Physical Labor and the Manliness of Soul

For the godly man, work is a delight and often provides godly manliness.  Dabney writes,

History shows also, than an artificial and luxurious mode of living surely affects the literary taste of a nation. The simplicity of thought is banished. The manliness of soul which proceeds from labor, struggles with difficulty and intercourse with nature, becomes rare.

R.L. Dabney, “Simplicity of Pulpit Style,” Discussions vol. 3, page. 81.

Indeed, Rushdoony would go on to say,

A basic and unrecognized cause of tensions in marriage is the growing futility of work in an age where apostate and statist trends rob work of its constructive goals. The area of man’s dominion becomes the area of man’s frustration. There are those who can recall when men, not too many years ago, worked ten hours or more daily, six and seven days a week, often under ugly and unsafe circumstances. In the face of this, they could rest and also enjoy life with a robust appetite. The basic optimism of that era and the cer¬tainty of progress, the stability of a hard money economy, and the sense of mastery in these assurances, gave men a satisfaction in their labors which made rest possible

The Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 346.

In which I commend my EO friends

I meant to write several appreciative posts of figures in Eastern Orthodoxy, but I never got around to it.  Instead, on a post where I relayed numerous Protestant difficulties with verifying oral tradition, it then turned into polemics, of which I had no intention.

Fr Seraphim Rose

Had I entered Eastern Orthodoxy two years ago, it wouldn’t have gone over well (I suspect).  I had read all of Fr Seraphim’s writings, including the magisterial biography done on him by Hieromonk Damascene (read it several times, actually). It is simply awe-inspiring.  I soundly resonated with all of his stands.   He mightily warned against several patriarchs compromising with Rome.  He sounded the trumpet against the attacks on Creation within the “conservative” camp of Orthodoxy (interestingly, the Protestant lay-apologist Phillip Johnson endorsed both his book on Creation and the biography; this is an example of a proper ecumenicism!).

And then I find otherwise conservative Orthodox guys ridiculing him and his beliefs.  One told me, “Anyone who believes what Fr Seraphim believed [presumably, the objector meant the positions on creation and toll-houses] is an idiot.”  I then quoted St Athanasius on toll-houses and St Basil on creation. Stuff like that, you know?

“But people turn Fr Seraphim into a cult!” they respond.  So?  What of it?  That is the case with numerous figures from history.  If only more would imitate his life-style (didn’t St Paul say something like that?).

Lessons we can learn from Fr Seraphim:

  • Eschatology:  He constantly said, “The time is later than you think.”  In the biography Fr Damascene documents how the world-system has converged in such a way that a one-world government is possible.   Of course, in his lecture on the end-times, Fr Seraphim comes off as embracing something akin to the amillennial view, identifying this present age as the millennium.  I think such a reading is problematic, but I agree with the essence of his talk.
  • Agrarianism:  This is another area that would make the bourgeoise uncomfortable.   The Platina Monastery was largely self-sufficient.  People ridicule agrarians.  What they don’t realize is that agrarian warnings are actually trying to save your life.   You are eating food that is pumped with all sorts of Monsanto death into it.  Further, when food becomes scarce during the time of Antichrist, it is places like Platina that won’t be starving.
  • Don’t embrace modernity:  Fr Seraphim urged people to acquire the mind of the fathers.  I tried.  I read through all of Schaff’s NPNF Series II.   The problem arose, however, when we try to make the fathers answer textual and cultural questions they weren’t asked.  Still, it’s better than the mindless conservative endorsement of post-1950s American mindset.
  • The Resurrection of Holy Russia:  Yet another area in which the bourgeouise were nervous.   NATO is the enemy of Orthodox Christian people’s everywhere.  Slowly.  Finally, are Orthodox Americans waking up to this fact.   Yet most are still too nervous to endorse Putin’s Russia (whom I fully support).  The reason is simple:  they really think and believe in a Republican president, all of whom have sworn mortal enmity to Russia.  We used to always pick on the Reformed people as living some mental contradictions.  Perhaps this is an area where Orthodox are not yet–to quote Van Til–Epistemologically self-conscious.

The Orthodox Nationalist

Fr Raphael Johnson‘s podcast have been a continual feast for me for three years.  In them I learned Plato’s Forms, Russian history, and late European philosophy.  He opened my eyes to the doctrinal compromises and made me realize and ask the question, “Could I really commune with Freemasons?”  (No, I couldn’t). I’ve probably listened to 80% of the podcasts at least four or five times each. Lessons learned:

  • While Holy Russia must be supported, not all of Russian history–even Russian monarchist history–is worth defending.  Peter the Great, as a Freemason, swore an oath to Lucifer.   After +NIKON Russia ceased to be a light on a hill and became an empire.  It ceased to be Jerusalem and became Babylon.  It requires wisdom to discern this.
  • Plato and the Forms:  I really began to appreciate Augustine, Eurigena, and Gregory of Nyssa in listening to Johnson explicate the forms.
  • Agrarianism:  He gave some practical advice on why agrarianism is superior for the brain.
  • Occult:  Much good stuff here.
  • Hegel:  for a while, I was a Hegelian.
  • True Orthodox and Calendar:  I’ve always been sympathetic to the Old Calendarists.

What an urban vision should look like

I am an agrarian and have always been.  I think the modern city is unredeemable and itself seeks no redemption.   I have seen cities where the sewage is up to the ankles, bureaucrats control the money and jobs, and Soviet-style apartments dominate the landscapes.  When Reformed Constitutionalists and Federal Visionists challenge me on this, I simply point to the crime reports as counter-evidence.

