fellow pilgrim who walks with you on this journey through the poem in good faith. I do not claim to hold any secret knowledge of the universe but wish only to share the pitiful depths I have achieved reading through this poem myself and hope that perhaps we may share in that unity of the dimension of depth. Thus, unlike the unforgiving academics, or the coldness of inquisitors, I ask you to forgive me, as a friend would, if I may be mistaken and do what you can to correct where I am wrong. But, also like a friend, to listen to what I may say so as to confirm within yourself if I am trying to do good by you and see what fruits you may achieve through our communion together. Think for yourselves, Dear Friends, of the difference when you speak between friends and between colleagues. The former, you are free to say what you will without fear knowing that you do so with sincerity, authenticity, and with the good of the other in mind. In the latter, it is merely a question of what is right and wrong. In the former, it is the dialogue of the head and heart united, in the latter it is only the head. Thus, if there is anything scary at first or perhaps you have been taught to be wary of it from the start of your spiritual life, approach it as one would approach the nuance of a friend.

Part II: The Great Lady of Canto II

Just to serve as one example of Mary’s presence in the Comedy, I would like to examine Beatrice’s mention of her in Canto II where Dante is having doubts about his journey and Virgil informs him that he is being aided by heavenly ladies. Beatrice says to Virgil:

“’”There is a gracious lady in Heaven so moved by pity at his peril, she breaks stern judgment there above and lets me send you to him. She summoned Lucy and made this request: ‘Your faithful one is now in need of you and I commend him to your care.’”

John Sinclair mentions in his translation how the “gracious lady” is the Virgin and he attributes to her the saying in the Letter of Saint James: “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). The power that the Virgin possesses to “break stern judgment” is rooted in the promise God made: “I will put enmities between you [the serpent] and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Genesis 3:15). For what does it mean that the Virgin is able to break stern judgment? It means that the serpent is allotted his due. By all right of judgment, each person is worthy of damnation. The devil has a proper claim on all of our souls. Thus, the serpent is the apt symbol for this “balancing” of our infinite crime against our infinite soul for the serpent is the horizontal bar of a balance of judgment. The domain of the world has operated with this balancing and equalizing act before the coming of the saviour. After all, the law in the Torah states: “and if a man maim his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him: breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Leviticus 24:19-20). Since all men sin, all men deserve death for this is the wage of sin.1 Thus, the devil is the chief prosecutor for it is he who is “the great accuser”2 and, left to the law of the world of which he is the prince, the balance of the scales demands a hefty price.

The Virgin, however, is not a horizontal creature. Indeed, woman was created upright as the image in Genesis exposes. The serpent can only attack her heel for she is a vertical creature. Thus, the figure of the scale is incomplete for any crossbar still requires a vertical element to support the horizontal. In essence, it is yet another cross that is created. The supreme verticality of the Virgin allows her to break the hold of the accuser on the world. Her superiority as representing the vertical of the balance countermands the horizontal. She is fulfilling her role as the New Eve and this is the perfect remedy to Dante’s present situation for he is undergoing, in fact, the various stages of The Fall. Thus, just as man’s fall was brought about from the disobedience of one woman, so does man’s redemption come from the Fiat of one woman. In Dante’s case, his redemption also starts from the intercession of one woman—the same woman of the Fiat: the Holy Virgin. To all of us, then, we owe great devotion to our Mother in Heaven.

We follow the motion of this great love from the Virgin Mother to Saint Lucy whose name has obvious connections with “Light” and then Lucy’s communication with Beatrice who descends to earth to bring the good news to Virgil. It is in the movement of these three ladies that creates the human mirror of the Holy Trinity. They are the feminine response to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thus, Dante presents his salvation as being aided by the handmaid of the Lord: by the Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy Soul! Let us unpackage this intensely important group of three Ladies with courage. A wise man once provided quite a compelling explanation of the principle at work:

Judeo-Christian Hermeticism is thus the sustained effort across the centuries to know and understand the three luminaries in their unity, i.e. to know and understand “the great portent which appeared in the heaven—a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation xii, 1). It is the woman in this apocalyptic vision who unites the three “luminaries”—the moon, the sun, and the stars, i.e. the luminaries of night, day, and eternity.

It is she—the “Virgin of light” of the Pistis Sophia, the Wisdom sung of by Solomon, the Shekinah of the Cabbala, the Mother, the Virgin, the pure celestial Mary—who is the soul of the light of the three luminaries, and who is both the source and aim of Hermeticism. For Hermeticism is, as a whole, the aspiration to participation in knowledge of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the Mother, Daughter, and Holy Soul. It is not a matter of seeing the Holy Trinity with human eyes, but rather of seeing with the eyes—and in the light—of Mary-Sophia. For just as no one comes to the Father but by Jesus Christ (John xiv, 6), so does no one understand the Holy Trinity but by Mary-Sophia. And just as the Holy Trinity manifests itself through Jesus Christ, so understanding of this manifestation is possible only through intuitive apprehension of what the virgin mother of Jesus Christ understands of it, who not only bore him and brought him to the light of day, but who also was present—present as mother—at his death on the Cross. (Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, Letter XIX, 1984, pp. 546-547)

While we may be right to save the fullest of these meditations for how Dante frames the Blessed Virgin in Heaven, it must be seen now just how important she is in the very beginning of man’s spiritual journey. It was always The Virgin, our Mother, who has aided us. Her will in Heaven—which is always a mirror of the Divine Will—is manifested through the “light” she brings forth in Lucy and in the Revelation that Beatrice carries. These women represent her eternal fiat. They are all the highest human answers to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in so far as Lucy and Beatrice are emanations from The Virgin’s feminine obedience. This universal conception of the celestial Virgin is exactly the way in which Dante respectfully declines to call her by her particular name at this present time, but rather recalls once again the portent in Revelation which does not call The Virgin by her name.

It is quite appropriate that Dante is aided by this great triangle of ladies for the task of humanity in general, who has walked away from the true path, must be of an “alternate” but more “glorious” route. This way is the route of intuiting the Godhead; i.e. to become more Christlike. The greatest achievement of created man in imitating the perfect union of Jesus Christ was in Mary for she held God in her womb and she understood him more perfectly than any other creature as His mother; knowing full well His power at the wedding feast, being present at the Cross, etc. One need only meditate on the Rosary in order to recognize the great truth of this closeness and intuition that the Blessed Virgin had for the Trinity. This is why we insist she is not Christokos or merely Christ-bearer, but THEOTOKOS: God-bearer. Dante does not hesitate to grant to Mary the highest of honours for any creature for it is in imitating her that we may imitate Christ. His path of intuiting the Godhead in poetry comes through direct aid from her. How appropriate is this Trinitarian intuition in Mary that she projects out the mission of her love to Saint Lucy who, as light, is the humble imitation of the LOGOS. Beatrice, thus, in her role as Revelation is the function of Mary as spouse of the Holy Spirit for she brings to Dante the fruits of Revelation especially as she assimilates into herself the intellect in Virgil.

