Friday, January 23, 2015

Fr. Bede Jarrett on the Communion of Saints

It seems like a strange vision of the Apocalypse to conceive that vast intercommunion of living and dead, such as this Catholic doctrine proclaims. To unite in one single body the living that follow the teaching of Christ, and that vast crowd of dead that in Heaven or in Purgatory follow for ever the Lamb, is an idea that is overwhelming in its very extent. That all these should have one common bond seems beyond the power of man to imagine and of God to invent. The dwellers over all the earth, different and even antagonistic, in language and climate and culture; and those suffering souls, bodyless, expectant of release, glad in the midst of all their woe, longing for the end of their exile; and that throng who praise God unceasingly and look down with brotherly compassion on the repentance of sinners on earth how or in what are these to be established in unity? To construct a vast empire is a perilous undertaking, which, for the most part, achieves its success only so long as there are sufficient enemies against it to give it solidarity. But here there is the far greater ideal of uniting into one whole, not only the several members of a single kingdom, but every kingdom of the world; to knit together into a perfect whole the armies of nations drawn up against each other in a far-flung battle-line; to supply a common code of communication between the fleets on every sea, and despite war and its rank fury, despite commercial competition in every form, despite racial differences, despite the conflicting aims of life, despite the very brazen portals of death, despite even the high-reaching battlements of heaven to leave no nook or cranny in all creation which could be so great or so small as to escape from the wonderful net enclosing within meshes of gold every soul in all the world.

Where shall we find this common bond? It is not in faith, for in heaven faith has passed into knowledge, and the Church has no jurisdiction beyond the grave. It is not in hope, for there can be no hope where the higher gift of possession has been obtained. It can be only in love expressed by prayer. It is, indeed, by prayer that all these are made one. This conception under which we view the world is really marvelous; it gives an entirely new outlook upon life, for we see how between heaven and earth are passing ceaselessly great streams of prayer, petitions from wearied and anxious souls rising upwards, borne along by the hands of angels, strong cries and tears from hearts in anguish that beg for courage to bear their cross or for the chalice to pass, the grateful thanks of those whose voices have been heard and their favors granted them, and those whose words are no more than a great paean of praise at the marvels wrought by the mercy and majesty of God, and a conscious acknowledgement that God is wonderful in His saints. So, too, from earth and heaven steal up to the throne of Omnipotence the prayers of sinners and saints for their dear dead: there are hands uplifted in worship, hearts afire with friendship, sufferings of mortal life gladly borne for the hastening of their loved ones' release. Nor is the intercommunion of prayer and love a mere cry of asking or thanking; there is also the gladness that comes to the soul when it is in the presence of its friends; there is, that is to say, the wonderful pleasure that springs from a silence that is more intimate than any speech. To feel in the company of the saints, to feel our oneness in Christ with all Christians, to be sure that death does not sever or part, is indeed consoling to man, whose greatest fear is the dread of loneliness.

Surely, then, it will bring courage to my heart to be certain that with me and by my side marches the following of Christ. If I stand upon a hill and overlook a city, I know that by faith I can see the angels passing up and down from earth to heaven and from heaven to earth, mounting with cries of sorrow and anguish, descending with mercy and consolation. I can see the brightness of their trailing glory, and almost hear the beating of their wings. The long rows of dreary houses, the crawling smoke, the sounds of manufacture and transit, are made alive with a new significance. They are the sounds of earth; but they awake echoes in heaven. Over all the world that is split into different languages, there is still one common tongue to every Christian. Here, then, surely I shall get to feel that there can be no real loneliness; that I am not solitary in any sense, for about me always are there prayers of the saints, whether here on earth or there in heaven. I am not left alone to fight out my battle, for there are countless hosts who watch me, interested in my welfare and applauding my efforts. There are the well-wishes of my fellows in the Christian Church who pray daily, as I pray for the whole Church. Day by day my steps have been kept from slipping through the intercession of saint and sinner, of souls I have known and loved or released, or to whom I bear an especial devotion. Not merely is there help and comfort but dignity also in the idea. I consider myself now, not as one who is of no value in life, of no consequence for my fellows, for I am, indeed, part of a vast band, and my prayers, too, have a place in this great harmonious chorus. While earth sleeps or wakes, through the busy day and the long watches of the night, this wonderful commerce goes on through the medium of endless prayer.


Source: Fr. Bede Jarrett, OP, Meditations for Layfolk (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1915), 54–55.

Our Last and Perfect Day

I want to lead you through some simple thought experiments.

First, imagine your "perfect day." Imagine that God (or if it's too hard even to imagine that God would be so kind, then you can imagine a genie instead) granted you one perfect day. Briefly go through that day.

Second, imagine your "last day" as though that day were to be the last of your life. You are not necessarily at the end of your life, old in age; instead, imagine for example that tomorrow were your last day, and after that you knew you would die. Briefly go through that day.

Now, I want you to reflect on what you imagined, and I want to suggest that if you imagined either of these days to be rosy, carefree, processing in the way you wished, or filled with recollection or consolation, where everything seems to go well, sin is avoided, good deeds done, prayer fervent, relations all well, if you even imagined that you woke up in a positive, healthy state (or did you even notice how you woke up when you imagined your days?)—I want to suggest that you actually shouldn't imagine your perfect or last day to be like this. If you equate these days with being on your "best," I will suggest that your "best" doesn't have to do with how you feel, and in fact, your "best" will be what you do in spite of how you feel.

Perhaps many of us wake up already with some sort of stress or burden—lack of sleep, or poor sleep; anxious dreams; immediate worries and plans of the day ahead barge into the mind; problems from the previous day or week creep in; stomach ache or headache. Maybe someone or something else rudely wakes you up. Maybe you sleep through your alarm, and you jolt up to realize you're late to some responsibility. Panic is your first state. Perhaps feelings of humiliation and self-loathing follow. Imagine, also, that you were given the realization that this would be the start of your last day.

Imagine that on the last day of your life, you got into the same petty arguments you normally get into; the misunderstandings that seem to occur when you least expect; the mistakes and embarrassments that always seem to return no matter what resolutions you've made and how often. Imagine people were just the way they always are—most don't care about you; perhaps they don't even extend "common" courtesies, which means they are no longer common.

Thus, we have a tendency to romanticize our perfect day and our last day. We have a tendency to think that everything will go as we hope it will go. We don't ever realize the extent to which these hopes bias even how we imagine this perfect or last day to unfold, right from our rising from bed.

But actually, we have to realize that every day is potentially our last day. And regardless of whether it ends up being our last day or not, we must treat it as though it were our last day. We must give up the romantic idealization that we'll wake up perfectly rejuvenated, with no concerns, or at least with all the feeling of preparation for the concerns and duties that face us for that day. We must give up the idea that every move we make will be elegant and graceful, that every interaction we have will go smoothly and be edifying, that every prayer will be fervent and focused and pious. We must take the day as it is given, and it is given by Providence. How I feel here and now does not form the basic constitution of my day but what I will do with it.

What I will do in spite of what I feel and what the circumstances present, against all my hopes and romantic dreams of when I think I'm doing my very best as opposed to what God believes is my very best. Here we have to realize that my very best is not what I think it to be but is realized by the grace offered me here and now in the everything-but-ideal day. My cooperation doesn't make the less-than-ideal rosy and smooth but helps me die to the expectation that my happiness depends on rosy conditions, that my life is lived best when it is lived most pleasurably, even in spiritual matters, such as fervent prayer and spiritual consolation in the heart.

