Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In response to Mr John Kellner

This is in response to Mr John Kellner's comment on my post, "The Future of Traditionalism". Technical difficulties won't allow me to post the reply directly, but his comment is entirely valid and deserves a response.

Mr. Kellner,

I should admit, I hardly contemplate God as often as I ought to. On the contrary, when these issues come to mind God is much farther from my thoughts than he ought to be. I've a heavily Agnostic quality to my character, and a "WWJD" Conservatism is as unappealing to me as Marxism or any of its offspring. Perhaps my own logic isn't clear enough on that point, but the article is excruciatingly long as is.

To be brief, I'm very sympathetic to Sartre, Camus, etc. in the Existentialist claim that value is something that cannot exist by nature. I don't agree with the claim, but I'm alright with saying, "Nothing is good in itself." That includes monarchy. I'd hazard to guess I'm not so fuddy-duddy as you believe (though I take pride in how fuddy-duddy I actually am, to whatever degree that's the case). I'm not interested in monarchy for the sake of Monarchy, but for what value it offers. Though I think there are values—all of them fundamental to our Civilization—that are inseparable from legitimate monarchies, and would rather recover them than throw the whole endeavor away.

I'm also of the strong belief that, as Jung pointed out, there's a real physical (and metaphysical, if that term means anything to you) need for certain elements of religious tradition. Confession and prayer, for example, have proven health benefits. But what I dislike about neopaganism, as Evola pointed out in somewhat more abstracted terms, is that a re-embracing of primitive or pre-civilized beliefs would be committing ourselves to a real, measurable mental devolution. That's what I take issue with the ND for. And that mightn't be what you yourself stand for, but I can only speak to what I observe in the ND's ranks.

Where I think you're disagreeing with me—and correct me if I'm wrong—is that you think I'm pro-immigration to some extent. That's not true, I'm as keen on Englishmen ruling England and Frenchmen ruling France as I am on the spirit ruling the body. As we see with the United States, for better or worse, the character of the nation itself has changed with every new wave of immigrants, from the Puritans to the Mexicans.

But what you're implying is that High Toryism, or whatever it is I'm advocating, won't get the job done. I'd disagree with you in terms of logic before I do in ideology. There are not more Nouvelle Droiters than there are Tories in the Anglosphere. Not by a long shot. The ND is a loud but small minority; groups like the Traditional Britain Group and the Sydney Traditionalists are much larger than any New Right groups. So if your concern is statistical advantage, you'll want to be going for the old Tories.

But I don't at all presume you mean to say you're more an anti-Leftist than a Rightist; or, to put it another way, that you'll take any sort of "Far Right" ideology as long as it's Far Right. You do, I'm sure, have principles you want to see come to fruition. As I said, I'm against atavism. My priority is civilization. A Civilized man who's in favour of gay marriage is better than an anti-gay African tribesman in my book. Of course it becomes more complicated than that, though if we were all to toss out internationalism and all the advances of the modern world, there's no doubt we'd develop more traditional morals. But voluntary atavism isn't defending Western Civilization, it's defending Western Homophobia at the expense of Civilization. There's a very great difference. At least in my mind.

I think that's where we don't see eye to eye. I don't think the current Civilization in the West started with pagan Rome, it started with the Christianization of Europe. Throwing away Christianity and its institutions (such as the Monarchy) to save Western Civilization is something like taking out the ice cream in a hot fudge sundae because you prefer the cherry and the chocolate sauce.

Of course you're going to say, "Mr Davis, with all due respect, your history and sociology are all wrong." Maybe that's what you happen to think. But I hope you'll see that I'm not senselessly waxing on about fluffy generalities. The poetry, the institutions, and yes, even much of the progress made in recent times mean as much to me as the values that go with them. I think they're inseparable. Evola didn't, but I'm more a Burkean than an Evolian anyway.

I hope you'll respond if you have the interest, and thank you again for your comment.

As ever,

Friday, November 8, 2013

Publications on the Sydney Traditionalist Forum

To those gracious enough to follow this blog, I've begun to branch out into other mediums for publication. Recently two of my pieces have appeared on the Sydney Traditionalist Forum, a remarkable group of young men and women in the greater Sydney area dedicated to direct action for the Traditionalist cause. Please do take a look at their website, and if you'd like, here are the links to my pieces.