Thus we can see the assault heaped upon The Virgin and women in general not just in the modern world, but even in Christian circles since the Reformation which have sought to alienate man from God and create a fundamental barrier between them. For Dante’s image here is eminently mystical and traditional and not at all fundamental and Protestant. In his lines, he reveals the dogma of the intercessory power of the saints and the highest exaltation of Mary who can “break stern judgment” without the need for dogmatism, but in the organic and superorganic nature of love. He is showing that just as man has a created lower trinity, he also has a created higher trinity, united at the heart, which can respond to the Trinity above. Thus, what is true for a single man is also true for all of humanity. At the highest point of man is the mystical crown of Mary Queen of Heaven for she is the topmost point of created man who assists in the direct intuition of the Trinity above for she has lived that entire experience.

At this point, I will beg your indulgence, Dear Friend, if we return back to Canto I. In the previous Canto, Dante encounters a hill which is also clothed in the sun and is, thus, a hint of Mary. Here, it is worth comparing why it was that the image or reference to Mary was made in the hill of Canto I so “covertly”. Indeed, why did not a Marian apparition or a statue of Mary or mention of Mary suffice to symbolize the path towards God, but, instead, a hill was made to infer to her? I would suggest that this hints at the Comedy being a poem about consciousness. Any presence of the verticality of Mary in the first half of Canto I must be made in “terrestrial” terms for direct intellectual understanding of how Mary leads all men to Christ was not yet attained by pre-Virgil Dante. Indeed, the idea of a terrestrial formation pointing towards the Sun is the “primitive” or “pre-intellectual” conception of who Mary is. For Mary is the culmination of nature pointing towards the divine. Thus, only after Virgil has attended to Dante do we see any reference to Mary being received on an intellectual level rather than simply being felt in the yearning of nature to reach upward. The hill as the Marian expression of the whole world groaning for a saviour cannot be understated. The whole course of human history playing out as Fall in the Garden, the barren wastelands, and then the yearning upwards at the Marian hill cannot be denied as some animating natural force reaching towards its creator. Let us be even more courageous and bring upon the correspondence with the words of the wise man:

The Blessed Virgin is therefore virgin Nature, virgin soul, and virgin spirit since the dawn of the world, united and manifesting in a human person—Mary, daughter of Joachim and Anne. The Virgin Mary is therefore at one and the same time a human person and a cosmic entity: Wisdom (CHOKMAH חכמה Sophia Σοφία Sapientia) according to Solomon […] The dialogue between the Archangel Gabriel and Mary at the Annunciation has therefore, outside of human and Angelic significance, a cosmic significance. It was in the name of the divine Holy Trinity that the Archangel announced the Incarnation to come and it was in the name of the threefold holy virgin Nature – Mother, Daughter, and Holy Soul—that Mary gave the response which was the turning point of the history of the history of the world: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord: let it be done to me according to your word” – Luke I, 38). It was natura naturans and non-fallen natura naturata which gave their reply at the same time that Mary pronounced these words. The eternal dialogue between creative will and executive will—where divine fire becomes light, where light becomes movement, and where movement becomes form—was projected in time and concentrated in the dialogue between the Archangel and Mary! (Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, Letter XX, 1984, pp. 582-583).

The wise man and Solomon are not alone in identifying the significance of Wisdom working in the world. Mystics have understood this for centuries from Saint Hildegard of Bingen who had said that Sophia is she who “quicken[s] the world”3 to the great devotion of the Orthodox churches to Hagia Sophia. Thus, this is the soul of nature untouched by the Fall and it is in Mary that she finds expression, manifestation, and incarnation. Thus, the primitive understanding of Mary as the hill is consonant with this primal natural force as it reaches towards the divine. The intellectual realization of Mary as the celestial person is only accomplished after Dante engages Virgil-Intellect.

More than this, however, how much more precise of a correlation can we have when we see this “dialogue between creative will and executive will” than with the flow of aid coming to Dante? The turning point of mankind was reached through Mary’s fiat just as Dante’s turning point is now addressed through this same process. “Divine fire becomes light” is the love of the Celestial Mary conscripting the light of Saint Lucy. “Light becomes movement” is the swiftness by which Beatrice descended from her seat to Virgil at the behest of Lucy’s illuminations. “Movement becomes form” culminates in the recruitment of Virgil and the undertaking of this trek through the world of forms in Hell. The correspondence is undeniable. While writers such as the wise man catalogue these truths, it is for an artist like Dante to incarnate it in the body of beauty.

[Some Interlude Questions and then Adam presents a report on Dante’s fears in undergoing the journey for the group I continue on from where he leaves off after I ask the group to examine what is causing Dante’s fear and introducing the presence of the “Superman”]

For now, it is important to say that Dante’s appeal to Virgil’s reason and wisdom and his fear of the madness of the trek is the beginning of the step of his inversion of the Fall narrative where doubt turns into disobedience. The essence of the disobedience of Adam and Eve was in the usurpation of God’s direct guidance of their lives and gaze with that of their ego. It was the prideful wish of deciding for themselves what is good and evil. For Dante, he takes the converse route. Already knowledgeable of good and evil through the fall, he succumbs to the injustice of the pendulum swinging in the other extreme: he asserts the unworthiness of his ego. He wishes for Virgil to judge him; but not with any peace in Virgil’s objectivity and wisdom, but as confirmation of what he believes is his own unworthiness. It is here, too, that we can finally see the very root of why the Genesis narrative and that of Dante differ. The very essence of this difference is found in the faith that the serpent attacks. For the man of pre-fall, the enemy attacks faith in God. In Post-fall, the serpent attacks faith in man. For, indeed, if one looks upon any disruption of faith in the modern world, it is rooted in doubt in man’s own spiritual nature. Better yet, it is the doubt that he is made in the image and likeness of God. Throughout time, the enemy of faith has always attacked only one single person: the LOGOS. For it is in Christ where the fullness of divinity and the fullness of humanity reside.

Thus, the serpent attacks faith by attacking the two natures of Jesus Christ: man and God.

Now, Adam, we didn’t find any serpents in Canto II, did we?

Perhaps it would be apt to ask here where the serpent is present in Dante’s narrative since it seems to be a missing element from this parallel with the Fall in Paradise. If we take the model that it is rebellion of two different kinds when faced with Adam-Eve and Dante: one being an attack on divinity and the other an attack on humanity, this may have implications on the presence of the serpent. If Canto II is the humanist analogue of rebellion against the divine instigated by the serpent, then what is the humanist analogue of the serpent? If one follows the rebellious relationship of serpent-God on a divine level, then what would fit into _____-Man on the human level? If we take the serpent to be Satan, the “old serpent”1, then the antagonist against the faith in man must be an entity who has the same derivative relationship as Satan has to God. Satan, once Lucifer, was one of God’s greatest servants who rebelled out of envy.2 Thus, the antagonist to man in this case would be a man-made creation meant to serve him.

I’d like to ask the group in general if they have any hypotheses on as to what this entity is—aside from Matteo of course since he and I have already shared this together. Imagine us like detectives attempting to find the culprit. Does anyone have any suggestions? And please be wrong.