Therefore, with God's grace, we must use all the vigor of our will power to embrace the present moment. This is called fidelity to grace and the grace of the present moment. This is the point of the practice of the presence of God. This is the way of the Cross, the narrow way, and the only way to happiness.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pope Benedict XV, Traditionalist Divisions, and Neo-Catholics

22. The success of every society of men, for whatever purpose it is formed, is bound up with the harmony of the members in the interests of the common cause. Hence We must devote Our earnest endeavors to appease dissension and strife, of whatever character, amongst Catholics, and to prevent new dissensions arising, so that there may be unity of ideas and of action amongst all. The enemies of God and of the Church are perfectly well aware that any internal quarrel amongst Catholics is a real victory for them. Hence it is their usual practice when they see Catholics strongly united, to endeavor by cleverly sowing the seeds of discord, to break up that union. And would that the result had not frequently justified their hopes, to the great detriment of the interests of religion! Hence, therefore, whenever legitimate authority has once given a clear command, let no one transgress that command, because it does not happen to commend itself to him; but let each one subject his own opinion to the authority of him who is his superior, and obey him as a matter of conscience. Again, let no private individual, whether in books or in the press, or in public speeches, take upon himself the position of an authoritative teacher in the Church. All know to whom the teaching authority of the Church has been given by God: he, then, possesses a perfect right to speak as he wishes and when he thinks it opportune. The duty of others is to hearken to him reverently when he speaks and to carry out what he says.

23. As regards matters in which without harm to faith or discipline—in the absence of any authoritative intervention of the Apostolic See—there is room for divergent opinions, it is clearly the right of everyone to express and defend his own opinion. But in such discussions no expressions should be used which might constitute serious breaches of charity; let each one freely defend his own opinion, but let it be done with due moderation, so that no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline.

24. It is, moreover, Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as "profane novelties of words," out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: "This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved" (Athanas. Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim "Christian is my name and Catholic my surname," only let him endeavor to be in reality what he calls himself.


Source: Pope Benedict XV, "Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum ('Appealing for Peace')," Papal Encyclical, promulgated November 1, 1914,


If only Catholics realized the truth of this Holy Father's words and lived them, perhaps so much good would be done in the conversion of souls to the full embracing of the Faith and the recognition of the importance of Sacred Tradition. My own gradual embracing of Tradition in its greater totality and integrity was gradual precisely because of my perception that I wasn't so much being evangelized as so uncomfortably pinned, like the speaker in T.S. Eliot's poem The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock:
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume? (ln. 55–61)
In other words, I had no sense that self-identified traditionalists were interacting with me out of any actual consideration for my salvation and sanctification, but instead I became a competitor in a most bizarre ideological game. It is growing parlance among (Internet) traditionalists to label quasi-traditionalists as "Neo-Catholics" or "Neo-Conservatives" (cf. Peter Miller, "A Brief Defense of Traditionalism," Seattle Catholic, December 21, 2001,; Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP, "Conservative vs. Traditional Catholicism," Latin Mass (Spring 2001),; Hilary White, "Revenge of the Neo-Cats," The Remnant Newspaper, November 23, 2011, In fact, it actually turns out that Neo-Conservative Catholics (Neo-Catholics) are actually liberal Catholics who essentially go through a subconscious intellectual battle to reconcile their dual adherence to traditionalism and modernism (especially Hegelianism, according to Fr. Ripperger). I will note off the bat that some of these treatments, such as Fr. Ripperger's, are quite considerate and thoughtful; a problematic enters in because of the easy association with a general sociological trend that as a whole seems uncharitable.

Why is this an issue for me? Because I've been hurt by their use, and I've been hurt by the division I see these identities cause, and I've seen others hurt by them as well. I've seen how they tend to foster a multitude of sins and environments of sin—occasions of calumny, mockery, indifference, group-thinking, close-mindedness, and pride. I am responding from a place of pain and a desire to make sense of my experiences, perceptions, and what this phenomenon itself reveals in its "observable" aspect, the tendencies and "taxonomic features."

As I said above, as far as sociological function goes, the term may be useful, but as is the tendency with all labels, their use can easily become obviously uncharitable and detrimental to the one promoting its use. Aside from a very brief perusal of online discussions that incorporate these labels, a glance at White's article makes the point clearly enough. Underneath her humorous pretense, the tone and overall effect transmitted by her description of the Neo-Catholic is strikingly condescending, showing no consideration for the wellbeing of the very people she describes, her own brothers and sisters in Christ. This lack of consideration is evinced through certain flippant phrases and hyperbolic descriptions that give the impression that one ought to look at a "Neo-Cat" like he were a clown or a zoo animal (I've bolded lines that particularly stand out in illustrating this tone):
  • Neo-Catholics themselves frequently become angry when it is pointed out that it is an observable fact that there are certain taxonomic features that create an identifiable classification to which a distinguishing term, "neo-Catholic" can usefully be applied. They become doubly angry when they realize that it can usefully be applied to them. (Hours of fun can be had at the after-Mass tea ticking these characteristics off one's fingers.) [...]
  • Common characteristics of neo-Catholics (often also called neo-conservative Catholics) are a fanatical devotion to a small selection of popes, often incorrectly termed "ultramontanism." This is manifested mainly in their belief that John Paul II was the greatest pope of modern times (who probably walked on water but was too modest to do it in front of anyone) and should be canonized immediately. [...]
  • They will then proceed to bore everyone in the room into a coma by reciting their lists of places where [a reverent celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass] is done. [...]
  • (Get them started on the Catholic Confessional State as a political concept and watch their heads explode. In fact, start a conversation on the Social Reign of Christ the King at the tea and cookies after a Traditional Mass. It flushes them out; they start screeching like vampires splashed with holy water, to the amusement of all.) [...]
  • They are very big on ecumenism, and love to screech at the Trads for our opposition to the Assisi fiascoes [....]
  • They will sometimes be opposed to drinking, smoking and card-playing, one of the little ways in which their underlying protestantism peeks out. This can make it easy to quickly distinguish the Neos and the Trads at a party. The former will be standing around in a little clutch cradling a warm, three-hour-old beer, earnestly discussing the pope's latest encyclical or some political thing. The latter will be off in the corner with the recently assimilated Anglicans, balancing martini glasses on their noses while reciting Greek poetry. [...]
  • Despite the objections of the Neo-Cats themselves, the phenomenon has become so recognizable that it has its very own whole Wikipedia page [since removed] which, as we know, is the sine qua non of objective affirmation. It ain't really real unless it's on Wiki.
Perhaps people get upset when they are identified with "certain taxonomic features" because the impression they receive from the ones labeling them that seems to possess no benevolent intent or constructive purpose. White never describes how the term is actually useful. We may admit it is sociologically useful under certain circumstances, but if mere factual features are being described, why should this lead to anger on the part of the one described? (Further, why should there be hyperbole and jeering even if under the pretense of humor?) Anger is a response to hurt. Hurt is a response to a perceived evil. Perhaps when another person misconstrues your views, you feel hurt by the caricature. Perhaps when another person forms a caricature of you or your beliefs and gives no sign of friendship, mutual concern, support, consideration, this action is then hurtful. I don't think this requires any stretch of empathy at all to realize how and why a person might become angry.

