Catholic Q&A: “The Lost Coin: Round 1”

Catholic Q&A: “The Lost Coin: Round 1”

I had a lovely time answering questions about the Catholic faith . I hope this has been helpful to all those walking this road with us !

I (who lean esoteric-or try to) was joined on the panel by my good friends Chris (who leans exoteric) , Tim (who is like a “holy fool” for me) , and Kevin (who is quite a regular rank and file Irish-American Catholic) . Those asking questions today were Adam , Duncan , Kathleen , Ryan , and John who wrote in a question for us . You can find the video below:

Vocatio Episode 1 Dante Presentation Notes

Vocatio Episode 1 Dante Presentation Notes

As promised, I wanted to upload the presentation notes that I read during the first Episode of Vocatio. Most of these notes are meant for voice formatting so a lot of my references are not included. If anyone wishes to know where certain things are cited from feel free to leave a comment and I’ll answer individual questions.


 

Notes for Dante and the Path of Initiation Presentation (Voice Format)

These are mostly excerpts from a series of essays I’ve been writing and compiling on the Comedy

PART I: Fourfold Reading of the Comedy

The venerable poet T. S. Eliot once said, “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them. There is no third.” He wasn’t alone in praise for “il Sommo Poeta” nor are his accomplishments merely the object of adoration amongst artists. This is just some of what Pope Benedict XV, for example, wrote of Dante in his encyclical IN PRAECLARA SUMMORUM :

Among the many celebrated geniuses of whom the Catholic faith can boast who have left undying fruits in literature and art especially, besides other fields of learning, and to whom civilization and religion are ever in debt, highest stands the name of Dante Alighieri

Dante ranged himself as disciple of that Prince of the school so distinguished for angelic temper of intellect, Saint Thomas Aquinas. From him he gained nearly all his philosophical and theological knowledge, and while he did not neglect any branch of human learning, at the same time he drank deeply at the founts of Sacred Scripture and the Fathers. Thus he learned almost all that could be known in his time, and nourished specially by Christian knowledge, it was on that field of religion he drew when he set himself to treat in verse of things so vast and deep.

So why is it that we do not hear much of Dante at all especially in the English speaking world? The problem one encounters is in treating the Comedy as just another piece of literature. Indeed, Guido di Giorgio said this of trying to read the Comedy:

The purely exterior literary merits that common men, the profanum vulgus [unholy rabble], admire in Dante have no importance and would nullify the value of the Comedy in the very eyes of Dante and of those who can and know how to understand the purpose for which the poem was composed.

It would be necessary to feel ashamed to still speak of, and only of, “art”, “poetry”, “brilliant construction”, in the modern sense of the word when one alludes to Dante’s work which is only and eminently sacred in spirit and structure,

This description can be most easily intuited when one watches tourists who visit the ancient churches in their denim shorts and smart phones. They feel themselves to have been edified by the immensity and grandness of the architecture, craftsmanship, and time it took to build the construction but they, ultimately, are unchanged by the experience. For them, there is no sacred element living in the rock, only the genius of men. Even academics who merely admire these churches for these same reasons albeit at a higher and more technically superiour level, are guilty of the same. There is no transformation of consciousness but merely an expansion of their horizontal sensibilities. Similarly, with the Comedy, it is not understood, for the most part, as a sacred exercise but as merely, at best, the highest expression of Western poetry.

The process of reading Dante can be a daunting enterprise and is certainly something which I profess little real mastery over. However, in good faith, I’d like to present a small sample of what little findings I have. I have chosen to attempt to follow Rene Guenon’s advice when he pointed to the 9th Canto of the Inferno where Dante says—and you’ll excuse me if I butcher the Old Italian: “O voi che’avete gl’intelleti sani, Mirate la dottrina che s’asconde Sotto il velame delli versi strani!” or to put it in John Ciardi’s translation: “Men of sound intellect and probity, weigh with good understanding what lies hidden behind the veil of my strange allegory!” Guenon goes on to say:

With these words, Dante points in a most explicit way to the hidden (or doctrinal, properly speaking) significance of his work, a work whose external and apparent meaning is only a veil; a significance that must be sought for those who would fathom it. Elsewhere the poet goes still further, stating that all writings, not only sacred ones, can be understood—and must be explicated—principally according to four levels of meaning. It is evidence, moreover that these diverse meanings cannot in any way contradict or oppose each other, but must on the contrary complete each other, harmonizing the parts within the whole as constituent elements of a unique synthesis. The difficulty begins only when it comes to determining these different meanings, especially the highest or the most profound, and it is here that different points of view naturally arise among commentators. They all agree on a literal sense in poetic narrative, and generally agree in recognizing a philosophical (or, rather, philosophical-theological) meaning, as well as a political and social one; however, counting the literal sense, this makes only three, and Dante advises us to look for a fourth meaning. For us, it can only be a strictly initiatic sense, metaphysical in its essence, though not of a purely metaphysical order, are nonetheless esoteric in character. It is precisely owing to its esoteric character that this profounder level of meaning has escaped most commentators. Yet if one ignores it (or perhaps fails to recognize it) the other levels of meaning can only be partially understood; for this esoteric or intrinsic sense stands to the others as their principle—within which their multiplicity is coordinated and unified. (Esoterism of Dante)

In short, what we are dealing with when looking at the Divine Comedy is not simply a literary masterpiece, but a very window to the depths of the worlds beyond in all of the meanings of that phrase. This level of consciousness towards what literature and even reading can be is rarely practiced nor do I present today to show anyone “the way” but recognizing our own insufficiency and inadequacy in the task, should we accept it, is the first step in raising our awareness in total; for it is this awakening into the dangers of our automatic and overgrown world that Dante begins his poem.