Classicism: Its Theory and Practice: Literary essay calling for writers and other artists to adopt a new perspective in their approach to their craft, especially in regards to their predecessors.

Pied Noir: Short story about a repatriated Franco-Algerian family set on the day of Dominique Venner's famed suicide in the Notre Dame Cathedral.

I hope you enjoy!

Yours ever,
M.W. Davis

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An Anglo-Catholic’s Dissent from the Ordinariate

            It seems Anglican-bashing is the new black these days. Orthodox Christians have begun in some instances to look at Anglicans as little more than Lutherans or Calvinists, which I’m not sure there
are newly broken grounds for. Roman Catholic lay apologists have more or less begun using 'Anglican' as a byword for CILOs (Catholics in Liturgy Only)—a handy means of denouncing liberals within their own ranks. And the generic, mainline Protestants are pleased as punch to welcome us into their happy-clappy post-Christian communion.

            This massive hatred directed at Anglicans from without seems curious to me. Anglicans, and Anglo-Catholics especially, have long been associated with gin, in no small part because of our charmingly dry character. I’ve found Anglicans the least-likely to be bothered by others’ hostility, which might be half the reason we’re the target: it’s not that we’re afraid of the fight, we’re just not terribly interested in it. We don’t feel like we have a whole Hell of a lot to prove to the rest of the religious universe. That may be a wonderful thing or a terrible thing—perhaps the test of the One True Faith is how vicious its followers are on the Internet—but it’s just who we are.

            Yet those former Anglicans who have accepted the papal encyclical Anglicanorum Coetibus and signed on with the Roman Catholic Church while maintaining their Anglican Patrimony (whatever that means) have become some of the most vitriolic anti-Anglicans, often within moments of their conversion. Ex-Anglicans laugh harder at Henry VIII jokes than any Roman Catholic—often so loud that the natives of Rome start to chuckle nervously and look at each other sideways as though to ask, ‘What’s this guy’s deal…?’

            When I first considered becoming an Ordinarian (a term coined in this Anglo-Papist forum) the first person I discussed it with was a dear friend of mine who is an extraordinarily devout layman of the Church of Rome. He asked me, ‘Mike, why not just become a full-on Catholic?’

            My response was something to the effect of preferring the Anglican liturgy, which had been promised to the Ordinarians if they would come home to Rome. But I had to ask myself, what’s so Anglican about a liturgy?

            Roman Catholics take offense to the term Romanism, and in a historical context they’re correct to do so. But I find myself gravitating toward the term because ‘Anglican’ is simply a contraction of ecclesia anglicana, or English Church. So to speak, I’m an Anglican, my friend is a Rome-icans; I’m an English Churchmen, he’s Roman Churchman. Etymologically, there’s nothing so offensive about the term. Anglicans are used to identifying a geographical association with denominations. So it seems an Anglican liturgy is simply one that comes from England.

           I can’t speak for you, dear reader, but this line of thought made me a bit confused. Is Anglicanism a theory of liturgy? Can one be a theological Romanist but a liturgical Anglican? Or a theological Mennonite but a liturgical Lutheran? I’m told Anglo-Lutherans existed somewhere; is that the same formula as an Anglo-Romanist?

            This is a lot of wordplay, but I thought about my friend’s question for weeks until it turned on its head: ‘Why do I want to be a Roman Catholic in the first place?’

            I don’t want to talk about the ‘heart of Anglicanism’ because that’s perhaps the least Anglican terminology possible. The gut of Anglicanism, perhaps. What’s the stomach, the mettle, that comes with being an Anglicanism? What does an Anglican savour and digest that is uniquely Anglican? And at what point does one cease to be an Anglican?

Personal Ordinariate
of our Lady
of Walsingham
            Like many, my frustration with Anglicanism is rooted in moral theology, which are certainly pressing issues in the Anglican Communion. Gay marriage, abortion, and women’s ordination are the three issues that have been driving Anglicans into Roman arms like a child who’s just watched his first episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. And many like to compare themselves to Blessed John Henry Newman. This, too, is a bit fishy. The Oxford Movement, of which Anglo-Catholics are the decedents, have led more Anglicans to Rome than any other factor until the Ordinariate—and the Ordinariate, interestingly, could not have flourished as it has without the revival of Catholicity in Anglicanism whose foundation was solidly laid by the Oxford Movement.