There is one line of evidence, though, that gives one pause.   The Bible does seem to speak of the eschaton as a garden city.  And if we are to pray thy kingdom come (a premise not entirely admitted by Westminster Seminary), then it seems that an urban vision is somewhat normative.  Yet, I ask, what is the nature of this vision?  Is it simply the urban world we see today, where gangsters and drug lords shoot up the neighborhood?   Is it the vision, like in Chicago, where city cameras dominate the entire landscapes, literally ushering in Orwell’s vision? The Federal Visionist and evangelical cultural warrior has to answer “yes.”

But there is “another way.”   An urban vision can exist.  It can be beautiful, but only if it repudiates everything it sees today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuRxYjdgviQ

(sorry, I couldn’t embed this video).

It is a vision that seeks beauty, poetry, and glory–not the market.

We shall defeat them with our songs

The Regime will fall.  The New World Order will either be defeated by Holy Russia or by its own in-fighting (e.g., Germany will say its appropriate “F-U” to the EU, restructuring Western Europe around itself, depriving Brussels burecrats of jobs, and opening up to a nationalist Russia).  In the meanwhile, contributing to its defeat will be what Michael Hill calls “the Revenge of living well.”   Globalism will be defeated but it won’t be defeated by rallies in Washington, or electing the right representatives to the UN.  No, it will be defeated by local communities casting votes of “no-confidence” in globalist leaders.

How shall we do that?  By reclaiming our culture:  singing the old songs and celebrating the new ones.  The following songs exalt and rejoice in the rural American agrarian life (you expected videos on Serbia and Russia, didn’t you?  Good guess, but no).

 

The harder-edged, uncomfortable C. S. Lewis

He’s most noted for Mere Christianity, the explication of the faith that all Christian traditions would espouse.    Most assume, therefore, that C. S. is a watered-down, lowest-common-denominator theologian.  A closer look, however, reveals something else, something more disturbing.  While Lewis wanted to see Christian traditions united, he also believed that one should seek Truth at all costs and settle for nothing less.  Apply this to the “denominational search,” and you will see that Lewis is arguing for the Truth of one particular Christian confession over another.  (Yes, while Lewis held to Anglicanism, an interesting case can be made that today he would have chose Orthodoxy.  The modern Anglican church has abandoned the historic faith; Lewis rejected predestinarianism, thus ruling out Reformed confessions;  Lewis was uncomfortable with Catholicism; and finally, much of his theology is already compatible with Orthodoxy).    In other words, Lewis would be banned at many CS Lewis message boards (I got kicked off one for saying things that a Jewess on the board did not like).

Agrarian Economics

Lewis rejected both state socialism and free market capitalism.  It is important to place Lewis in his Chestertonian context.   Therefore, I maintain that Lewis held to a form of distributist economics.  In That Hideous Strength one of the New World Order-type bad guys remarks that one of their colleagues had gone off the deep end and was committed to distributism.  In Mere Christianity (pages 81-82) Lewis rejects interest-based capitalism (which essentially destroys all modern economics, statist or free-market).  In The Great Divorce Lewis notes that the truest form of love rejects the division between meum and teum; individual rights, when carried to its logical conclusion, is simply hell.  (By the way, this is simply Augustine.  Take it up with him).

But does this make Lewis an agrarian?  Not really, but it does make him a distributist, and when applied to a rural context, it supports agrarianism.  I realize that distributism and agrarianism are not synonymous, but they are close enough.

Fighting the New World Order

In That Hideous Strength Dr Ransom admits that they might have to fight off the bad guys with pistol fire, if necessary.  Just reflect on that statement for a while.   How often does that talk get quoted in Lifeway bulletins?

Monarchy

“We read in That Hideous Strength that the first time Jane Studdock looks at Ransom her world is unmade.  Why?  Because up until that moment Jane believes in a world of total egalitarianism.  Now she realizes, once again, in the depths of her soul, that hierarchy holds a deeper truth than the legal fiction of equality.  Lewis writes,

She had (or so she had believed)  disliked bearded faces except for old men with white hair.  But that was because she had long since forgotten the imagined Arthur of her childhood…for the first time in many years the bright solar blend of king and lover and magician which hangs about that name (Lewis is here referring to King Solomon) stole back upon her mind.  For the first time in all those years she had tasted the word King itself with all linked associations of battle, marriage, priesthood, mercy, and power.  At that moment, as her eyes first rested upon his [Ransom’s] face, Jane forgot who she was, and where…her world was unmade; she knew that.  Anything might happen now.

“With these words Lewis introduces us to the importance of monarchy.  It is vital because it reminds us that we do not live in an egalitarian world but rather a world in which hierarchy exists at all levels (144).

Will Vaus, Mere Theology.

Lewis writes that his Narnia stories implicitly make people royalists for a while.  I mean, how often do you read of a charming fairy tale whose hero is a democratically-elected leader living in the hustle and frustration of an urban apartment?  No, despite people’s (usually inadequately thought through) commitment to democracy, these people still feel a powerful monarchist pull on their soul when they read Lewis, Tolkien, and fairy tales in general.

Conclusion

CS Lewis in no way should be considered a soft, evangelical theologian, but a hard-edged thinker whose thought lends towards distributism, Orthodoxy, and monarchy.