PART II: The Beginnings of the Spiritual Journey

Let us examine some ways in which initiation becomes a theme in Dante. I have chosen to focus on the theme of initiation as the journey of the soul to salvation and the increasing and spiraling degrees of consciousness that this journey brings. Obviously, this tiny, amateur presentation could not hope to exhaust even a small fraction of how this plays out in the Comedy, so it will be fruitful to simply focus on Dante’s journey ab initio. Dante begins his journey waking up in a Dark Wood where he had lost, through inebriation or sleep, the straight path. Interestingly, he says that it is midway through the journey of “our” lives; a key so vital to understanding the whole of his poem.

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. Dante, therefore, begins his poem with one of the most ancient and primary of insights which makes an appearance in 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 just as Dante’s concentric rings of his landscape will demonstrate the same shape but in different sizes. 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 spreads 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.”

Thus, the first three lines of the poem already initiate us: already baptize us into a new level of literary consciousness. Some of you here may already know in greater depth the possible meanings of the Dark Wood so you will forgive me if I simply gloss over most of it for the sake of the brevity of this presentation. We must suffer through saying that the dark wood is symbolic of the stifling overgrowth of undisciplined life. The memory of this wood gives Dante great pain to remember as he writes in lines 7-9. Just as Guenon said, the various layers find harmony and do not contradict each other. This principle is also present in how the theme of initiation and macrocosm/microcosm is not confined to the content of the poetry but can be found in the architecture of the poem itself so one must ask themselves why Dante decides at this point to “break the fourth wall” to tell us of the pains to write of the journey.

He is now speaking as Dante-Author. He mentions how despite how unpleasant it is to walk the path of writing the poem, he will do so “to give account of the good which I found there.” In other words, Dante the Author creates this tale—this reality and it is a bitter one due to the foolishness of his main character who is made in his image and yet he does not abandon the narrative. The bitterness of entering into the narrative does not deter him, for the sake of the good that will come. He could have chosen to forego the painful moments or to wipe away the sting of sin that weighs him down, but he chose, instead, to include everything from start to finish, one might even say, out of compassion for all humanity who may benefit from reading his poem.

This glimpse at the author is not coincidental or superfluous. Instead, Dante the Author demonstrates that even he is not outside the principles of macrocosm/microcosm. For Dante is pointing that every author is also a microcosm of the Divine Author for he has placed himself into the very heart of the drama that he created! And how much more appropriate that Dante proceeds, out of love, to complete the regeneration of the broken and bitter beginning! Thus, even Dante’s “meta-narrative” does not fall outside the laws of order and reality. His very existence as a writer rhymes with the existence of the Supreme Author who, in the fullness of the poetry of time, re-enters his creation in order to bring his image and likeness to salvation.

Escaping the woods, Dante finds himself upon a glorious little hill that points towards the sun, but only after having passed through a “valley” which could be just as easily be a “vale of tears.” However, the significance of such a small detail as the insertion of a valley should not be overlooked. Dante contains in microcosm even in these first lines the macrocosm of his entire work. After all, where else is the image of a negative space—a valley—is then proceeded by a positive, upward space and then the eye following that upward orientation towards the circular divine source above? Indeed, the whole poem in its three spatial dimensions of negative, positive, and superpositive are encapsulated in kernel by the first Canto showing again that each tiny step circulates and expands. In other words, the same pattern is repeated but the degree “increases” creating the infinite grandeur of a spiral—a spatial movement which Dante the pilgrim follows as he spirals downwards towards the center of Hell and spirals upwards towards the top of Purgatory. Thus, in the beginning, he shows the smallest of these cycles of valley, hill, and star before proceeding to the larger cycle of the pit of Hell, the mountain of Purgatory, and the Astral plane and beyond of Paradise. This law of the spiral is sabbatical. It is the repetition of a pattern but with degrees increasing in size reaching out towards infinity and the significance of this principle will be clear as it continues to be revisited throughout the poem. This is also the natural point at which one can see the spiral of Dante’s rhyming pattern of terza rima. This pattern which is ABA, BCB, CDC, DED etc is the linguistic practice of “spiraling” outward as it encapsulates within repeating movements the form of the next cycle. Dante’s poem, therefore, is essentially the song of the freedom of the soul as the spiral indicates a direction which is unbounded by a closed formation; it represents gradual and continual growth outward.

In his terza rima it is like each rhyme gives birth to the next rhyme. In ABA BCB CDC DED etc, one can see the succeeding generations as if the next rhyme is in gestation within the protective womb of the preceding rhyme. Thus, Dante’s poem is a living organism and points always to personhood and the development and growth of the self which is part of the reason why the Commedia can be seen as a series of spiritual exercises meant to gradually awaken the human being. This spiraling or infinite fecundity is also part of his initial prayer: for what else could be more fecund and generative than the creative power of the Trinity?