The hyperbole doesn't need to be addressed. It forms the caricature, and as hyperbole, it cannot claim any sort of accuracy, much less the apparently scientific-esque status of "observable fact" or "certain taxonomic features," which are just fancy ways to legitimize a value assignment on someone, based not on certain faith but matters of legitimately varying opinion, which based on my experience is usually an exercise of intellectual pride. Recall what Bl. John Henry Newman said in Sermon 10 of his Discourses to Mixed Congregations (1849), "Faith and Private Judgment":
Men were told to submit their reason to a living authority. Moreover, whatever an Apostle said, his converts were bound to believe; when they entered the Church, they entered it in order to learn. The Church was their teacher; they did not come to argue, to examine, to pick and choose, but to accept whatever was put before them. No one doubts, no one can doubt this, of those primitive times. A Christian was bound to take without doubting all that the Apostles declared to be revealed; if the Apostles spoke, he had to yield an internal assent of his mind; it would not be enough to keep silence, it would not be enough not to oppose: it was not allowable to credit in a measure; it was not allowable to doubt. No; if a convert had his own private thoughts of what was said, and only kept them to himself, if he made some secret opposition to the teaching, if he waited for further proof before he believed it, this would be a proof that he did not think the Apostles were sent from God to reveal His will; it would be a proof that he did not in any true sense believe at all. Immediate, implicit submission of the mind was, in the lifetime of the Apostles, the only, the necessary token of faith; then there was no room whatever for what is now called private judgment. No one could say: "I will choose my religion for myself, I will believe this, I will not believe that; I will pledge myself to nothing; I will believe just as long as I please, and no longer; what I believe today I will reject tomorrow, if I choose. I will believe what the Apostles have as yet said, but I will not believe what they shall say in time to come." No; either the Apostles were from God, or they were not; if they were, everything that they preached was to be believed by their hearers; if they were not, there was nothing for their hearers to believe. To believe a little, to believe more or less, was impossible; it contradicted the very notion of believing: if one part was to be believed, every part was to be believed; it was an absurdity to believe one thing and not another; for the word of the Apostles, which made the one true, made the other true too; they were nothing in themselves, they were all things, they were an infallible authority, as coming from God. The world had either to become Christian, or to let it alone; there was no room for private tastes and fancies, no room for private judgment. (Source:
Likening Neo-Catholics to "vampires" screeching "to the amusement of all" as well as spending "hours of fun [...] ticking these [taxonomic] characteristics off" further reveals the condescending tone as well as total indifference to their wellbeing. How are such exercises themselves spiritual or charitable in any way? How do they contribute to holiness, to the preparation of souls for the coming of Christ and His Reign? Do they not encourage and harden division? Isn't division one of Satan's most powerful weapons against followers of Christ? A house divided cannot stand...

St. John Chrysostom warns us about being careless with our words and comments on Christ's admonition not to call each other "fool" (Homily 16 on Matthew
Knowest thou not that most punishments and most sins have their beginning from words? Yea, for by words are blasphemies, and denials are by words, and revilings, and reproaches, and perjuries, and bearing false witness. Regard not then its being a mere word, but whether it have not much danger, this do thou inquire. Art thou ignorant that in the season of enmity, when wrath is inflamed, and the soul kindled, even the least thing appears great, and what is not very reproachful is counted intolerable? [...] 
For there is nothing, nothing in the world more intolerable than insolence; it is what hath very great power to sting a man's soul. But when the word too which is spoken is in itself more wounding than the insolence, the blaze becomes twice as great. Think it not then a light thing to call another "fool." For when of that which separates us from the brutes, and by which especially we are human beings, namely, the mind and the understanding,-when of this thou hast robbed thy brother, thou hast deprived him of all his nobleness. 
Let us not then regard the words merely, but realizing the things themselves, and his feeling, let us consider how great a wound is made by this word, and unto how much evil it proceeds. For this cause Paul likewise cast out of the kingdom not only "the adulterous" and "the effeminate," but "the revilers" also. And with great reason: for the insolent man mars all the beauty of charity, and casts upon his neighbor unnumbered ills, and works up lasting enmities, and tears asunder the members of Christ, and is daily driving away that peace which God so desires: giving much vantage ground unto the devil by his injurious ways, and making him the stronger. Therefore Christ Himself, cutting out the sinews of the devil's power, brought in this law. 
For indeed He makes much account of love: this being above all things the mother of every good, and the badge of His disciples, and the bond which holds together our whole condition. With reason therefore doth He remove with great earnestness the roots and the sources of that hatred which utterly spoils it. 
Think not therefore that these sayings are in any wise hyperbolical, but consider the good done by them, and admire the mildness of these laws. For there is nothing for which God takes so much pains, as this; that we should be united and knit together one with another. Therefore both in His own person, and by His disciples, as well those in the Old, as in the New Testament, He makes so much account of this commandment; and is a severe avenger and punisher of those who despise the duty. For in truth nothing so effectually gives entrance and root to all wickedness, as the taking away of love.
Finally, the description about the party is problematic precisely because of its hyperbole. The latter situation of the "real Trads" and converted Anglicans clearly describes people who are drunk or at least have gone beyond reasonable modesty and decorum. Drunkenness (nor modesty and decorum for that matter) isn't a post-Protestant, post-Victorian sin against political correctness or comfortable, liberal sentiments. Smoking, drinking, and card-playing should not be treated as though for the majority of participants there were no danger in these activities; no, for the majority of those who drink, smoke, or play cards and other forms of competition, I suggest that these activities provide numerous occasions of sin if not deep-rooted addiction and societal structures of sin enforced by capitalist economies. These activities are not intrinsically sinful—I think very few Catholics of any sense would actually argue this point, but on the other hand to present these activities without proper caution seems arrogant, blind, and a sure way to fall into Satan's traps to ensnare us in sin. In other words, the whole situation is another caricature that confuses the suggestion that these activities are probably dangerous for many, above all considering the average lack of self-reflection and discernment of spirits and motives, with the notion that they are intrinsically sinful.

As for what Pope Benedict XV said, I think here is the authoritative say on the (il-)legitimacy of calling oneself a "Traditionalist"; it is useful sociologically (and hence, perhaps, apologetically), useful as the distinction between a Coca-Cola drinker and a Pepsi drinker among soda drinkers (because, after all, there are traditionalists, and then there are traditionalists, not to mention traditionalists). But what good will that label do to keep one out of Hell and to attain holiness and enter Heaven? St. Paul replies: 
If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–2, DR trans.)
We may here now understand one possible extension of "tongues of men," namely, our ability to construct our own identities and to project them. What good do I do myself or others if I call myself faithful and I am not faithful, charitable and am not charitable? Adherence to Tradition is adherence to Christ; adherence to Christ is not just intellectual belief but the Cross:
Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it. For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul? (Mt. 16:24–26; cf. Lk. 9:23–26)
Someone must be sent to preach. What do they preach? Christ Crucified, "Unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:13). And the end of the Cross is our sanctification, and the end of our sanctification is the glory of God. The only thing we must ask ourselves is not, "Am I a Traditionalist or a Neo-Catholic?" but "Am I doing all I can to know the will of God and to do it?" Only the one who hears Christ's words and does them will have built his house on solid rock and be saved.