My Friends, I hypothesize that this is filled by the role of the Antichrist. I must appeal again to one wiser than I for an explanation of how this is appropriate:

Antichrist, the ideal of biological and historical evolution without grace, is not an individual or entity created by God, but rather the egregore or phantom generated through the biological and historical evolution opened up by the serpent, who is the author and master of the biological and historical evolution that science studies and teaches. The antichrist is the ultimate product of this evolution without grace and not an entity created by God […] He is therefore an egregore, an artificial being who owes his existence to collective generations from below. […]

Regarding the antichrist, this is the phantom of the whole of mankind, the being engendered through the whole historical evolution of humanity. He is the “superman” who haunts the consciousness of all those who seek to elevate themselves through their own effort, without grace. He appeared to Freidrich Nietzsche and showed him “in an instant all the kingdoms of the world” which have existed, exist, and will exist, in the circle of eternal return (die ewige Wiederkehr); he invited him to cast himself down into the domain which is beyond good and evil (jenseits von Gut und Böse), and to embrace and announce the gospel of evolution, the gospel of the will-to-power (Wille zur Macht)—this, and this alone (“Gott ist tot…”, i.e. “God is dead”), transforms stone (inorganic matter) into bread (organic matter), and organic matter into animal, and animal into man, and man into superman (Ubermensch), who is beyond good and evil and who obeys only his own will (“O mein Wille, meine Notwedigkeit, du bist mein Gesetz…”). (Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, Letter VI, 1984, pp. 139, 141).

What haunts Dante now, therefore, is not the serpent that opposed God, but, analogous, his own personal serpent: the evolutionary culmination to will-to-power that has been so useful for the material rise and domination of mankind.

How much more, then, is the vitriol of the Antichrist against Our Lady for she stands in opposition to the wailings of the “Superman” that the Anti-Christ represents. She stands, not as a man but as a receptive woman who, in her receptivity, brings forth the divine. How much more of a glorious light could we need to dispel the miasma of the “Superman” than a “handmaiden” who was humble, meek, and receptive rather than proud, strong, and dominating? God demonstrated through Mary that to receive Him one must require a spiritual birth and a spiritual womb. To place the Virginal Womb at the highest point of the human mind: to receive the spiritual seed from above into the Virginal Womb of the crown, gestate this and translate this seed through the illumination of the insightful mind, and then to express and speak this Holiness through our throat. Mary, Lucy, and Beatrice, then, present Dante the opportunity for a new life based not on biological evolution, but on spiritual evolution.

1 Revelation 12:9.

2 Wisdom 2:24.

1 Romans 6:23

2 Revelation 12:10

3 Symphonia, Hildegard of Bingen, 2nd Edition, Cornell University Press, 1998, pp. 101.

 

New Year’s Dante Resolution

New Year’s Dante Resolution

I haven’t been posting much since I’ve been continuing to work on my Dante book that I’ve mentioned before and have resolved to work on it until the end of March at the very least. Although I’ll still find time to blog, I will be focusing a lot more time on the meditations and writing. I wanted to share a little bit of my musings on the first chapter. It’s only a first draft so it’s still rather rough but I’ve been very pleased with the results so far. If anyone wishes to discuss or join me in any study of Dante feel free to contact me. Admittedly it will lose some of its impact without an introduction as the introduction would also serve to reiterate how amateur I am at Dante studies and how I do not wish to assume some mantle that is beyond me, but I hope that my tiny little contributions might be helpful to someone who wishes to better understand The Sublime Poet’s greatest work.


Canto I: The Dark Wood

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,

ché la diritta via era smarrita.

In the middle of the journey of our life

I came to myself within a dark wood

where the straight way was lost.

Dear Friend,

I think that if there is one thing that marks the state of the modern world, it is “dissolution.” We have never really felt more divided than we do in this modern age whether it’s between races, religions, spouses, ideologies, our families or even our own psyches. Any attempt at universality is met with resistance—any semblance of unity is construed as control. And yet there is this yearning deep within mankind to feel united to each other. How often do we lighten just a little when we receive the empathy and resonance that another human soul brings? For Dante, his medieval world was constantly in search of “unity.” But this was not the unity of “commonality” or the “lowest common denominator.” It was not a subtractive unity, but an additive one; it was the harmony of all hierarchies and levels—a symbol which will perpetuate in the very architecture of his poem. Nonetheless, the very first brick of this massive structural message is found in the ownership he takes as representative of man: “in the middle of the journey of our life,” he says.

In this statement, Dante advances the claim that the universe deals in the mode of macrocosm and microcosm: that reality is a series of concentric circles. To understand Dante—to understand man in his journey—is to understand mankind and its journey and vice versa. Just as his concentric rings of his landscape will demonstrate the same shape but in different sizes. Dante, therefore, begins his poem with one of the most ancient and primary of insights: the second item of the Emerald Tablet which states: “quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius,”1 or, as Isaac Newton translated it: “that which is below is like that which is above and that which is above is like that which is below.” His drama, therefore, is all of man’s. The drama of one man is a miniature of the drama of all of reality and an ability to understand our journey is also an expansion of consciousness to be able to understand all life. This connection of macrocosm and microcosm is immediately apparent in the fact that while Dante uses “nostra,” he immediately follows it up with “mi ritrovai per una selva oscura.”; he follows it with “mi”. He shows that his poetic consciousness flows from the communal and superindividual to the individual; from the universe to his person; from the universal to the particular. Thus, he incarnates the universal into himself like the LOGOS in His universality incarnates into the particular of the Christ. Appropriately, after the first two lines establish the “above” and the “below,” the third line establishes the “left” and the “right” for “the straight way” that had been lost is a horizontal dimension. It denotes the spiritual movement attested to in salvation history by the era of the Holy Spirit. After the concentration of the universal into the particular, this particular spread out once again to the universal on the horizontal plane. In other words, from LOGOS to the Incarnation and then through the subsequent Evangelization inspired by the Holy Spirit of the Universe; the universal Church. Thus, in the very first three lines of his poem, Dante begins as all prayers do: from the top, to the bottom, and then from left to right: “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.”

Paul Piehler once commented that, “in allegory, as Foster Provost has noted, each fragmentary image contains or implies the total cosmos in potential form.”2 Thus, the whole genre of allegory, of which the Commedia is the preeminent example, can be thought of as an exercise in microcosm and macrocosm. As I mentioned in the introduction, no formal academic “proof” of this assertion is given. Instead, Dante relies strictly on the compelling power of intuiting beauty and harmony. His “art” will be his proof. Dante’s mysticism shines so brightly that the preoccupation with finding academic proofs may be detrimental to the assimilation and intuition of the “meaning” of the work. In other words, the academic world is replete with G. H. Hardy’s rigour but it requires the intuition of a Ramanujan to be “best friends” with the terza rima of the Commedia.

Thus, Dante begins his work with the implicit understanding that truth is to be intuited rather than proved a mode which he adopts by not saying anything of it at all. Like the LOGOS coming in the form of a babe on a Silent Night so that He can be understood intimately and intuitively, so, too, does Dante deploy his Art as the personal teacher which does not seek to illuminate through dialectic or Socratic discourse, but through humanity, personality, and love. Thus, Dante does not skip over the first item of the Emerald Tablet: “Verum, sine mendacio, certum et verissimum.” “Tis true without error, certain and most true.” In other words, the truth will be revealed and the mode of this revelation with Dante shall be the emanation of the sacred into the world; it will be, as Mircea Eliade would put it, a “hierophany,” such that the truth of it will be accepted in the very encounter itself.