But what of Dante’s choice to use his native Italian? Does this, too, like his choice of rhyme, have a purpose? How can one understand the usage of such a local language for something as universal as the salvation of man’s soul? The birthing imagery is perhaps instructive here along with the already established movement of Dante entering his own work. Indeed, why would Dante choose to write in any other language than the local one for is this not the mode that God chose himself? God descended from the Eternal and Universal and decided to be born as a particular: a particular man in a particular time in a particular nation—the nation of Israel. He spoke a particular language and from that particularity he reached out to the infinite once again. God concentrated from eternity to particular in order to spread his love gradually—person to person—spiraling outward from himself. So, too, does Dante concentrate the Eternal truths of religion and the Christian faith into the particularity of his own journey and his own language; he is merely following God’s example. He is following the example of the cross which descends from the unitive universality of the Father to the particularity in love of the Son and spreads out from that point from man to man by the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles. His poetry both in its language and rhyme follow the path of salvation history just as much as the content of his lines.

After all, what is the geometry of the hill? Is it not also the marriage of the point of verticality and horizontality? Is it not just another image of the cross? For look at the hill and one finds that the top descends to the bottom and then the bottom spreads outward like the universality of Catholicity on the horizontal or mundane level. Then, it is the task of the Church to raise all of these horizontal elements upward to converge back to the starting point. Following these dimensions of line and circle and then back to the point where the line originated forms a cone—the very sign of the hill! The very sign of the mountain!

Unfortunately for Dante at the foot of this hill, however, his rapid and frantic climb leads him to face a Leopard, Lion, and She-wolf which bar his path and force him to run back down the hill. I will beg the indulgence of the Audience if we skip any reading of what these rich symbols of the hill and animals represent as we focus more on another initiative step for the Pilgrim as he descends into a place where “the sun is silent” and encounters Virgil whom he can see is “hoarse from being silent for so long.” The pilgrim soul is now able to see the dead and hear in silence.

First, it is necessary to look upon the figure of Virgil as essential in beginning to understand these strange lines. Again, to commit the crime of vulgar reduction, we shall for now accept the uncouth summary that Virgil is representative of human intellect. He guides Dante expertly through Hell, then participates in the climb of Purgatory, before leaving him to be guided by Beatrice, the very embodiment Revelation and spirituality in Dante’s cosmos. This pattern has been observed as a universal law of spiritual growth by a wise man when he wrote:

the individual soul begins initially with the experience of the separation and opposition of the spiritual and intellectual elements within it, then advances to—or resigns itself to—parallelism, i.e. a kind of “peaceful coexistence” of those two elements with in it. Subsequently, it arrives at cooperation between spirituality and intellectuality which, proving to be frutiful, eventually becomes the complete fusion of these two elements in a third element […] The beginning of this final stage is announced by the fact that logic becomes transformed from formal logic (i.e. general and abstract logic)–passing through the intermediary stage of “organic logic”–into moral logic (i.e. material and essential logic) […] Moral logic, in contrast to formal logic and organic logic, operates with values instead of notions of grammar, mathematics, or biological functions. (Meditations on the Tarot)

Interestingly, just as he will be growing in his journey beyond the opposition of intellect and spirit towards cooperation and then union, so was Dante’s state before starting this process the inverse. On the climb up the hill and meeting the beasts, he was demonstrating the opposition of ignorance and death for it is ignorance which is the inverse of the intellect and death as the opposite of spirituality. Death struggles against ignorance in striking fear into Dante which stops him from rising higher whereas ignorance of the dangers of the beasts may have kept him moving forward. Death and ignorance cooperated in parallel in the desert as it set his entire spiritual life empty and barren such as in moralism. Lastly, death and ignorance were in complete synthesis in “sleep” which is the opposite of the philosopher’s stone. It is the point at which all intellect and all spirituality are suspended. Thus, following Dante’s journey from negative to positive, the introduction of Virgil is also a carefully coordinated step from the inversion of spiritual growth to the beginning of something authentic.

With this in mind, we can return to viewing the encounter with Virgil. It is here that one could say that Dante truly has his first “supernatural” experience. For while big cats and she-wolves truly exist as natural phenomenon (though I was told that the “leopard” Dante had in mind is now extinct), Virgil is long dead by Dante’s time. Thus, Dante is signaling that we have truly entered into the Eternal world; into the world of idea-beings. This is the world of ideals translated into poetic form. This is why Dante takes such great pains to signal to the reader to pay attention to the “silent” senses for it is no longer in the bodily senses that we shall be making this journey, but in the spiritual senses. Just as how Dante signals that the “sun” can “speak,” so, too, can Virgil’s “hoarseness” be “seen.” We can be assured that this is indeed the world of values—the morally logical world for, as was pointed out before, it is values that “moral logic” is concerned with. It is the method of discernment that is beyond the quantitative—it now becomes qualitative sensing. Thus, it is the qualities of Virgil that Dante is first able to see. It cannot be understated how this basic understanding of sense-phenomena in the Eternal World is essential for understanding all of Dante’s journey for every creature from here on will always display in bodily form their interior value. Dante’s great genius, then, is to “translate” the language of the invisible into the visible. It is to “incarnate” the idea-beings of the superworld so that we may touch, hear, smell, see, and even taste them! Indeed, even the word translated as the “weak voice” is “fioco which in itself is used both to mean something insubstantial in sound as well as in vision such as in the case of a ghost approaching. Thus, the word itself is a complete melding of Dante’s theme—it is the synthesis and union of the two. While different critics are content to remain in the formal debate of whether it is a visual or auditory expression, Dante’s purpose is to demonstrate the viability—nay the necessity—of paradox. He synthesizes the two in hypostasis like the paradox of the invisible God made visible in the flesh. It is Dante who is proclaiming so comprehensively: VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST.