            But what is so remarkable about Cardinal Newman is that no new circumstances arose in the course of his conversion. The Anglican Communion did not become noticeably more liberal in the progression of his remarkable life. His knowledge of Church history, ecclesiology, and sacramental theology led to his conversion, not as a sort of liberationist for politically conservative Anglicans, but simply as a very devout Catholic who found Catholicity’s truest expression in the Roman tradition. I’m not here to argue with Cardinal Newman—God knows I have no such right—but there’s quite the disparity between the Blessed Cardinal and our Ordinarians.

            Is it merely a coincidence that so many Anglicans suddenly realized that the Church of England has stood on absolutely rotten foundation for the last 480 years? Many Ordinarians I know have said, ‘It started with the political issues [moral theology] but as I studied the history of the Church more I realized that Henry VIII is the worst person in the history of the world and everything Anglicanism stands for is positively Satanic.’ (That quote might be a bit of an exaggeration.) (Or it might not be.)

            I have no doubt that’s true for a good many Ordinarians, nor do I doubt that, as Eliot said, ‘For some souls … there is no satisfaction outside of Rome; and if Anglo-Catholicism has helped a few such to find their way to where they belong, I am very glad.’ Anglo-Catholicism naturally widens the likelihood of Anglican conversion to Rome or even the East wider than an Anglicanism sans Catholicity. I don’t wish to, nor do I have any right to, say that there have been no genuine conversions to Rome via Anglo-Catholicism and the Ordinariates. It’s not my place to judge any man’s heart.

            But the concern that lingers is still legitimate: in this mass-conversion, as many ‘Anglican Loyalists’ remaining in the Anglican Communion have observed, there is a huge rate of rabid anti-Anglicanism. It has often been remarked that converts to Roman Catholicism become the most passionate apologists for Roman Catholic doctrine, but I’ve never known them to become as passionately hateful toward their original faith as Ordinarians are toward the Church of England and the Episcopal Church, USA. I’ve noticed they express how relieved they are to no longer have to worry about what nonsense the Anglicans spout next, and then are hung up on that nonsense more than the average, decently informed Anglo-Catholic in the Anglican Communion. It has always been the Anglo-Catholic way to go follow Christ’s path gently and solemnly; the first, it appears to me, is conspicuously lacking in the Ordinarians. I often wonder who they're trying to prove their new Faith to—the rest of us in the Anglican Communion, or themselves?

            Now, it would be far-fetched to say that, even in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
Church, a mass-conversion should go entirely smoothly. No doubt there will be hiccups and other diaphragmatic spasms during this transition period, but there’s a question that always comes of these dreams-come-true: what could possibly go wrong?

            That the entire Anglo-Catholic community would suddenly have a rather Popish revelation and jump on the next ferry across the Tiber would (literally) be a Godsend. Isn’t this what we’ve been waiting for, guys—a place in the Roman Catholic Church for those of us with English tendencies? One Ordinarian said to me, ‘It’s not possible to be an Anglo-Catholic outside of the Roman Catholic Church after the formation of the Ordinariates.

            Hold on, now. What exactly are we striving for? It sounds to me like a balancing act between ‘most Anglo’ and ‘most Catholic’. Are we meant to believe that all Anglicans have ever wanted is a place in the Roman Catholic Church? We’ve always been free to convert at any time and place of our choosing (well, more or less). There’s always been a place in Rome for Anglicans who wished to convert to Catholicism; they never refused us entry. 

            The truth is that there were certain serious theological convictions that, despite being a mere butchering of canon law by a horny king so he could get a divorce or two, have persisted to this day, and have kept such monumental intellects from theologian John Keble to poet T.S. Eliot from becoming Romanists for almost five hundred years.

            I could probably cook up a joke about my extreme hesitation to abandon my hierarchy being the most enduring proof of my Catholicity, but that’s not quite dry enough for me go execute well. Still, to quote the great Australian conservative commentator Luke Torrisi,

It is actually a question of identity —you can't change what you are. (…) When you actually engage in real life events like marriage, baptism, funerals etc. and actually engage in the full life of a church you can't just switch off and barrack for another "team" like you are changing brands of coffee. Whilst there are segments (and vast ones at that) of the church that disengage from the horrors outlined above, one needs more than just a political disagreement with the "other wing" to turn one's back on a deep and genuine life investment full of conviction.