Pius XI on the True Purpose of Christian Education

94. The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism, according to the emphatic expression of the Apostle: "My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you."[63] For the true Christian must live a supernatural life in Christ: "Christ who is your life,"[64] and display it in all his actions: "That the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh."[65]

95. For precisely this reason, Christian education takes in the whole aggregate of human life, physical and spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and social, not with a view of reducing it in any way, but in order to elevate, regulate and perfect it, in accordance with the example and teaching of Christ.

96. Hence the true Christian, product of Christian education, is the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ; in other words, to use the current term, the true and finished man of character.


Source: Pius XI, "Divini Illius Magistri ('On Christian Education')," Papal Encyclical, promulgated December 31, 1939,

Monday, January 19, 2015

Diagram of Ens Reale

Ens Reale (Greek: φύσις [physis]; mind-independent being):

Esse (To exist):
--Alio (another): Accident
--Se (itself): Substance
-Ad (towards/for): Relation

Hence although relation is grouped within the accidents because it isn't substance, relation is unlike any accident insofar as it does not exist intrasubjectively but suprasubjectively, dependent upon subjectivities as its foundation yet above them. Accidents properly speaking are intrasubjective determinations that specify the substance as an individual.

Ockham's reduction of relation to similarity existing between subjectivities that possess intrasubjectively a same quality or determination (accident) is a reduction of relation as suprasubjective to intra- and inter- subjective. Relation therefore loses its proper characteristic and becomes an expression of the multiplication of some similar quality or being; if two or more beings share this quality, there is relation in the shared quality.

Relation, interestingly, is characterized precisely by its indifference to the orders of ens reale and ens rationis, mind-independent and mind-dependent being. A relation may exist even if its fundament or terminus exist either in ens reale or ens rationis; hence whether the relation is a "real relation" or just a "logical" one. For example, a relation of fictions is still a relation even though fictions are related; hence even though the fundament and terminus are within ens rationis, the relation is real (not as in "real relation" but simply as existing). But an individual that is a fiction is precisely not an individual because an individual is that which exists independently of ens rationis. Relation bridges the gap and is therefore also the bridge between culture and nature.

Relation is also the bridge between subjectivity (individuality of substances, ens reale) and objectivity (ens reale that has become an ens rationis through the awareness of a cognitive or quasi-cognitive power). Something becomes an object precisely by coming into relation with a subject that possesses some power of awareness.

Cf. John Deely, Purely Objective Reality (2009), ch. 2.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Humility and Relation

Humility depends on recognizing what is relative between us and God. God is All; relative to the All, we are nothing, purely contingent, existing solely by God's will. The more we recognize that God is All and that we are nothing, the more humble we shall be.

We must recall that the deeper a canyon is, the taller are the walls of that canyon; hence height and depth are two sides of the same coin, relative to where one stands. If one stands at the top of a canyon, the canyon is deep; if one stands at the bottom of the canyon, its cliffs are tall.

In our relation with God, we stand at the bottom of a canyon. We shall recognize that as we descend deeper and deeper through humility, God becomes more exalted through faith. But we also know through faith that God does not abandon us in our wretchedness but desires to save us. Hence the deeper we go, the more exalted God becomes, but also the more intimate and immanent God becomes through charity. The three work together simultaneously, enhancing each other. Humility, faith, hope, charity, humility, faith, etc.

Pressure vs. Cooperation

In common experience, we feel "under pressure" when the results of some effort depend upon us combined with the expectation of success in achieving the goal of that undertaking, whether these expectations are internal to us or external/social.

Feeling under pressure in the spiritual life is a sign of pride, a sign that the results of our progress depend principally upon our efforts. In contrast, cooperation with God removes pressure because we know that God provides a superabundance of means for our sanctification; hence any failure to achieve sanctity is not because God places an expectation without providing the means to achieve the goal, but because we failed to cooperate with those graces offered at every moment by our free resistance.

Hence as cooperation increases, pressure decreases. The Blessed Virgin was under no pressure when Gabriel extended the invitation to become the Mother of God; all the just souls of the past, the present, and the future waited on her response, united mystically to this moment every time they pray the Angelic Salutation. If the Blessed Virgin could, by means of an infused understanding from God, see this reality at the moment that Gabriel waited, the reality of all souls to be redeemed watching and waiting on the Blessed Virgin to give her fiat, she nevertheless would have felt absolutely no pressure to "make the right choice." Her only concern was to cooperate as perfectly as possible with God's will with the full humble knowledge that any positive acceptance of God's will would be provided totally by God's power, His grace not only allowing the cooperation but providing the condition by which her free will could even exercise itself without doing harm to its integrity.

Insofar as we believe that our salvation depends upon ourselves, we shall feel the pressure of perfectionism. Insofar as we believe that our salvation depends upon God and our simple cooperation, there is no pressure, no fear, only perfect love.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Repost: Sleep & Spiritual Health in the Christian Tradition

A great blog post on the notion of a holy and refreshing sleep within the Christian spiritual tradition.


The holy fathers understood full well the importance of restorative sleep for the health of body and mind. There are even a number of supplicatory prayers for “a relaxing sleep, a nourishing sleep, a somatic sleep unto robustness of soul and body,” which indicates that they understood the physical and psychological consequences of sleeplessness. In The Book of Needs, there is a prayer that brings to mind images from 4 Baruch that recounts how the Prophet Jeremiah sent Abimelech the Ethiopian with a basket of figs to the village of Achippa before the destruction of Jerusalem. In that account, during the heat of the day, Abimelech laid down under the shade of a tree upon his figs as upon a pillow and fell into a deep sleep, a comforting sleep, a sleep that took him away from the sorrows of the day, and transported him to the time of new beginnings after the desolation had taken place. In referring to this apocryphal story in prayers for those suffering from insomnia, the fathers are not asking for a sleep of sixty-six years, but asking God to provide an almost mythic sleep that more than covers one’s every need, a sleep like unto that of Abimelech, characterized by warmth and shade, nourishment and refreshment, carefree rejuvenation and hopeful consolation. For God, all things are possible, including a good night’s sleep. And we can and should ask for such a sleep.

In fact, the Compline service of the Orthodox Church, read daily in monasteries and pious homes throughout the world, includes prayers asking for a peaceful and even holy sleep. In the prayer of Antiochus the Monk, we ask, “And grant us, O Master, when we go to sleep, rest of body and soul,” with the word rest, ἀνάπαυσις, meaning a period of relaxation, a time of repose, a ceasing from activity, and a relief from trouble and anxiety, a word that underlines the physical and psychological boon of sleep and bane of sleeplessness. The prayer then continues, “And keep us from the murky slumbering of sin and every dark voluptuousness of night. Calm the violence of the passions, quench the fiery darts of the evil one, which are treacherously hurled against us. Subdue the rebellions of our flesh, and quell our every earthly and material thought.” That is to say, we ask God to keep far from us anything disturbing, anything arousing, anything that is contrary to His peace, His love, and His holiness, so that we will be refreshed and renewed. In like manner, Saint Macarius the Great also wrote a prayer before sleep, an excerpt of which notes, “And grant me, O Lord, to pass the sleep of this night in peace, that when I rise from my bed I may please Thy most holy Name all the days of my life and conquer my flesh and the fleshless foes that war with me.” A night in peace and a night of peace are what everyone troubled with insomnia desires, so that they might rise from bed and be worthy of the name of Christ. A full awareness of the problem need not cast us down. Rather it should move us to lift it up to God in prayer, awaiting help from the Lord Who gives rest “unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised” (1 Kings 8:56).