Dante’s artistic genius is in the way he can make such horizontally constricted elements—such as words—invoke the fullness of verticality. Just as Bernini centuries later mastered the art of transforming marble into the supple delicacy of skin, Dante transmutes an entire cosmos out of basic words. Just as Dante’s hill reminds the reader of the union of the opposite dimensions in the cross, so, too, does Dante’s “translational” and “transmutive” art extol the symbols of uniting the horizontal with the vertical. For it is even in the cross that formal logic might see the death and weakness of God, but moral logic sees the victory of love. So, too, is Dante’s gaze upon Virgil steeped in the request by the Author to view the entirety of the work with the eyes of value and to thus practice the union of intellectuality and spirituality.

1 Tabula Smaragdina

Francis the Fool: Contemplating the Sign of the Two Popes

Francis the Fool: Contemplating the Sign of the Two Popes

On the occasion of a new friend having entered into the Catholic Church this past Christmas and in gratitude to another new friend who has been like a nagging little brother to me, I wanted to compose this little letter to my aforementioned new brother in faith. While this is addressed to him, I have told him of my intention to publish it here for the sake of anyone else of good will and who is not already in the rigid electric chair of polemics or sclerotic death throes of ideology.

Dear Brother,

While most of the attention surrounding the Papacy is usually focused on the ways in which Pope Francis is steering the Church, it is almost an afterthought that, for the first time in centuries, we have a case of a Pope who has renounced the Seat of Saint Peter. For individuals at the time of the renunciation, including myself, at first it was a big shock. For many Catholics at the time, Benedict was the standard bearer of a more “reverent” Church. After all, wasn’t that what Catholics—at least in America and in “traditional” circles around the world—were clamouring for? Wasn’t a stricter, more “conservative” Church part of the hopes and dreams of the New Evangelization in the face of modern secularism?

For some or perhaps many, this dream was shattered. Instead, Francis is looked upon with suspicion and dismay. “Where did the Holy Spirit go wrong?” almost seems like it could have been on the lips of “radical traditionalists” around the world. “We already had a good Pope… why did it have to change?” Indeed, “why” is a good question. Naturally, a lot of these concerns and urges stem from a terrible misunderstanding of how the Church operates in the world. If Catholic men are looking for action in the world, then they must do it for the Church like a son, who, seeing his father killed by brigands, should not hide behind his mother’s skirt and complain that mummy isn’t doing anything to protect him but fights the men himself so that his mother can live. I shall not go into it again since I have already written at length about it before. Nevertheless, if we, for now, dispense with the concerns of individuals who are merely looking for someone to do their fighting for them, we are still left with a kind of miasma about how to approach looking at Francis and the Papacy presently.

Should we give in to pessimism? Is this simply our lot to have a Papacy that is surrounded by vicious and malignant polities and men in the secular world, and, thus, like a captive princess, must demurely endure the ignominy of being forced to watch what she says while the cowards do nothing to liberate her? Naturally, the Aristocratic minded should already have their own activities for attempting to liberate the Church, but in the meanwhile and concurrently, is there something to be gained or understood from the Papacy as it is now?

If one approaches Francis, dear brother, with a heart open to what he might represent, what can we say are his best qualities? Perhaps it is “spirituality”? Perhaps it is “love”? His genuine caring for individuals is palpable, even to the most cynical. And as for Benedict, we already love him for his intense intellectuality. So many find these two currents to be in great opposition in the Church today. This is noteworthy, since this is precisely the beginnings of spiritual development:

This means to say that the individual soul begins initially with the experience of the separation and opposition of the spiritual and intellectual elements within it, then advances to—or resigns itself to—parallelism, i.e. a kind of “peaceful coexistence” of these two elements within it. Subsequently it arrives at cooperation between spirituality and intellectuality which, proving to be fruitful, eventually becomes the complete fusion of these two elements in a third element […] The beginning of this final stage is announced by the fact that logic becomes transformed from formal logic (i.e. general and abstract logic)–passing through the intermediary stage of “organic logic”–into moral logic (i.e. material and essential logic). […]

Moral logic, in contrast to formal logic and organic logic, operates with values instead of notions of grammar, mathematics, or biological functions […]

Moral logic, as we have stated, is the logic of the head and heart united. (Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey Into Christian Hermeticism, Letter XXI: The Fool).

Thus, dear brother, what an opportunity we have in this modern age: to work within ourselves to achieve the understanding of uniting Francis and Benedict. If we do this, we would be able to participate in the great work of uniting intellectuality and spirituality. Indeed, we need only look as far as St. Ignatius of Loyola—one of the greatest saints venerated in the Church—to see a sign of the real fruits of unity between intellectuality and spirituality regardless of how the vulgar masses and so called intellectuals ignore his Order! For how much stronger of a Catholic faith can we have if we resolve the seeming contradiction and achieve the marriage of these opposites: to unite the horizontal hospitality of Francis with the whole world with the vertical isolation of Benedict. To unite the warm and natural spirituality of Francis which is like his horizontally open arms with the great stalwart uprightness of Benedict. This works in converse as well, for what great fruit can be attained from uniting Benedict’s clarity, with the depth of Francis? Thus, uniting the two, intuiting the two, and meditating on how these two are present in the world today form a meditation on the cross for it is their horizontalities and their verticalities that form the axes.