If indeed there is a political motive behind Ordinaiate Catholicism rather than a deep, binding conversion to Romanist principles, that can’t bode well for Christian unity down the road. I suspect that, with thousands converting largely in the spirit of social conservatism rather than a gradual, learned Newman-esque awakening to the Supremacy of Papal authority, Christian unity down the line is jeopardized.

            The Ordinariate certainly isn’t full of former Anglo-Papists, as they’re called, and Pope Benedict XVI certainly didn’t dispatch his Papal Encyclical at a point of feverish Anglican devotion to Roman Catholic ecclesiology. It was, more or less obviously, a political advancement. Anglican discontent with creeping Liberalism was at an all-time high, and Benedict XVI went so far as to create what amounts to a new liturgical Rite in the Roman Catholic Church to accommodate Anglicans who just needed a little push in the right direction. And so the voice of one Ordinarian comes back to me: ‘No one has the right to call themselves Anglo-Catholic outside the Ordinariate anymore.’

            But I can’t be the only one who sees the danger in converting to another religion, in a large part, due to its politics—and yes, I say politics interchangeably with moral theology for a reason. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Ordinariates aren’t driven by concerns about divorce, contraception, or marrying priests, which were the ‘gay marriage’ of their day, and remain extremely divisive issues in English-Roman dialogue, but these days don’t receive as much attention. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the opportunity and motive for the Ordinariate both come from hot-button social issues in Anglican
This is only here because
I have no idea what
it means. Interpretatiins
Communion provinces where those battles seemed to be lost to liberalism. There are more Anglicans in Africa than in England and the United States, and those areas are overwhelmingly more conservative—and yet there is no Ordinariate in Africa and no intention of creating one. This might all seem a bit obvious, but we have to consider that the Ordinariates really were created to attract disaffected conservative Anglicans. Yes, these Anglicans also tended to be from the Anglo-Catholic side rather than the Conservative Evangelical, which is more the African standard, but throughout Anglican history, when the Anglican Communion was as Conservative in moral theology as the Roman Catholic Church, there was no thought of an Ordinariate. There was no audience for it.

            We may well find ourselves, fifty or a hundred years down the road, regretting the Ordinariate in proportion to how many Anglicans it attracts. The cause for the English Schism has not been resolved. Again, if you’d rather stand your archaic ground and sling mud about Henry VIII, this post isn’t for you. But if, as an Anglican or a Roman Catholic, you take the theological divide between our two Communions seriously, it is not a question that can be resolved over mutual disdain for same-sex marriage and a cup of tea. There are questions of Papal authority, obviously. But in ‘Thoughts After Lambeth’ (1931), T.S. Eliot makes an important distinction between the fundamental thought process of Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism:

To put it frankly, but I hope not offensively, the Roman view in general seems to me to be that a principle must be affirmed without exception; and that thereafter exceptions can be dealt with, without modifying the principle. The view natural to the English mind, I believe, is rather that a principle must be framed in such a way as to include all allowable exceptions. It follows inevitably that the Roman Church must profess to be fixed, while the Anglican Church must profess to take account of changed conditions.
The admission of inconsistencies, sometimes ridiculed as indifference to logic and coherence, of which the English mind is often accused, may be largely the admission of inconsistencies inherent in life itself, and of the impossibility of overcoming them by the imposition of a uniformity greater than life will bear.
I hope that it is unnecessary to give the assurance that I do not consider the Roman way of thought dishonest, and that I would not endorse any cheap and facile gibes about the duplicity and dissimulation of that Church; it is another conception of human nature and of the means by which, on the whole, the greatest number of souls can be saved; but the difference goes deep.

That was a lot of text, but consider it carefully. The Anglican way has always been to abide by principle, but apply that principle to modern circumstances. There are unbending prohibitions, certainly, just as God’s justice is unbending, but the struggle of Anglicanism is to understand modern circumstances according to ancient Tradition. We don’t believe, as Roman Catholics do, that anyone in our Church has the ability to perfectly clarify and expound upon the Church Fathers, the immediate successors of Christ and the leaders of the Early Church. We have no Pope or Council that can equal the authority of the Fathers. And that is a theological conviction: Anglicans do not believe that
sort of authority has existed on this earth since the first five centuries or so.