Having established the universality of person, Dante also sets about his temporal dimension in similarly universal tones. While many excellent footnotes would reveal that “halfway” through Dante’s life would put his age at thirty five, his qualitative rather than quantitative vocabulary asks the reader to examine this “halfway” point through the dimension of depth. After all, what does it mean when the action occurs in media res? For Dante, this is beckoning to a reading of depth is indicative of “polar” thinking since depth is associated with the vertical dimension. “Polar” thinking can also be thought of as “Axial” thinking and it is this image of an Axis or Pole around which the world turns which can be thought of as a “turning point.” This “turning point” is, thus, another image of the “midway” point. These two ideas support each other although in a kind of freeform structure. Dante’s implicit request to read with “depth” or “polar thinking” rather than “discrete numbers” or “horizontal thinking” creates a trajectory for the reader to follow. Simultaneously, temporally setting his age at the halfway point also creates a “turning point.” These two trajectories follow each other and point towards the same thing and through this movement support each other at the higher level—in other words, like a free standing arch. Thus, through the column and curve of personality on one side and the temporal turning point of universal history on the other, Dante opens his poem by beckoning the reader to enter through the arch of his poetic cathedral.

1 Tabula Smaragdina

2 “The Rehabilitation of Prophecy: On Dante’s Three Beasts,” Paul Piehler, Florilegium vol. 7 (1985), pp. 186

The Lost Rites of Friendship

The Lost Rites of Friendship

I was recently made aware that a movie featuring Le Petit Prince was streaming recently and my sister and I have been eager to watch it together. Perhaps it was destiny that Le Petit Prince, written by poet and aristocrat Antoine, count of Saint-Exupéry, was the first piece of literature ever read to me as a child. I can still remember my aunt crying as she went from chapter to chapter while I prepared for bed. I asked her why she was crying and she told me not to worry and that she was just tired. As a child, the impact was obviously not as great as it could have been, but as I grew older, I became more and more aware of the significance of this little novella about love, friendship, loss, and the important things in life.

There were several chapters that stayed with me deeply buried in the living garden of my heart and its lessons only now began to unfold themselves like a rose blooming to release its fragrance. One such lesson was the one taught in my favourite encounter when The Little Prince meets with the Fox. It is difficult to quote the passage for, if taken in pieces, it loses some of the tenderness which is at the heart of the qualitative difference between teaching and mentoring; between knowing someone’s name and dancing with them. Indeed, Le Petit Prince should be experienced in its organic totality.

Nonetheless, for those of us who have been blessed with the eyes of The Divine Child so that we may see the importance of the invisible and for those of us who have already been baptized by the tears of lonely sand dunes and twinklings stars and have lived to see older age, we can now look back and embrace certain lessons that may have been lost in the intervening years. For in the interaction between The Little Prince and the Fox, there can be found the archetype of mature, adult friendships.

As with most things obscured by the smog of the modern world, there are two mirages that must be avoided when approaching Le Petit Prince. One is the most obvious: the reduction to utility. For most people, Le Petit Prince might be seen as an exercise in childhood “fantasy.” It might be seen as “irrelevant” and “saccharine.” People might look at it and see nothing but things to grow out of—something, ironically, which the novella itself addresses. The cynic snickers at it as some artifact of childhood to be isolated in the museum of useless things.

Worse still are the individuals who claim to have grown out of it, but, in reality, have not matured at all. They simply look back and see it as “useless entertainment” to be replaced by Skyrim for some or television shows for others. In other words, “childhood” in general is reduced by the immature mind to simply the playground of “entertainment.” Just as modern people have lost all understanding of “meal” and replaced it with “fast food” or “instagram food,”i so, too, have modern people lost all understanding that “childhood” was not simply the bedrock of “fun” but that this “fun” was the foundation to build upon so that the child may rise to consider higher things. One can see this most evidently in the way in which “fairy tales” are no longer treated as allegorical lessons to increase the character of a child, but as “delightful” and “family friendly” tools of distraction that parents deploy to make themselves feel better for not providing a transcendent experience for their domestic church. Divorcing the vertical element from the horizontal element is certainly a major current in the way most people look at the novella.

The other mirage is the dissolution embraced by those who purport to “love” such “carefree feelings.” Many moderns who rebel against the rigid and confining environment of their calculated existence look at the novella almost like a “revolutionary” icon. They see things like Le Petit Prince as defiantly nostalgic; defiantly anti-bourgeois; and defiantly bohemian. They see it as a means to escape from what they consider to be a slavish reality. To them, the novella is like a manifesto against the bourgeois world and its demands of productivity and literality. Yet, they, too, fall into the kind of condescending utility that the first mirage offers. Instead of learning from the words, they simply agree to the “feeling” of freedom it provides. It is like those fools that think of Saint Francis as the first tree-hugging hippie. Indeed, the cult of utility once again rears its ugly head for the novella is, for them, not a teaching experience in itself, but is used by individuals to achieve their own ends and agendas.

Dismissal and Dialectic, therefore, become the two poles of the modern world when faced with Le Petit Prince. If one keeps in mind these two tendencies and dispels the miasma from one’s eyes, then one can be ready to return to The Little Prince and the Fox as they guide the reader through an experience of Friendship.

I have decided to focus on this instance and topic in particular because, I believe, it is one of the most profound lessons of the novella which has been missed not just by the modern population at large, but, specifically, by those who purport to have achieved some level of spiritual maturity.

Many individuals that I know—especially Catholics—pride themselves in being able to live “virtuous” lives. They go to mass, they say their prayers. They understand the ritual of religion as something important to live both outwardly and inwardly. They understand that meal time is sacred. They look at marriage as a participation in the divine life. They cross themselves in all humility and they are content to live in the fullness of truth. I also know many non-Catholics who pride themselves in their quest for the mature masculinity. They engage in risk; they uphold their honour; they go forth in courage; and they avoid vice.

And yet, why do so many of these individuals treat friendship in the same disorganized and chaotic fashion as the moderns they so wish to dissociate from? They go about friendships promiscuously, superficially, and expect the friendship to grow “organically.” They do not direct friendships like a gardener tending to his garden and instead expect only “fun” and “entertainment” or “shared interest” to define what it means to be friends. Even those who purport to be friends on spiritual terms seek out only common external goals: going to mass together, discussing Evola together, etc. If one merely replaces these activities and topics with “rallies” and “Marx” then one can see why there is no qualitative difference between “traditional” friendships and “modern” ones. The difference is only topical.

However, “depth” as a barrier to true friendship is the most obvious to most people. Indeed, many of these individuals I speak about above are already keenly aware of their lack of depth. It is neglecting the second force, alongside depth, that constitutes the major failure of most individuals I know vis-à-vis friendship: rhythm.