Indeed, we must move past the initial stage of setting these two against each other and embrace them for who they are. For what complaints, really, do people have against Francis, for example? Is it that he teaches heresy or lives like a debauched Pope of old? Absolutely not. Was he illegally elected? No. Indeed, the Supreme Pontiff is one of the last legitimately appointed supreme offices left on the planet! Unlike presidents or token monarchs who have no Emperor to legitimize their reigns, Catholics cannot assail Francis’s selection without being in a state of rebellion. Is it just that he is not “wise to the world”? Indeed, many complain that his teachings of love and generosity are not compliant with the “necessary” rhetoric of power and control. They expect an inquisitor to save the Church! You could almost hear the foolish complaints I have written about before: “God forbid, Lord, that your body [The Church] should suffer mutilation and death.” Obviously, the only answer to such complaints is “vade retro me Satana.”

It is no wonder, perhaps, that the discourse on the movement from simply formal logic to a higher, moral, logic based on quality is found in the meditation on the Arcanum “The Fool” for it is exactly what people accuse Francis of being. Yet, what beauty to be able to proclaim mercy in a time of hardness! Like Don Quixote, Francis is accused of tilting against windmills, but a wise man said of Don Quixote and “The Fool”:

One can meet you often in historically difficult situations […] where hearts have become hardened and heads have become obstinate. It is you… it is your voice which resounded more loudly than the beating of drums around the guillotine, one day in the month of Thermidor or Fructidor in the year II or III (of the French Republican calendar), with a cry from the top of the scaffolding, “Long live the King!” before your chopped-off head rolled to the ground. It is you also who, in the presence of the jubilant revolutionary populace, tore down the wall and ripped up a red placard announcing to the people of St. Petersburg the dawn of a New Era in Russia… and who was promptly run through by the bayonets of the red guards present. It is you again who declared openly to the German military authorities of the invaded and occupied Netherlands in 1941 that Germany, by occupying the land, was infringing on the Hague Conventions that Germany herself had signed thirty years previously… (Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. Letter XXI, “The Fool”.)

And here we have Francis, whom Benedict was wise enough to step aside for and obey, who proclaims at the very center of the world: “Love your enemy!” when the masses are baying for blood! Do you think, dear brother, that when Saint Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength”, and, “for the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God” that he only meant liberals? That he only meant non-Catholics? No, how often do we keep our worldly wisdom even after we have been baptized and confirmed? Look around you and at yourself, brother, and ask if you, too, have become obstinate, cold, and hardened by intellectuality alone. For ultimately, what is the implication behind the complaints about Francis? The implication is that there is nothing to gain from him; nothing to learn. Instead, we have turned the Papacy into an ideological tool rather than a focus for anagoge and guidance. We have profaned the seat of Saint Peter by assuming it serves our agendas; whether right or left.

I heard a young man say once, “Francis makes it hard to be Catholic.” I’m sure he does. But, dear brother, we have to ask ourselves why it’s difficult. Is it because we have only achieved the most basic depth of spirituality? I wonder, dear brother, how many of the ninety-nine sheep doubted they had a Good Shepherd when he left them in the desert to go find the single lost one. And how many today grumble at Francis searching for the lost sheep and instead scream to Francis “break the sheeps’ legs, Holy Father!” See what happens when we have intellectuality and spirituality fight? Instead, we have to understand on the level of value. Something which only comes through practicing this cooperation between intellectuality and spirituality. Thus, dear brother, meditate on the cross that we must bear. Meditate on the cross of Francis and Benedict. We must be ready and willing to accept the difficulty of being “The Fool”. Embrace the difficulty of being a Catholic who transcends both right and left. I understand that you and I may have thought we have found a “home” in the “right.” But this is yet just another step on our way upwards, brother. Without dishonouring where we came from, we must also realize the limitations we have walked into and then be willing to move beyond. For some of us, we have walked the length of left and right. It is time to start ascending. May the work of uniting the Two Popes be fruitful for you as it has been for me. I look forward to speaking with you more as I move on to the next part of my journey and I am thankful to have any fellow pilgrims on the path of achieving morality.

Sincerely,

James

Advent Meditations Part III: The Inner Throne

Advent Meditations Part III: The Inner Throne

Last week, what struck me the most was the irony that many of the so-called reactionaries that I have met recently—those individuals that have a strong attachment to a benevolent, strong, and compelling overarching authority in political matters—are surprisingly democratic, anarchic, or blatantly communist. But let me backtrack.

Everyone is usually not themselves. Their true “self” or “I” has abdicated or vacated. Instead, there is a flurry of thoughts, emotions, and actions which pull their soul, spirit, and body willy nilly into automated and learned responses. But I shall be even more explicit and deliberate.