Source: Fr. Alexis Trader, "The Physical and Emotional Toil of Sleeplessness and Praying About Sleep," Ancient Christian Wisdom Blog, January 22, 2014,

Repost: D. Stephen Long, "The Theological Danger of Church Marketing"

[4] The local church must avoid a marketing strategy that targets the unchurched, because there are no such people as "the unchurched," and to think that there are is to have already committed a serious theological mistake. To use the term unchurched is to subordinate the mission and the witness of the church to the logic of the market.

The "unchurched" is a category invented by sociologists and advertising executives; like other such categories—Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennium Generation, etc.—it seeks to describe in neutral terms broad sociological target audiences in order to convince these target audiences they need certain products. If you are to be a successful Baby Boomer, for example, you need to drive a SUX or a minivan, and [...] use Michelin tires if you love your children. Generation Xers have different needs and wants, and we must understand them. Some drink Coke; some drink the Uncola. Some are churched; some are "unchurched."

The "Unchurched" Error

The term "unchurched" produces a new target audience that will inevitably require a different kind of gospel. We do not call our target audience "sinners," "the unbaptized," "the lost," or even "the world." The "unchurched" lose the theological status of those former categories precisely because, consistent with corporate America, we wouldn't want to offend our target audience. We target the "unchurched" instead and ask them to become "churched." And I fear—not always, but on the whole—we promise this on their own terms, falsely promising self-fulfillment. That is a long way from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's claim "when Christ bids someone, 'Come and follow,' He bids that person 'come and die"" (The Cost of Discipleship [New York: Touchstone, 1995], 89). "Church" itself becomes a consumer item that persons need for their own self-fulfillment. This works against the Christian tradition of conversion and replaces it with manipulative market relations.

So I ask, can the commission, "Go and church the unchurched by developing a market strategy that draws upon the best sociological expertise and uses the market as well as any Fortune 500 company," fulfill or even be consistent with the church's commission, "Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded?"

The Specificity of the Gospel

Now those who argue for a marketing approach that targets the unchurched surely envision their work as being consistent with our Lord's Great Commission. The theological argument that is almost always used to justify this is that we must make the gospel relevant in our context through an incarnational ministry.

But notice what we already have had to do to our theological language to justify this practice. Can the term "incarnation" be used in such a context? The Incarnation is a specific particular event; it is God assuming Jewish flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, who is then crucified and bodily raised from the dead. Any appeal to the incarnation [sic], if it is theologically warranted, must have a direct relationship to the risen body of Christ. But once we justify a marketing strategy, the Incarnation often loses its particular bodily significance and becomes vacuous, meaning something like using the best available technological means to present some idea of the Gospel. Almost always, virtual reality replaces the material reality of the Incarnation in such justifications.

Another theological argument to justify using a market strategy is that we should use the [5] wisdom of our age to express the Gospel, just as Paul did in his. But can the logic of the market be that wisdom? Before using Paul's "all things to all people," we must ask, "Is the logic of the global market a hindrance or merely neutral to faithful Christian living?" Make no mistake about it, if you say: "yes, we should use a marketing strategy," you are inviting the logic of the Global Market into the sanctuary of the church, and the logic of the market is like a cancer. It grows and it grows, solely for the sake of growth, taking over everything in its midst.

Now, we are not yet at the place of other cultural industries. We don't yet stop in the midst of a service and say, "And before I begin, let me remind you that today's sermon is brought to you by the good people at Starbucks." But we are not that far off. The dangers are more real than many of the church growth experts want to believe.

I am convinced that the logic of the market is a threat to the Church's mission, because growth replaced faith. Growth is important as a secondary concern for the life of the Church. The first concern is faith, because Jesus said to Peter, not multiply my sheep, but "feed them." And He said, "The question when I come back is, will I find faith?" I am convinced the global market is a threat to the church and should be kept out of the sanctuary. Even if some good could come from the influence of the market, we must be scrupulous. [...]

Christianity is a local particular culture with a specific kind of language that has to be passed on from generation to generation. Christianity is a democracy of the dead founded in the communion of saints where no single generation has the right to say, "We have to do it differently, because our context is so new and unique." And I know, as Joseph Schumpeter, has taught us, that the logic of the market is what he called "creative destruction." It seeks to destroy the old, always for the new and improved. The logic of the market claims that it will provide the wealth of nations if we are obedient to it. It replaces Christian eschatology.

So for that reason, even if some good would come from it, the local church must avoid a marketing approach that targets the unchurched.


Source: D. Stephen Long, "The Theological Danger of Church Marketing," Discernment (Spring/Summer 2005): 4–5, accessed January 11, 2015,

Repost: Alasdair MacIntyre, "The Only Vote Worth Casting in November"

When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives. These are propositions which in the abstract may seem to invite easy agreement. But, when they find application to the coming presidential election, they are likely to be rejected out of hand. For it has become an ingrained piece of received wisdom that voting is one mark of a good citizen, not voting a sign of irresponsibility. But the only vote worth casting in November is a vote that no one will be able to cast, a vote against a system that presents one with a choice between Bush's conservatism and Kerry's liberalism, those two partners in ideological debate, both of whom need the other as a target.

Why should we reject both? Not primarily because they give us wrong answers, but because they answer the wrong questions. What then are the right political questions? One of them is: What do we owe our children? And the answer is that we owe them the best chance that we can give them of protection and fostering from the moment of conception onwards. And we can only achieve that if we give them the best chance that we can both of a flourishing family life, in which the work of their parents is fairly and adequately rewarded, and of an education which will enable them to flourish. These two sentences, if fully spelled out, amount to a politics. It is a politics that requires us to be pro-life, not only in doing whatever is most effective in reducing the number of abortions, but also in providing healthcare for expectant mothers, in facilitating adoptions, in providing aid for single-parent families and for grandparents who have taken parental responsibility for their grandchildren. And it is a politics that requires us to make as a minimal economic demand the provision of meaningful work that provides a fair and adequate wage for every working parent, a wage sufficient to keep a family well above the poverty line.

The basic economic injustice of our society is that the costs of economic growth are generally borne by those least able to afford them and that the majority of the benefits of economic growth go to those who need them least. Compare the rise in wages of ordinary working people over the last thirty years to the rise in the incomes and wealth of the top twenty percent. Compare the value of minimum wage now to its value then and next compare the value of the remuneration of CEOs to its value then. What is needed to secure family life is a sufficient minimum income for every family and that can perhaps best be secured by some version of the negative income tax, proposed long ago by Milton Friedman, a tax that could be used to secure a large and just redistribution of income and so of property.