Rhythm is experienced in many levels in the human person; and it is its combination with depth that constitutes the basis of any real bond. At the most basic level, it is indicated in the beauty of the sexual act. The depth of penetration and the rhythm inherent in this basic form of union is obvious enough. Higher is the process of the digestive system which unites the food to the body through depositing it deep in the human organism and rhythmically guiding it along the digestive tract. Higher still is the depth of the heart which is special in its definitive association with depth and rhythm. It is here that we associate our sense of “love” as it sits at what we experience as our “core” or deepest part of ourselves while its rhythmic beating is “life.” Finally, it is the head that is also aided by depth and rhythm as its association with the lungs assimilates the invisible world into ourselves.

Any healthy organism, therefore, benefits from both depth and rhythm. On a vertical plane, this is one reason why the spiritual organism benefits from the depth and rhythm of prayer, meditation, frequent reception of the sacraments, etc. We engage in spiritual procreation; spiritual digestion; spiritual circulation; and spiritual respiration. Our prayers go up to heaven like venous blood and blessings return as arterial bloodii. This becomes real in the rituals of the Church which are the “same” in a series of cycles and yet can be plumbed for greater and greater depth.

This, too, is the lesson of The Little Prince and the Fox: that friendship requires the same combination of rhythm and depth.

“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”iii

The Fox indicates rightly that they have no need for each other; that true friendship transcends the initial utilitarianism of the modern world. After all, how many times have we known individuals who make friends merely based on what that friend can do for them? Would we not deny that as being true friendship? The Fox also notes how uniqueness is not something obvious in each individual, but it is discovered and cultivated through an encounter. In other words, uniqueness is only achieved through the depth of getting to know the other person—in “taming” them. The Little Prince asked, “what does that mean–‘tame’?” to which the Fox replies: “‘it is an act too often neglected,’ said the fox. ‘It means to establish ties.’”iv

This depth becomes superabundant if properly attended to. It reaches out to colour the entire world in which the lover and loved one lives.

“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . .”v

How much more could I add to such a beautiful image? Is it not obvious to the reader that true depth in friendship will also make fears (the footsteps) joys? Is it not obvious that it will make the useless (wheat) pregnant with happiness? Perhaps subtler is the idea that monotony will turn into euphoria for what could be more monotonous than the sun rising on another work day and yet, for the Fox, that golden colour is now clothed in radiance. Is this not the paradox of love? Did this not find its most paradoxical expression on the beautiful ugliness of the cross? Of the lifegiving death of the condemnation of an innocent man? Of the victory in defeat?

So then how can one approach this depth? It begins with silence.

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me–like that–in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . .”vi

Indeed, silence has been the method for depth for a long time. One need only look at monasteries and ashrams to experience the truth of this. Bishop Massimo Camisasca had this to say about silence:

Silence is an opportunity to perceive the work of God operating in the depths. If there is no silence, we would perceive only the surface, the crust of this work. Without silence, everything becomes journalism, a newspaper story. Silence is of course prayer, so long as we do not understand prayer as a pious practice, but as a living awareness of being generated, of being made here and now, and thus also as a request for being…vii

In other words, not only is silence the gateway to “depth”, but that “depth” here is now properly defined. Any real depth is to find the divine operating in the other person. That which forms proper friendship is that resonance between the imago Dei of the self and in the Other. In other words, it is the Encounter of the Incarnation!

Camisasca continues by saying:

The realization that God has chosen to meet me where I am through something human implies a great responsibility on my part. Loving actual persons is an adventure that never ends. There never comes a time in my responsibility as a brother, a father, or a friend when I can say “well, now we’re OK, we have solved all our problems, now we can relax.” Every person is a living reality: some day a new aspect of his personality will come to light, and it will be our task to welcome it responsibly.

A mature belonging to the company in which we live out our vocation requires this type of obedience: obedience to the other as he is, moment by moment. We acquire this capacity to love the other gradually, through trials, difficulties, and exhilarating discoveries. For this reason, a responsible friendship requires patience, it requires the ability to accept and accompany the other.”viii

Depth, therefore, is to break through the surface of superficiality and adhere to the realized divine within. It is the realization that friendship is an Encounter with the Incarnation and becoming loyal to that association. It requires Faith because Faith is that which seeks the divine in the invisible and keeps one loyal to it. Faith is what allows us to keep friendships by recognizing that which is deeper than the superficiality of utility on the “crust.” Faith and obedience, therefore, achieve depth because they penetrate the external and visible.

Following silence towards Depth, however, can be daunting. One can understand this intuitively when one examines what it means to try and meditate in silence. One not only disables one’s own voice, but attempts to put away all distractions—put away the voices of one’s mind and all other external stimuli. Concentrating, therefore, also entails a “forgetting” of other things in order to focus on what is essential. It is an act of Preference. One prefers silence to speaking. One prefers concentrating to undifferentiated stimuli. One prefers one’s friends over others. This is the obedience Camisasca speaks of and it is this that the Fox means when he mentions how there shall be “uniqueness” between him and The Little Prince.

Now, as I mentioned before, most people are quite promiscuous in how they deal with friendships. To them, there is a reticence to create a hierarchy of preference among friends. There is a hesitance in concentrating on those preferences as if one offends the others through exclusion. However, this should not be a fear. Camisasca notes:

Preference is a school; it is a way in which God teaches us himself through particular proximities. The principal aim of preference, therefore, is openness to being, not closure to it. The goal of preference is to teach us the value of everything through a particular example that is affectively interesting for us. It is a method, because, if I were equally interested in everything, I would end up adhering to nothing; if all persons had the same significance for me, I would be equally distant from all of them, and I would end up not getting involved with any of them. I would try to get involved with all of them, and I would be overwhelmed. Preference is thus the method by which the Lord continually renews the freshness of our gaze upon the world. Preference is therefore not an invitation to exclusion, but a form of education.ix

Thus, that which affects us the most should be adhered to preferentially and fearlessly for the supernatural order of the universe is proximity, hierarchy, and locality in this regard. Silence, therefore, is a way to focus in on that preference and contemplate it similar to the slowly growing peripheral vision of the Fox and The Little Prince. After all, God chose the people of Israel. He chose Mary. He chose the Apostles. It is another exercise in the paradoxical superrationality of God when preference is not the same as exclusion. The reward for this concentration is depth and the reward for depth is all of the hundredfold rewards the Fox speaks of.

As for Rhythm, it is something the Fox begins to mention when he says to The Little Prince that he must come by every day. However, when the The Little Prince returns, the Fox corrects him gently:

“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . .”

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.

“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all.” x

Rhythm, therefore, is that same adherence as Depth, but instead of proximity and the physical dimension, it is that of the temporal dimension. It is the ordering of time and seasons and the creation of a calendar. It is the hierarchy of time and experience which gives steady rise to rhythm. It is the assurance of expectation; it is the integrity of the lover. It is the fidelity of the lover to the relationship, yes, but it goes even further than that. The Fox mentions that this fidelity brings about joy in him. Thus, it is qualitatively different than the experience of faith in the knowledge of something deeper: it is the experience of the certainty of something to come. Rhythm, therefore, is Hope in the virtuous sense! For, after all, hope in tiny things such as “I hope Matteo speaks to me today” is merely a “wish.” Yet Hope is a certainty. This is what the fidelity of time creates: a certainty of that joy and reward.