I. The Democracy of Personalities

What people think is their personality—this culmination of their various likes and dislikes or preferences in how they do things—does not stem from an act of the will, but a habituation usually engendered through external circumstances in their lives. They “tend” towards something and these tendencies push them, by a critical majority or plurality of their sensations and feelings, towards a direction. This direction is often mistaken for their “will.” This confusion of “preference” for “identity” is something I hinted at though did not really cover in my article on homosexuality, but homosexuality is obviously one such example in, perhaps, an extreme case. These tiny personalities—each representing a different agenda, fetish, or impulse—have overthrown the authority of the will and mind and established a dictatorship for the members.

Despite its obvious case in homosexual behaviour, most people of a “conservative” or “moral” disposition are just as susceptible to this internal democratic process. How often, for example, do any people weigh whether or not to get up in the morning promptly as if by committee? How often do people prefer metal bands over Korean Pop because “I just like this one better.” And if you ask people why they have certain preferences—why they can’t eat seafood or they don’t like this or that—they’ll often say “I don’t know.” Or, worse yet, “I just do/don’t.” Is there really a person in there making that decision or was it just a simple consensus of the various members of the body voting? The head was no longer involved, it was just the most energized lobby of the body that gets their way. Whether it’s the gonads threatening extreme discomfort if they are not allowed stimulation or the stomach allying itself with the lobby of the lazy limbs who are afraid of pain to convince the body to take on more cheesecake, it isn’t the “self” creating the agenda or guiding the direction, but the members.

And so the body continues without understanding who it really is. Like a de-racinated nation that simply relies on its political system to maintain its economy and stability in society, nothing special occurs in the automated man. He merely persists. It is ironic, therefore, that many reactionaries overlook this essential nation—the nation of their own members. They pine for an Emperor or at least a strong man at the helm and yet they allow their actions to be maintained by the surging, populist energy of their members. How often do individuals simply do things because they’re “in the mood?” Is not abdicating to that mode not the very essence of a populist candidate winning over the members? Indeed, many people desire a higher consciousness and a higher awareness in their body politics and yet have not made any effort to increase their own consciousness and their own awareness. When people speak of “higher states of consciousness” it is not some abstract idea, but a practical realization of where our “self” is.

II. The Mechanization of the Self

I had written before about the necessity of a Butlerian Jihad of an internal variety—a war against the machine-self. Plenty of individuals believe themselves to be liberated from the machine-self. They say that they are “thinkers” or people who have the “proper ideology” and therefore are immune to the collectivist mode of thinking that their leftist cousins possess. Yet inner consciousness of one’s thoughts and emotions seems to be blatantly missing despite these external advertisements.

Examples do not even have to be of an obvious morally detrimental character—in fact some things, such as habitual prayer—can become automated even if it’s a real boon. Is this not what the Teacher has advised us not to do; did He not advise us not to engage in vain repetition? It is the abdication of the will and the mechanization of prayer—the profanation of it through unconsciousness—that is the sin associated here. It’s obvious, after all, if I teach a parrot to say the Our Father that it would not be prayer. Yet, how much of this mechanization takes over our very lives? How often do we rely on our instinctual responses, reactions, attitudes towards other people, things, or ourselves?

How often does something happen and, immediately, we feel as if we were slighted? Is not the message that comes to our mind that says, “they don’t respect me” something we have lived with for so long that it has become habitually listened to? The automated response, as a friend of mine would say, is like that of a computer—creating behavioral algorithms that follow a set programming. Hence, this is why I wrote in my previous article on the machine-self how it is not that we shall create artificial intelligence, but that human actions and thoughts will be so automatic that it will be indistinguishable from machines.

Emotions, too, become programmed into us instead of decided upon. How often, for example, when we are told a different opinion from one that we gave do we immediately feel threatened and must defend our position even if the other person might be right? In fact, how often are we so convinced that we are right? Indeed, “deciding” is made ex post facto, it is never made about whether or not the emotion we feel at all is necessary. The machine reacts for us and the throne of our self is left empty occupied instead by something inhuman; something programmed. Because only a human can react organically to a given situation, person, or ourselves. Only a human can discern what is proper for that situation and if those feelings are necessary no matter how valid they might be. Is it not in the best tales of old that we see kings who are able to discern between the various courses of actions with temperance and wisdom?

III. The Inner Court

The abdication of the self was something I was visualizing in this past week as an interior court where the young prince who was supposed to ascend to the throne has neglected his duties. Instead, he lets his learned advisors run the realm. In any given situation that a man encounters, his immediate judgments about the person and situation are supplied to him by his learned interior advisors. “That man is suspicious,” one might say. “That woman is absolutely hot,” another might say. They compel the body-nation to take certain steps. “Say something in this situation to make us look better,” commands one advisor. “Don’t disagree with him,” says another. “We need to make ourselves look smarter than the others,” another will say. All automatic and mostly unconscious. We just say, “well it’s just my personality to be this gregarious,” or, “I just like to be alone.”

The young prince relies on this because they tell him, “how can you ever run this nation? You haven’t trained for this, but throughout the life of the nation, we have. You’ve done this for so long this way there’s no reason to change. We are what we do.” Indeed, our personalities and interior advisors have learned from past experiences how to deal with situations and patterns that we see. And yet, do we discern them? Do we act as a King should and listen but not immediately follow the advice of something we may or may not really be able to trust?