We note at this point that we have already broken with both parties and both candidates. Try to promote the pro-life case that we have described within the Democratic Party and you will at best go unheard and at worst be shouted down. Try to advance the case for economic justice as we have described it within the Republican Party and you will be laughed out of court. Above all, insist, as we are doing, that these two cases are inseparable, that each requires the other as its complement, and you will be met with blank incomprehension. For the recognition of this is precluded by the ideological assumptions in terms of which the political alternatives are framed. Yet at the same time neither party is wholeheartedly committed to the cause of which it is the ostensible defender. Republicans happily endorse pro-choice candidates, when it is to their advantage to do so. Democrats draw back from the demands of economic justice with alacrity, when it is to their advantage to do so. And in both cases rhetorical exaggeration disguises what is lacking in political commitment.

In this situation a vote cast is not only a vote for a particular candidate, it is also a vote cast for a system that presents us only with unacceptable alternatives. The way to vote against the system is not to vote.


Source: Alasdair MacIntyre, "The Only Vote Worth Casting in November," University of Notre Dame, October 2004,

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Why Self-Knowledge Is Difficult

Notes from Fr. Jules J. Toner, S.J., A Commentary on Saint Ignatius' Rules for the Discernment of Spirits: A Guide to the Principles and Practice (St. Louis, MO: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1982), 41–44.


Aside from the distorting effects of our fallen nature, there are two fundamental reasons for the difficulty of attaining self-knowledge: 1) "the natural bent of our attention"; 2) "the complexity and mobility of our psychic experience" (41).

1. Our attention wanders seemingly aimlessly, drawn by present sensibles, current feelings and their relations to their causes (beliefs, worries, anticipations, regrets, etc.). The flux of consciousness is so fast and fluid that it's hard to identify single factors and motions, unless they are especially pronounced or prolonged.  Sometimes we dismiss what is important, thinking it is unimportant, and sometimes we exaggerate what is less important or an aftereffect.

2. The inner motions of our experience are so interrelated and numerous that often it is hard to begin somewhere, and once we have begun, it is hard to isolate one motion. Hence motions that God may introduce into us for spiritual purposes may end up being passed over as said above; they are "never brought to the scrutiny of faith-enlightened intelligence and integrated into our Christian life of free choice and love" (42). And on the other hand, due to ignorance and lack of self awareness, evil motions can hold a sway over us.

It must be remembered that awareness is difficult but possible, even necessary, to advance in the spiritual life. Repeated effort will increase the capacity for self-reflection and understanding.

Those who think that they are an open book to themselves should be warned. "They are probably reading their hearts very superficially, finding what they want to find or what they have been led to expect to find. Their easy confidence may be a barrier to real self-knowledge, which is not easily achieved" (43).

There is a great need for prayer, especially to the Holy Spirit, a prayer of trust and openness. The Holy Spirit can give us a superabundance of helps to come to understand ourselves and develop self-reflection. He alone can protect us from deceptions.

Finally, we need help from others, help from, say, St. Ignatius' rules and experienced guides. These are the human helps, or natural guides, through which Providence works and perfects in order to bring us to supernatural guidance.

Ignatius notes in his rules that these are "some rules," implying that they are neither exhaustive nor univocal. Their application must be adapted to circumstances, guided by an experienced, learned, and holy director. This application falls under the realm of prudence and discretion (44)

The Purpose of St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises & Discernment of Spirits

[39] The overall goal is the removal of obstacles in us to the one certain expression of love for God, our seeking sincerely to find and do his will (Spiritual Exercises, no. 1), and so enabling us to grow toward the ideal of hearts so pure as to experience God's revelation of himself in all things, and to live lives in Christ totally dedicated to thanksgiving, praise, and service, or, in other words, to doing always what is for the greater glory of God (Spiritual Exercises, no. 230). The way to such purity of heart is mainly contemplation of God's love revealed in Jesus as he is seen in the Gospels—contemplating in such a way as to experience his personal love "for me" and so to enter into intimate personal relationship with him, taking on his mind and heart.

Growth into such purity of heart is God's work in us, impossible to achieve merely by our own efforts, but not to be effected by God without our free response and effort. So it is of essential importance to be able to recognize when God is acting on our consciousness and to know when it is not God, but our own selves, or the prodding of the world, or of Satan. Only so, can we by our free choice open ourselves to God's influence and close out anything opposed to it.

The Threefold Purpose of the Rules: to Notice, to Understand, to Accept or Reject

Accordingly, when he comes to write his Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, Ignatius states that they are "to help persons get in touch with and understand in some manner the diverse motions which are prompted in them, in order to receive the good ones and expel the evil ones." If we analyze this statement, we can see that [40] it proposes three aims in an ordered series: (1) to help us get in touch with—that is, to become reflectively and discriminatingly aware of—the spiritually significant motions among all those in the whole mass of motions swarming in our consciousness; (2) to help us to a practical "understanding" of these perceived motions; and (3) to enable us intelligently to receive or expel these spiritually significant motions. The first purpose is for the sake of the second and makes it possible; the second in turn is for the sake of the third and makes it possible. The first two are so closely bound together that they can be discussed as one combined purpose. [...]

Ignatius assumes that those who study these rules will truly desire their third and ultimate purpose; they will want to open themselves wide to the movements from God and allow them to influence their lives in whatever way God intends by giving them; they will respond with decision and action when this is called for. On the other hand, he assumes that such persons will be ready to resist the movements from Satan and thrust them out. [...]

[41] An obvious condition for the possibility of understanding the spiritually significant motions within our minds and affectivities is our becoming aware of them. This is, therefore, the first purpose of the rules, to help us become perceptively aware of what is going on within us. This purpose involves more than mere consciousness of the motions; it involves reflective and discriminating attention. All the motions of which Ignatius speaks are conscious acts or feelings, but generally most of them are not attended to reflectively. In fact, when we make the effort to attend to them we find it very difficult to do so.


Source: Fr. Jules J. Toner, S.J., A Commentary on Saint Ignatius' Rules for the Discernment of Spirits: A Guide to the Principles and Practice (St. Louis, MO: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1982), 39–41

St. Ignatius' Meaning of Interior Motions

[37] What Ignatius refers to by motions in the soul is the flux of thoughts (such as judgments about God, self, the world, plans, lines of reasoning, lines of association, or imaginings), and of affective acts (such as love, hate, desire, or fear), and of affective feelings (such as peace, warmth, coldness, sweetness, bitterness, buoyancy, or depression). Among all these motions Ignatius sees some to be of special interest for anyone who is trying to open himself to the Holy Spirit and to resist the influence of the evil spirit. These are motions which of themselves, and therefore in every instance, tend to build up or to tear down the Christ-life in us. Their unvarying thrust is toward having a beneficial or harmful influence on faith, hope, charity, prayer, personal relationships, apostolic work, decisions that give direction to our life as Christians, and the like. [...]

[38] [These motions] are such that, if they are accepted and allowed to work or are cooperated with, they will inevitably have such effects; but they do not necessarily, of themselves, have an actual constructive or destructive effect. Those which of themselves tend to a destructive effect can be resisted and become the occasion of actual spiritual growth. Those which of themselves tend to have a constructive effect can be ignored, resisted, or even misused, and so be the occasion for sin and regression in Christian life. What effect they actually have depends on what we do with them. No person who experiences them is worthy of praise or condemnation only for having had one or other of them. "I am not going to be saved," Ignatius writes elsewhere in reference to these motions, "because of the good works of the good angels"—that is, because of the good motions they prompt in me—"and I am not going to be condemned because of the evil thoughts and the weaknesses the bad angels, the flesh, and the world bring before my mind" (Letter of Sept. 11, 1536 to Sister Teresa Rejadell). [...]