This Rhythm, however, is not monotonous either. This is what the Fox meant when he says how The Little Prince should “sit a little closer” to him “every day.” The relationship advances every time it is refreshed. Indeed, part of the resistance many individuals have towards rhythm is this fear of monotony. But this fear betrays an underlying presupposition about relationships that is unhealthy: it supposes that relationships are static quantities—that the depth is finite and can only be repeated. One could liken it to a “closed loop.” I bring up this image because a wise man once spoke about such loops and their relationship to Rhythm:

In a world which is a closed circle, whose matter and energy are a constant quantity, there are no miracles. […] A miracle takes place when the energy of the world undergoes either an increase or a diminution. This presupposes an opening in the circle of the world. For a miracle to be possible, the world must be an open circle, the world must be a spiral, i.e. it must have an “uncreated” sphere or a “sabbath” […]

The “good news” of religion is that the world is not a closed circle, that it is not an eternal prison, that it has an exit and an entrance. There is an entrance, which is why Christmas is a joyous festival. There is an exit, which is why Ascension is a festival. And that the world can be transformed, such as it is, into such as it was before the Fall—this is the “good news” of the festival of festivals, the festival of the Resurrection.xi

In other words, Rhythm alone would provide nothing but a closed loop; but when combined with the “advancement” achieved by being obedient to Depth, one increases with every cycle. The friendship spirals outward more and more as Faith and Hope work together. It fills up the entirety of existence and becomes “festive.”

And yet how often do friendships even among those who claim to be “good” friends ever achieve this level of rhythm? How little effort is placed in setting and keeping times to engage in depth with each other? How many times have there been excuses on as to why one cannot be available? How often do people rely simply on the “organic” way in which friendships are acquired—through chance occurrence or willy-nilly invitations to conversations or, the worst possible type: depending on one’s “mood”? How often do people mistake their own visceral urges to disengage as “choices” clad in excuses. How many times has no one in a relationship attempted to advance in depth or rhythm because “that’s just how my personality is” or through feeling “exhausted”? How many times is that excuse echoed in all of the neuroses and impotences of modern, sedentary youth? Worse yet, how many times has someone attempted to advance the relationship and yet have been met with an absent or shallow partner? Instead, the loner is valourized. The introvert is made popular. The one who tries to gain dominion is made the villain. The extrovert is made the intruder. The anti-socialite is our new anti-hero. And yet are these introverts and hermits in the desert contemplating for the sake of the rest of us? No, more often than not they are merely awash in the dissolution of undifferentiated experiences and unable to adhere to any preference like glue dissolving in water.

The sad truth is that, especially among so called “men” who consider themselves differentiated, they desecrate the Sabbath of Friendship. They do not offer rites or sacrifices on the altar of relationships at any regular interval and, instead, like Protestants, rely on the orgiastic, swooning exhilaration of promiscuous associations. Or, like atheists, refuse to adhere to the regularity of ritual until they’re in dire need from spiritual hunger. It is true, therefore, what the Fox says that these rites are so often “neglected.” We should not be surprised, therefore, that people, despite the insane level of interaction afforded to us by the modern world, are lonelier than ever…

It was so appropriate that the author of Le Petit Prince chose to close his tale with an image of a star above the desert. For we have all been that aviator who crashed into the desert of modernity. We have all been guilty of burying the Rites in the sand. And yet, by some miracle, some of us have been visited. A star shone on us. Some of us have been taught what it is that depth and rhythm produce; through depth, which is faith, and rhythm, which is hope. For these two together always produce the true bonds of Friendship. Which is why the third term always follows. Depth and Rhythm and Friendship achieved is the virtuous life of Faith, Hope, and Love.


i c.f. My previous post on “being useless.”

ii c.f. Meditations on the Tarot, Letter VII: The Chariot.

iii Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Chapter XXI.

iv Ibid.

v Ibid.

vi Ibid.

vii The Challenge of Fatherhood, Massimo Camisasca, pp. 51.

viii Ibid. pp. 51-52.

ix Ibid. pp. 81.

x Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Chapter XXI.

xi Meditations on the Tarot, pp. 243.

The Necessity of the “Butlerian Jihad”

The Necessity of the “Butlerian Jihad”

It’s not unfair to say that modern man has an obsession with machines. This fixation is many times both celebrated as the “progress” of humanity forward and sometimes lampooned as the “instagram generation.” There are plenty of individuals who praise the connectivity of social media while there are those who decry how dehumanizing and reductive it can be. Indeed, it is this new, intimate connection between “society” and “technology” that has given rise to these emergent properties as “social media” and “technocracy” just to name a few.

On the surface, one can notice that there is a kind of hesitation and wariness on the part of some people vis-à-vis these developments. The allure of technological ease has, as its spectre constantly in the background, the fear that we have entered some kind of Faustian exchange. That, perhaps, unbeknownst to most users, something of greater value was given away for this massive boost in social power. But is this true? And even if it is; is some kind of Luddite foolishness the solution?

I mentioned in my previous post that the gun is a weapon of “cunning” in the same vein as that of the cunning of the serpent. It is not a coincidence that the mass-produced gun, which is a product of man’s technological advancement, shares the same parentage with social media and computers which are also siblings in the family of “progress.” If this is true, should we not be able to see the ancestral, “spiritual” DNA of the serpent—his “cunning”—in these new forms of technology as well?

Again, as I pointed out in my previous post, the root of the “cunning” of the serpent is that he promised not that those who ate of the forbidden fruit would be gods, but that they would be like gods. In essence, that they would not be transubstantiated into the divine, but that they would be imitations of the divine. As a wise man once put it, “to be cunning is to mime wisdom, after having eliminated the essential—its light—and then to make use of it for one’s own ends.”i Is this not happening on a societal level vis-à-vis “social media”? The examples of this are legion, but let us focus on one in particular.

“Conversation” has often been identified by even modern people as a “lost art” in the burgeoning world of the “digital age.”ii But what is this “art of conversation”? In my own experience, it seems as if most modern people, when thinking of conversation, refer only to the kind of entertainment that they receive from various “points of interest” with other individuals. People talk about their “favourite” things whether it’s the latest episode of Game of Thrones or which politician of the day is “cucked.”iii In essence, the predominant modality of modern conversation is superficiality—shallowness. There is no real “depth.” People are speaking, but they are not having “conversations.” When people speak about the “art of conversation”, it’s as if they mistake the entertainment of The Avengers for the art of Kanon D-dur.

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This is most obvious in the world of social media which is involved in various “causes” and “ideals.” It is a world where people can be “seen” to be idealistic (how many French-filtered Facebook profile pictures are we going to see in light of Nice now?) without ever having to undergo an interior change or achieving external action. Social media is definitely a facet of the “world of the serpent”iv where sheer mass and digital sentimentality is treated, unsurprisingly, like the fiat currency of the modern world. “It has meaning because we all believe it does.”v Again, this is the “cunning” of the serpent which deals in artificiality.

Furthermore, most of the time, neither individual in a dialogue is changed from conversations aided by technology. One can see how entrenched most individuals on forums or imageboards are in their own world views.vi Nothing new ever comes from their conversations with others. The conversations are barren and sterile. There are even times when I have had talks with individuals who merely leave ten minutes later thinking that they have achieved a “conversation.”