The Inner Court, therefore, must have the returns of its King. The true “self.” Discovering this true self is an arduous journey of maturity. It is the “self” that lies beyond the shadows of desire and looks upon the nation of his body and the community of nations around him of persons with wisdom, mercy, respect, etc. He embodies the virtues and he decides whether or not these impulsive ideas, thoughts, or emotions should be enacted in his kingdom. Yet this technique of invoking the higher self is greatly missing especially as there is a foolish misunderstanding that the “strong” self is the real self or the “intelligent” self is the real self. These are usurpers. I have often seen very intelligent individuals who retain great impulsiveness and disquiet but believe that because they are intelligent that this makes them immune from decay.

As for myself, this past week, as part of Advent Meditations, I have continued to practice the discernment of the Kingly self. He sits on the Inner Throne and allows the various thoughts and impulses to bring their cases and petitions to him. He then decides from a place of wisdom; hearing multiple advisors to see if perhaps there are multiple ways to look at a situation or person. He feels at peace because he knows that he is not subject to the impulses and desires. He can listen to them and decide for himself what action to take.

Wisdom is necessary because many of the impulses which come with wicked thoughts are perhaps simply misguided. An erotic desire, for example, is actually a plea for power which is in turn is actually for the sake of being seen as powerful so as to seek the respect of other men and, thus, not to be left alone. The “wisdom” of the King allows him to follow these long lines of motivations to their ultimate, golden core which can be addressed in healthy and productive ways rather than in the learned ways of past actions. Thus, the King applies justice with mercy. He recognizes the gold within the shadows and draws them out. He transmutes the base to the noble. He makes noblemen out of brigands. This is the alchemical task of the King and his power and it is the primary task of every man who wishes to assume an interior Aristocracy. If any man wishes a nation to be ruled gloriously by a King or benevolent patriarch, he must start with his his own person.

“Alternative Right” Viewed from the Right

“Alternative Right” Viewed from the Right

Instead of couching the subject, I’ll be very direct. I have yet to see anything redeeming about the so called “Altright.” At best, it is a general milieu where some, though quite rare, individuals exist which have a certain predisposition to look with a transcendent eye at political events and systems. Rarer still are finding individuals who live out such ideals with any degree of élan awesome enough to be compelling. Perhaps it’s not surprising, since if such individuals still existed, they would not dare to be involved in such an amorphous and disorganized phantom.

However, most people see it as the only viable ark left. In a modern world which has no will to escape from its bourgeois or collectivist solidity, alternatives are a must—an escape is a must. The world offers, for the most part, two options of centrist or leftist policies—there is no third. To many people, a more reactionary mindset becomes the only breathing room left. But is this choice truly a different one?

The insidious nature of modernity, is that it often sets up two false poles; opposites by which it generates shocking electricity with the underlying and unconsciously cynical reality that the two opposites are not so different at all. Instead, the shock paralyzes those caught between the poles. This is most obviously seen between the choices of liberals and conservatives in most modern states which, if they are not already colluding, represent only stone-throw distances from each other. Furthermore, while the spectator is busy in the circus of right and left, he is never left to ask whether or not the contest is necessary or just at all.

Does the “Altright” fall into this same category? If it was something truly “alternative” wouldn’t it present a fundamentally different essence than its liberal or centrist counterparts? I can already hear the various objections if one were to make any sort of challenge to what the “Altright” is. “These are strawman arguments,” some might say simply because the “Altright” has no defined orthodoxy. It makes itself invincible to criticism because it shrugs off any attack on its various members as not the true essence of what the “Altright” represents. Ironically, it is this amorphous defense that is indicative of its shared pedigree with its other modern counterparts.

Any true recall to order requires organization. Organization does not simply mean the efficient rearranging of materials and elements in order to properly “function”–no, this would be “mechanization.” This kind of “mechanization” is what plenty of people see in the leftist ideologies of today. The true essence of “organization” is found in the word itself—in organs—in something living. If we projected the “Altright” phenomenon into a living thing, what would it be? It has no true head—but rather several heads talking and vying for influence with each other. It promiscuously allows any form of rebellion into itself in an attempt to destroy the present, corrupt system. In essence, a vast swell of people who are tired of the slavery of the bourgeois machine have summoned a monster to fight it. It has even come to the point where the inane, puerile, and destructive use of memes is not only defended, but celebrated as “chaos magic.”i

This point vis-à-vis the methods the movement employs is key. I have spoken before about the difference between learning how to use a gun and learning how to use a sword, but I bring it up again because the willingness of the “Altright” to use the same destructive disrespect that its counterparts employ is a sign that, in essence, it holds no interior superiority. It only simulates superiority rather than being actually superior. The movement’s use of “dank memes” is as vulgar as an adult responding to a child’s profanity with more profanity. The celebration of “chaos magic” as effective is the same revelry behind the utility of the nuclear bomb. It is ignoble and betrays just how low class the movement is if it encourages the cunning of “efficient” methods of destruction rather than the nobility of respectable warfare. It is the same mistake ISIS fighters make when they blow up churches and temples.