[40] Understanding a motion comprises [41] at least three things. First, we recognize the characteristic features by which it is distinguished from other motions. Second, we see the direction in which it of itself points or leads us, its likely or actually effected consequences. Third, we know its origin. In a spiritual understanding, we recognize those features which distinguish spiritually significant motions from others; and among the former, we distinguish one sort from another. We see the good or evil consequences for a Christian life to which the motion of itself tends; and from these two elements of spiritual understanding, we infer the good or evil origin.


Source: Fr. Jules J. Toner, S.J., A Commentary on Saint Ignatius' Rules for the Discernment of Spirits: A Guide to the Principles and Practice (St. Louis, MO: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1982), 37–38, 40–41.

The Astounding Truth of God's Relationship with Us

Ignatius shows no hesitancy in accepting in its fullness the central truth of Christian faith and all its consequences—unlike most of us who, if not in theory, at least in practice, are hesitant to accept the full astounding truth. If God so loves us as to send his Beloved, Jesus Christ, to be one with us in the flesh; to be a sacrifice for our sins; to give us all that the Father gave him, his life, his truth, his love, his joy, his glory; to give us his body to eat, his blood to drink; to give us the Holy Spirit who makes us children of God in Christ, who lives in us, enlightens us about Jesus and his teachings, pours out God's agape, defends and cherishes the Christ-life in us—if God so loves us as to do all this, then after that there is no problem in believing that God is constantly attending to each of his children, calling each of them by name, speaking to them, listening to them, sometimes in extraordinary ways but usually through the ordinary motions of their own minds and hearts, and giving them power to discover when it is he who is speaking and what he is saying. Given what a Christian is called to believe about his relationship with God, is it not surprising to our way of thinking that God does not speak and act in our lives even more obviously than Ignatius, with all genuine Christian tradition, has said he does?


Source: Fr. Jules J. Toner, S.J., A Commentary on Saint Ignatius' Rules for the Discernment of Spirits: A Guide to the Principles and Practice (St. Louis, MO: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1982), 32.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Repost: "Titanism 101"

The titanic orientation of our contemporary humanity is a theme continually referred to and explained by Ernst Jünger and his brother Friedrich Georg. It might be useful to readers to have their vision applied in simple form to a few concrete aspects of our modern world.

According to one interpretation, the etymology of the ancient Greek word "titan" expresses the notion of an "over-stretcher" or over-extender. This expresses the titans' lack of a sense of measure when it comes to expressing power. Put in Nietzsche's terms, titans are motivated by a blind and insatiable will to power: always more to the point of extreme, without a conception of balance, of a point of sufficiency or equilibrium that can be reached and then maintained over time. The gods, who the titans periodically overthrow and briefly manage to keep out of the picture, represent this sense of balance and equilibrium.

It is already clear from this description how civilization in the last couple of centuries has become ever more titanic, beginning in the west but now reaching global extension. According to Jünger, our period is the next return of the titans after that of Imperial Rome. I believe we are slowly starting to understand the dangers of titanic arrogance in man and, at least theoretically and in restricted circles, contemplating a retreat from its unsustainable, inescapably catastrophic approach to existence and also the manner in which the next phase may emerge, a return of order-restoring "gods".

Here then are some superficially explained examples of titanism as it presently manifests.

Economic growth, environmental rape, unhappiness

Along with the intrinsically connected theme of the environment, the stagnant economy is the crisis of the day in the US and Europe, that is, in the titanic avant-garde of our world. It has long been taken for granted that nothing is more important to human welfare than continuous, unlimited economic growth, that higher GNPs and incomes are the critical measures of a country's all-significant entry into modern times and indeed measures of its citizen's physical wellbeing and even happiness. Given this assumption, there is no limit to the level of wealth to be achieved - this is most apparent in the richest western countries where a higher level of material comfort can hardly be imagined, yet growth is still the obsession. Indeed, a vicious circle of ever-intensifying, futile effort is created in this cul-de-sac: as the elusive happiness promised by politicians and scientists remains always around the next corner, behind the next technological improvement or economic upswing, we grow more and more desperate and run even faster down this alley, at whose end not salvation but spiritual and environmental catastrophe await us.

At some point, we titanic westerners also seek patronizingly to aid the "underdeveloped" world with our superior knowledge, though the process actually resembles more an infection of the innocent with our poison, with the seeds of discontent. If such initiatives seem (naively) well-meaning, at a deeper level they function for us as a necessary distraction from our spiritual desperation at the dilemma of "where to go now, now that we have everything and are more miserable than ever."

It may seem that there is no more to criticize in these material ambitions than their futility in providing happiness - given a basic level of comfort and sustenance, happiness is only ever a product of inner harmony and meaning, and not physical luxury. But in fact they bring serious material dangers with them, since economic growth at all costs entails a constantly increasing consumption of energy and natural resources (see F.G. Jünger's The Failure of Technology), to the point of environmental bankruptcy and nest-spoiling. Enter our environmental crisis, nothing more than the inevitable consequence of titanic over-extension and lack of measure. The tragedy here is that titans - we - do not learn through experience, we simply become its victims: we only stop when self-provoked catastrophe stops us dead in our tracks. From Ernst Jünger´s Aladdin's Problem: "We will either be saved by the poet or by fire".

But even the worst imaginable environmental catastrophe would not be the most tragic result of our titanic pretensions: the real tragedy is that they distract us from the spiritual efforts to be made in our personal lives and therefore lead to increasing inner poverty, personal meaninglessness and unhappiness. We put all our hopes in a material salvation and forget the fundamentally spiritual, internal basis of all deeper fulfillment. Indeed, those on the cutting edge of titanism, our wealthy western countries, are undoubtedly not the richest in happiness, and they are almost certainly the most spiritually bankrupt. Aladdin's Problem, "Soon there will be nothing left but the sound of Sheol".


From being a source of spiritually meaningful knowledge in ancient times, science has been degraded by our titanic culture into a mere tool for driving economic growth and invention for its own sake, that is to say, science has been degraded into technology and an insatiable amassing of knowledge. Most scientists would be surprised to hear of times when science sought an absolute knowledge that had spiritual meaning for people, that aided them to achieve inner happiness and not merely physical comfort.

For today's titanic science is interested in knowledge only to the degree that it increases worldly or material power, or, when that is not applicable, as in astronomy for example, that is provides egotistical self-gratification, material to lord it over other titans involved in the same race to nowhere - by the very nature, Titans are competitive. (A low level expression of this is the curious pride the man on the street feels in his knowledge of trivia, which is absolutely useless in every sense except as a potential competitive measure: "I know more than you" - however useless such unintegrated abstract knowledge is.)