There is a real connection between superficiality and sterility. The arcanum of the sexual act, for example, demonstrates this reality by homology. In order to achieve conception, “depth” in physical terms, must be accomplished through the marriage of man and wife. It is only then that a new life takes hold and the human organism perpetuates. However, in the mode of modern conversation, there is a refusal to achieve any kind of spiritual or emotional depth.

Conversation, in the modern context, is only meant to satisfy what we already know—our own essence. We ejaculate our own incomplete (read: haploid) essence without achieving any depth and we do so with the aid of other individuals who merely stroke our egos. This sterility, mutual pleasuring, and lack of any new change in the person—or elevation of their consciousness—is the hallmark of modern conversations as masturbatory. It is no wonder, then, that the usage of the internet for pornography as an enabling factor for this habit is also the preferred mode by which the conversational orgy is perpetuated on social media. It is also no wonder that the modern world, which so woefully misunderstands and misuses the art of the sexual act, treats conversation with such selfish objectivisation.

This promiscuity of modern technological “connection” is also indicative of the other current of modernity which was inherited from the “world of the serpent”: the confusing of quantity for quality. The worth of endeavors and individuals is often tied with how many views a YouTube video gets, how many friends one has, how many votes one receives in an election, how much money one is paid, how many points someone scores in a football match etc. Similarly, in conversations, it is often a litany of how many “celebrities” one has encountered, or how many “interesting” people one knows. The number and weight is given priority and it is this world of quantity that the techno-economic machine is obsessed with. It is this “paradise” of bourgeois life that is so often sought after through the use of the “technological miracle.” Thus, social media—the online society—is like a real society, but it can never be one. The modern technologically miraculous bourgeois society achieves something like peace and justice, but it has neither in reality.

But is it totally the fault of the machine? Just as I mentioned in my previous post that the gun is morally neutral, so is the computer. This is why Frank Herbert—the mystical Saint John of Science Fiction—once wrote through the words of Leto II Atreides: “’the target of the Jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines,’ Leto said. ‘Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary serfdom out of which we make living judgments. Naturally, the machines were destroyed.’”vii

In other words, the quest for artificial intelligence—the forbidden fruit—has, as its sin, not just the acquisition of the consciousness for the machine (playing God), but humanity’s propensity to abdicate his own “necessary serfdom” to lesser things. The sin of artificial intelligence is not that it will happen through elevating machines to our consciousness, but through creating a society and individual so mechanized and materialistic that he is indistinguishable from machine. The sin is not that we are trying to teach machines how to create art and music, but that humans do stupid and inane things such as assign notes to digits of pi and pretend it is “beautiful” to listen to. The sin is not that we are trying to teach machines emotions, but that we scroll through videos of clickbait on our feeds looking for our next emotional fix.

The Turing Test for the modern age indicates, horrifically, not how far machines have advanced, but how shallow and empty humanity is becoming. The almost Lovecraftian horror of artificial intelligence is not when we have created other beings, but that we are already in a process of lowering the bar to the level of amoral unconsciousness.

The horror deepens when one realizes that it is this process of “downward” standards that is the modus operandi of modernity. Like I had pointed out in my previous post about homosexuality, the admittance of “gay marriage” as equivalent to “traditional marriage” is often argued on the basis on how debauched, materialistic, and insecure “traditional marriage” has become. Thus, the question of artificial intelligence is another signpost; a glaring signal of the way in which the mechanized world functions by demanding that ideal forms be polluted by “realities” on the ground; it demands that a third of the stars be cast down with it.

Thankfully, Artificial Intelligence, for the contemplative man, can serve like the grotesques and gargoyles that decorate medieval churches. Artificial Intelligence is the pinnacle of “cunning” since it once again represents the “miming” of wisdom, the “elimination of the essential” humanity or the “light”, and the “use of it for one’s own ends” which reminds us of the cult of utilitarianism which is often invoked when speaking of synthetic organisms.

The creation of an artificial brain is the pinnacle of the cult of evolution. After all, isn’t one way in which artificial intelligence is thought to come about is in the way “machines can make better machines”? In other words, that “progress” and “agency” is taken from the human and given to something which can achieve these functions exponentially faster? Needless to say that wiser individuals have treated the question of evolution and the brain better than I could ever put forth hereviii, but even such Christian Hermeticists had not conceived that modernity had found a way to double down on the idolatry of “progress” by elevating the “synthetic” brain of artificial, disembodied intelligence.

So where does this leave the contemplative man? He is alienated from the world of quantity and artificiality and, at the same time, if he is born in this age—unless he becomes a hermit—he is not afforded the extreme asceticism of being detached from the world. The solution, therefore, is the same in which Moses dealt with the serpents in the desert: crucifixion.ix By crucifying the worldly (and, thus, horizontal) propensity of science with the vertical orientation of the spirit, one creates the sign of the cross.x In other words, when one adds depth (verticality) to the possibilities (horizontality) of technology, one can achieve immunity for anyone bitten by the serpent; one can be immune to the sedative properties of modern technology.

Of course, to achieve such a state is a long and difficult path, but it suffices for now to be made aware of the journey and the dangers presently. This is why the Orange Catholic Bible is adamant when it says: “thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of man’s mind”xi and why the Butlerian Jihad should be internalized as our own process of refusing to abdicate or lower ourselves to the level of machines.xii It is interesting to note that the Reverend Mother Mohiam believes that the line should have been written as “thou shalt not make a machine to counterfeit a human mind,”xiii which only further indicates Herbert’s own understanding that such a thing as artificial intelligence is of “the world of the serpent”; the world of “cunning.” We ourselves should never forget that our consciousness has a greater dimension than that of quantity, materiality, and utility—and it often requires a great interior struggle—a jihad—to realize this truth.


i Meditations on the Tarot, pp. 248.

ii http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/01/the-eavesdropper/355727/

iii God help us.

iv cf. Meditations on the Tarot, pp. 246.

v Compare this, too, with my mentioning of the “egregore” in my previous post.

vi One will notice, too, the prevalence of memes and “signaling” as a way of simply reinforcing one’s own opinions commonly shared with others.

vii God Emperor of Dune, Frank Herbert, 1981.

viii cf. Meditations on the Tarot, Letter X “Wheel of Fortune.” This section extensively, and eloquently, derives the connection between the world of evolution (the world of the serpent) and the brain as an organ of “selection” along with rather decisive and instructive exercises on how to resolve this seeming contradiction of the brain as the organ of reason and its “diabolical” origins.

ix cf. Ride the Tiger, Julius Evola, and Numbers 21:9.

x Meditations on the Tarot, pp. 219

xi Dune, Frank Herbert, 1965.

xii Compare this, too, with Evola’s mentioning of the Islamic virtue of “internal Jihad.”

xiii Dune, Frank Herbert, 1965.