Because in the end, what is the underlying fundamental principle of memes? “Nothing is sacred.” This attack on sanctity, this attack on the soul for the purpose of deconstruction and laughter is the grandfather of memetic attacks. Whether or not the targets of these attacks are deserving of them or not is not the point; the point is that the man degrades himself by resorting to or defending such actions. It is not whether or not one’s enemies deserve death, but to employ cowardly and childish methods to achieve that kill is to make one’s self as dishonourable as any barbarian. It is not a question of whether or not one should fight, but the method of one’s fighting is just as important to a differentiated man. For the efficiency by which one’s fight is the trap of the machine as I’ve pointed out before; while the ferocity of hatred is the trap of the monster.

These two poles of machine and monster are just two sides of the same coin of the crisis of masculinity. In fact, these two sides are present even in individual male psyches. Jungian psychology interpreted by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette pointed this out exactly when they mapped out the four masculine archetypes: King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover complete with their polar dysfunctions.

archetypes

While the “Altright” accuses the left of being “weaklings,” they tend towards being the “tyrant.” While the “Altright” accuses western civilization of destroying itself masochistically, it sadistically points out groups or individuals to be “hated.” In fact, it is indeed in the warrior/hero dynamic that the “Altright” has its immaturity hand in hand with its cowardly liberal counterparts.

Here is the sad truth about the “Altright:” the “rediscovered” chauvinism it has adopted is simply walking the psychological line from one immature state to another. It has yet to grow up. It is only truly the individuated man that finds an exit from the closed loop of left and right. It is only the individuated man that can find the “fullness” of a political pole beyond left and right.

But doesn’t the “Altright” have at least some of the proper ideas? Does it not hold the advantage? Isn’t it better to be a sadist than a masochist? Shouldn’t we prefer the Tyrant to the weakling? Couldn’t the “Altright” be pardoned as being the lesser of two evils? Look at yourself, you are speaking like moderns do. “The lesser of two evils”? Is this not what modernity has been teaching you to do? To compromise on your ideals? This kind of lukewarm state should be spat out immediately. Unfortunately, the “Altright” movement is a bastard movement. It is what happens when the pure is intermixed with the modern milieu. It takes some of the vocabulary and temperaments of the west’s traditional past and projects it through the pollution of modernity.

“I’d rather fight with something than be inactive,” someone might object. Seeing the potential end of one’s race, for example, could mean a reaction towards nationalism. It’s an understandable reaction. After all, any animal who gets hit wishes to recoil and hit back. Unfortunately, for many individuals brought up in modernity, the “hitting back” is informed only by the methods they see in the modern world—no matter how self-destructive it is. This is what could be called a “Shadow” where a defense mechanism from one’s early development is carried on into biological adulthood. A boy, for example, who was constantly hit as a child, might flinch from an embrace or find it easier to be a bully first in order to prevent any abuse onto himself. Even if this might protect him throughout his young adult life, it no longer becomes necessary as it prevents full integration of his self as he gets older. In other words, he remains a child.

The problem with the nature of the internet and modernity is that with no proper examples of mature masculinity entering into the arena of popularity (because it would shun such a thing as childish), most man-children mistake themselves to be fully developed. They abandon any spiral upwards to engorge themselves in the ouroboros of communal euphoria. Conversely, the man who seeks the truth of the matter of political systems or societies is not swayed by the modern preference to the excitement of mass action. He is not carried away by the waves and fads of dishonourable conduct.

He will never be given the joy of plunging himself in national, social or political collectivity. He will never have the blissful experience of having shared out the weight of responsibility with the multitude, and he can never fit in at festivals—or orgies—in the sense implied in the words “we French,” “we Germans,” “we Jews,” “we Republicans,” “we Royalists,” or “we communists.” The intoxication of plunging into collectivity is not given to him. He must be sober, i.e. alone. Because the pursuit of truth through synthesis—which is peace—implies prudence, and prudence is solitude.ii

The “Altright” is just another collectivist orgy similar in pedigree to the liberal social justice hordes except it has committed the double sin of being a bastard—of polluting what would be noble and traditional values with the efficiency and utilitarianism of modern weaponry. It holds itself as the vanguard of “proper” political systems but promiscuously mixes with the demagoguery of the lower classes. It extols the virtues of courage and masculinity, but lacks the courage of training itself to live well and die well hoping, instead, for material victory.

And, ultimately, this is the promise of the “Altright”–that it can provide some kind of material victory. It is willing to achieve this at whatever moral cost. “Material Victory” – the security of “life” and “liberty” and the “pursuit of happiness” at whatever cost. This is just the same clash of the titans that has been repeated throughout the modern age. For, indeed, the “Altright” is no Olympian who has found the pure and elegant kingship of the what made civilizations of old “great.” Instead, it has as many heads and arms as Geryon—it is a Titan that people worship and hope in to destroy the machine of modernity.

Despite all of its failings, it can serve as a starting point. This amorphous cloud can serve, at least for the immature, as their first forays into a world that goes beyond the bourgeois concepts of politics so long as they avoid the trap of idolizing the titanic monster. Just as the “Shadow” might have protected the young man as he developed, but must be resolved, assimilated, and affirmed to make way for the “Golden Self,” so, too, must the true elite eventually break out of the closed circle of the Alternative Right and explore new domains. This is not an easy task and it is certainly reserved only for those individuals who are courageous enough to resist the temptation of “easy” weaponry; it is only reserved for the Warrior in his fullness and the King in his fullness.


ii Meditations on the Tarot, pp. 225.

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.