This titanic faith in technological science as a cure-all whose saving power always lies tantalizingly around the next corner, with the next technical innovation, is not just arrogant or naive, it can also be deadly; for invention per se has no preference for good or evil ends, and, in an age of spiritual decline, the latter may even emerge more readily than the former. Moreover, when the accidents inevitably happen, they take on technically-empowered proportions: the sinking of the Titanic was an early sign, one with unique symbolic value, but many others have since taken place, including for instance the technical ability of the Nazis to kill and dispose of human beings so efficiently. In this respect, we can only thank our lucky stars that the atomic machinery has never really gotten out of our control.

Art and Culture

As F.G. Jünger points out in The Failure of Technology, titans are incapable of art since they lack its basic prerequisites, a sense of measure. In fact, contemporary art limits itself, with rare exceptions, to pure innovation, novelty, and more often than not has a quite abhorrent effect by its disproportions. Like everything titanic, it aims at a dynamic effect, to be didactic or pornographic, to attract or repel - it has no understanding of the stasis that true art evokes (a la Stendhal effect).

If it has a genuine purpose in the greater process, which surely it does, then for the moment at least, it must be that of the compost heap on which the old used-up forms of old are decomposed and from whose rich substrate new forms can one day sprout. But let us be objective about which stage we are at now - when the new forms emerge, it will already signal the end of the titanic period.

As Ernst Jünger points out in Aladddin's [sic] Problem, human culture as such cannot be developed in a titanic society, since culture is based on our treatment of the dead and titans are patently not interested in the dead or anything that has to do with the past and with tradition - they only want to express power and that implies a break with static models of the past; they live with an existential centre of gravity in becoming and not being. The continuity and being-beyond-time implied by remembrance of the past, by graves and cults of the dead is of no interest or meaning to them.

In this same book, Ernst Jünger speculates that the emergence of a new cult of the dead will be a sign that culture can take root again - and we add that this will necessarily also mark the death throes of our present titanic phase.


In the essay "Mut und Übermut" from Das Abenteuerliche Herz (2nd Edition), Ernst Jünger speaks of having lost his taste for certain words combined with the prefix "super" (über). As he explains, this prefix has a strong connotation of will power, a belief that the supreme achievement comes from the most intense application of will, and not wisdom - that is, as a result of titanic effort.

(Aside: the fate of the Superman actor Christopher Reeve may be another foolishly clear sign from Cassandra of the destiny of titanic mankind, similar to that other prophecy of hers which Jünger regularly mentions, the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic.)

The trend towards the superlative, in words and actions, has only progressed since that essay was written - today I would suggest that the equivalent word, the appropriate one for the next stage in the pursuit of more, is the adjective "extreme". "Super" has lost its power and now we are forced to use the next and last possibility, the extreme. Thus, in the media, in the lifestyles and productions of the west, we see this word appearing everywhere: extreme sports, extreme sex, extreme nutrition, extreme technology, extreme performance, my toothpaste is even called "extreme mint"!

A seemingly trivial social development that is in fact a frightening omen for our titanic civilization - because the extreme of any linear development (i.e one that does not follow or believe in cyclical patterns) must represent the last stage. There is nowhere to go after this word appears, there can be nothing beyond the extreme, except a precipitous plummet from the cliff we have so fanatically scaled.


This end must logically come, to some unknown degree catastrophically, even if in reality the meta-historical processes involved are not linear but cyclical, so that "the end" is actually only the low point that marks the beginning of a new cycle. Our titanic will power is such that it will drive us to that end without slowing down, and it will thus be more or less disastrous in a material sense. If this much is clear, then the only real task we have today is not to attempt a redemption of the material state of affairs, whose fate is essentially sealed, but rather to prepare spiritually for a passage through the curtains of fire and for the new world that must born on the far side.

In this respect, it may be we in the west who have the main role, for he who leads the way into the pit or cul-de-sac of material power will also be the one who first realizes its futility and so finds the way out.

Ernst Jünger often said that although he might be a pessimist in the short term, "ultimately" he was an optimist. The gods always return - at some point. He ascribed the 21st century to the titans, the 22nd to the gods - for myself, I am not sure that things can last that long.


Source: "Titanism 101," Ernst Jünger Blog, July 21, 2011,

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Four Causes Defined

Principle: "that from which something proceeds in any way whatever" (Fr. William Wallace, OP, The Elements of Philosophy [Wipf & Stock, 2011], 44, §16.7); "the intelligible framework or conditions of change" (John Deely, Medieval Philosophy Redefined, 143).

Three principles of change in Aristotle's thought: 1) form; 2) matter; 3) privation.

Cause: "that from which something proceeds with a dependence in being" (Wallace, 44, §16.7; see also 100, §35.1) or that upon which something depends for its being.

Condition: "that which makes possible, makes ready, or prepares the way for an efficient cause to act, or for its action to be efficacious" (101, §35.3).
-the condition in which an obstacle is removed that "would otherwise block the agent's activity or render it ineffective" is called the removens prohibens.
-a condition that is an absolute requirement for the cause to function, a necessary condition: conditio sine qua non.

Occasion: "the opportunity for a cognitive agent to exercise its causality" (102, §35.4).

Four Causes (and Medieval subdivisions):

Material (Matter): "the intrinsic determinable principle that receives its actuation and determination from form" (103, §35.6); "that upon which the agent acts" (Deely, 140, fn. 6).

Efficient (or Agent or Productive): "the productive or transient action initiated by an agent [where] an agent be understood as anything capable of initiating a motion or a change" (Wallace, 104, §35.8).
Kinds of efficient causes:
1) Essential vs. Coincidental
2) Total vs. Partial
3) Principal vs. Instrumental (instrument: "something from which an effect flows by reason of its subordination to a principal efficient cause, to which the instrument ministers and by which it is moved" [ibid.]).
4) Primary vs. Secondary
5) Perfecting vs. Disposing
6) Natural vs. Non-Natural (e.g. violence, chance, artificial, voluntary)
7) Univocal vs. Equivocal vs. Analogical (depends on "metaphysical level" of the agent vs. patient)
8) Universal vs. Particular
9) Corporeal vs. Incorporeal
10) Agents that cause being vs. agents that cause becoming

(Intrinsic) Formal: "the intrinsic principle of existence in any determinate essence" or "the intrinsic determinant of anything that is determinable" (102, §35.5); "the result in or response of the material correlated with the action of the agent" (Deely, 140, fn. 6).
-Extrinsic Formal Cause (Exemplary or Ideal): that form which is introduced into matter "by an intelligent agent" according to a pattern or plan (ibid.).
1) Exemplary vs. Specificative (or Objective): that which specifies "cognition as an awareness of this rather than that object or aspect of an object" (ibid.).

(Intrinsic) Final (or Teleological): "the full development of the substance or the completion of the process itself," where "the end itself may be defined as that for the sake of which something exists or is done, or that for which an agent acts or action takes place"; "it is said to be first in the order of intention and last in the order of execution or activity"; also called the "cause of causes (causa causarum)" (Wallace, 105, §35.10); "the [intrinsic] pattern of development which an effect once produced exhibits over time" (Deely, 104, fn. 6).
-Extrinsic Final Cause (Exemplary/Ideal): "the determination or form of an effect as this is preconceived by an intelligent agent," which is "extrinsic to the effect and exerts its influence mainly as an idea in the intentional order" (Wallace, 106, §35.11); "the intention according to or purpose for which [an agent]" forms a material structure (Deely, 140, fn. 6).