Waugh, Ecstasy, and Initiation

Waugh, Ecstasy, and Initiation

Academic reviews and recommendations sometimes fall into the category of the merely bourgeois clericism of the modern world. Therefore, I have transcribed my authentic feelings in language which, I feel, better affirms Waugh’s “higher,” “sacerdotal,” station.i

I have finished my reading of Brideshead Revisited. There was a moment near the end in particular just a few hours ago during the scene where Lord Marchmain gave his “sign” after the whole buildup of the drama that struck me like a lance through my heart. I was sitting there in awe at what I had just read. The careful construction of it was like having my eyes pass along the curves of an exquisite statue, but it was more than just the appreciation for the artistry of it. It was a coup de grace like the culmination of things; like a spiritual kind of consummation.

I was in ecstasy enough that I was holding onto my chair gasping silently, holding my breath, and holding back tears that were swelling behind my eyelids. There was a perfection to be observed in those words I had just read. It wasn’t some trick; it wasn’t some kind of tactical writing that was a flowery exhibition of craft. I felt like I had listened to a heavenly choir crescendo. My heart was moved several inches higher into my throat choking me, stopping me from speaking—for silence was the only viable way to affirm it. Silence was the only voice I could return since it was through the silence of the voice that I was reading that had lifted me and held my breath captive. Waugh imprisoned me and impaled me with such precision that my spirit was bleeding to death and being raised again three gestures later.

I had to take a break from reading at that point. The act of levitation strains my physical body to such an extent that I needed to pause my reading. Breathing the Aether burned my lungs so I needed to descend back to the world for a while. Waugh captured the impact so perfectly that, for a moment, I felt like I was born back into the superworld above of pure ideals. For a moment, I glimpsed the eternity beyond. I was able to suck in the fiery air of that new life before retreating back into the amniotic fluid of my waking self. I had to tell someone of this in the night of my reading like a prophet who returned from the grave. It is difficult to describe for someone who has not undergone the initiation of reading through the chapters of the novel and trained himself in the spirituality of literature. I feel like if only one could look into my eyes and see how temporarily blinded I am by the radiance of what I had just read that they could discern the importance of this vocation.

It was not even that the novel spoke to me on a personal level. I perceived no connection to my own “personal” life. Rather, it was something beyond me like I had touched the very fabric and soul of our species—our race as human beings. I was in touch with “superindividuality.” I felt in that moment of reading that I was suddenly more human than before. I had been blessed through the mediation of Waugh’s literary priesthood to receive this sacrament. After all, the good writer, like a priest, takes the base material of the world (his letters) and, through the proper rites and words, transubstantiates the base matter into something completely divine. This is why, to the uninitiated, just like the Sacrament may seem like it remains as simple bread, a novel like Brideshead Revisited may seem like “nice prose” or some eulogy for aristocracy. No, the initiated will see greater things. There was a sudden infusion of grace as if the dimensions of my heart were widened by degrees; like I had been washed away of my sins in this moment of catharsis. I participated in that sacrament. The tears which were forced from my eyes were the physical element of my literary baptism.

I had climbed a mountain when I started reading the novel and I had reached the summit. I had reached the place where everything that rose converged. The entire mountain existed to serve that point; all the rocks and cliffs and paths were all in humble vassalage to this culminating capstone of silver and gold—of electrum shining in the sun. And the sun was indeed there, unobscured, finally, at that height, from all of the clouds. Waugh had compressed the entirety of the cosmos into a space the size of a mustard seed. He is an artist, a real genius, and a gem of the English language.


iI may choose, at a later date, to expand on my thoughts on this matter. Namely, that the academic preoccupation of many so called “traditionalists” is merely the repetition of the same modality of their “progressive” counterparts. Much like the sad co-existence of “right” and “left” as artificial distinctions being that both occupy the horizontal dimension on a political level, so, too, have many so called “traditionalists” who subscribe to various philosophical ideals make no attempt to “rise” to the level appropriate to those ideals but merely remain at the mundane dialectical level of their agnostic colleagues. I do not present myself as counterexample to such a tendency as uninitiated as I am, but I at least hope that my attempts at crystallization is a step towards that harmony of art and action that resides in the higher castes. May God make me worthy of it, Deus Vult.

Busy with Dante

dante_alighieri_quebec_03

I’ve been spending most of my writing energies on writing about Dante recently. I’ve taken up the ambitious and perhaps foolhardy project of putting down my various interpretations of the cantos. I’ve decided to share a tiny excerpt of something I’ve written about Canto I which was partly inspired by my reading of Guenon’s notes on the Commedia. This is, of course, a very rough draft. My editor friends constantly tell me that the point is to just keep writing and worry about fixing things later, so I’ve taken that to heart. Excerpt follows:

The context of Dante’s awakening in space and time is also important to note. He makes mention that it is “midway” through the journey of “our lives” rather than explicitly stating a number of years. While a seemingly minor detail, it can be understood in the light of the preference of proportion rather than discretion. Instead of having a discrete and countable number, Dante places his temporal location as a perfect half. In this tiny detail, Dante is signaling that his concept of time and history is not the historiographical, literal, or even scientific conceptions that might preoccupy historians or biographers, but places timing in the context of eternity. It is not at the service of precision, but of “meaning.” In other words, the actual age he assigns himself is not as important as the significance of the timing: the central point of his life. A “turning point” like this is reminiscent of the folk riddle of “how far can you walk into a forest,” with the answer being “halfway before you start moving out of it.” This theme of a “turning point” can also be reworded as “Axial” thinking or “Polar” thinking. This concept of centrality, polarity, and axis is yet another theme introduced in the very first few words of the poem as subtle as a diamond shimmering on a sunny ocean wave. The reinforcement and crystallization of this tiny seed that he plants will be made clear to the patient reader who continues on, but it is sufficient for now to demonstrate the density of planting Dante is accomplishing in the first few lines of his foundational earth.

This vegetable imagery can be taken further when one examines that it is a Dark Wood that Dante finds himself awake in. He could have chosen a desert or a wasteland to represent the area of being lost in the world, yet he chose a forest which obscures the light above. The obvious luminary reference aside, the choice of a specifically vegetable beginning can be understood, in one sense among many, to be an explanation of the nature of “error”—of being lost itself. Dante is demonstrating that the semi-conscious wanderings of man are not due to a complete desolation, but rather, as a state of disorder of what had been the gifts of life. By analogy, if one examines the various “seeds” of ideas that Dante has planted in his first few lines and follows these ideas as they grow throughout the cantos, one finds an ordered and ascending development. Standing in opposite would be ideas or movements that would grow without order, without poetry, or without control. As such, these ideas would grow analogous to a “dark wood” where there is no order or dominion placed. This is, probably, an intentional contrast to the initial charge to the first parent to tend to the Garden1 considering the various other parallels to Genesis. Thus, Dante’s original sin is surprisingly similar to that of Adam: the loss of “consciousness” that is perhaps allegorically depicted in the separation of Adam and Eve which allowed Eve to be seduced by the serpent. In other words: an abdication of the virtuous, higher, and dominating aspect of the human person and the allowance of the violation of boundaries much like the indiscriminate growth of an unchecked forest. Thus, not only does Dante demonstrate through his vegetable imagery the true nature of error as that which is “good” gone out of control, but that this inability for man to hold dominion and cultivate these chthonic ideas planted in his lower self lead to a kind of fall reminiscent of the “Original.”

1Genesis II, 15