            My purpose isn’t to defend this Anglican doctrine; it has been defended elsewhere, and by better theological minds than my own. But I foresee two unfortunate—and not, I think, unlikely—outcomes.

            The first is that Anglo-Romanists might not overcome the philosophical differences that currently separate even the most Catholic Anglicanism (such as Eliot’s) and the Roman Catholic doctrine. As Mr. Torrisi noted, it’s almost an entire conversion of identity. After decideding to become a Roman Catholic, John Henry Newman, who was one of the most Catholic of Anglicans at the time of his conversion, still needed a two-year respite before joining the Roman Catholic Church… Suffice to say, not because he was so attached to a vague notion of ‘Anglican Patrimony’. Conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism is a radical change in thinking, believing, and practice. Is it possible that thousands of Anglicans could have realized that the third pillar of Anglicanism—Scripture, Tradition, and Reason—is incorrect, and that the fullness of Truth exists in the Scripture, Doctrines, and Hierarchies of the Roman Catholic Church alone, all over the question of gay marriage and abortion? Perhaps. That may very well be the case. But I wonder if these conversions were taken too lightly, and if an Anglican impulse toward a fixed concept of Tradition, corporate Reason, and the necessarily limited capacity for human beings to align themselves with God’s Supreme Design (and in such the inability of the Church to form perfect, constant dogma) will underlie the future of the Ordinariate. God forbid this imperfect reunion should lead to a second schism and damage English-Roman relations more than it helps.

            The second is the possibility that Anglo-Romanists, if they are indeed converting en masse for political purposes rather than in true reconciliation, would not only betray Roman Catholic Sacraments with a false conversion, so to speak, which any Catholic (Anglican or Roman or Eastern) must admit could do serious spiritual damage, but if this new Rite of the Roman Catholic Church is one founded on simply being ‘not Anglican’ and politically conservative, that does not bode well for the spiritual health of the Ordinarians and their successors. What identity does the Ordinariate have now except Roman Catholic theology and ‘Anglican Patrimony’—which, as a long-time observer of the Ordinariates, consists largely of attacking the Anglican Communion? This negative definition—defining one’s self as what they are not (Anglican, liberal, etc.)—is not a healthy foundation for a spiritual community. Again, this is the opinion but one observer, who does wish desperately for reunion between Canterbury and Rome, but I have seen more non-Anglicanism than Romanism in Ordinarians. Cardinal Newman’s conversion was to Roman Catholicism, not away from Anglicanism, and that has not been the case with the Ordinariates so far as I can see.

            I tentatively self-identify as an Anglo-Papist. I could believe Christ commissioned Petrine Supremacy in some form. Not the form it has taken in modern Roman Catholicism, but I am not unwilling believe all true Christians are under the primacy of the Successor to St. Peter. Nor do I believe the Orthodox Church is all wrong and the West is all right. One true conviction I hold is that the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church will not be united by skimming off the temporally disillusioned from one branch to another. It bothers me when liberal Anglicans evangelize pro-gay marriage Roman Catholics as it bothers me when conservative Roman Catholics evangelize pro-life Anglicans. You and I do not belong in Christ’s Church because we agree with it, but we must conform ourselves Christ’s Church because we believe in the Church. I don’t believe the Roman teaching on abortion is correct because I’m pro-life, but because I believe the Roman Catholic Church has the authority to teach Christ’s Word. It isn’t that we align ourselves with the Church, we submit to the Church. Anglicans converting to Roman Catholicism should not do so because they agree with the Vatican’s teachings, but because they understand and submit themselves to the Vatican’s teaching authority. The distinction is very important, and I just haven’t seen this occurring in the Ordinariates.

            My hope for English-Roman reunion has always been corporate, and I do believe that someday the See of Canterbury and the See of Rome will reconcile to each other. I don’t believe there will be any need for an ‘Anglican Patrimony’, because our only Pater should be Christ and that of His Church. If I believe that Anglicanism is the true expression of Christ’s Law, I am an Anglican. If I believe the Romanism is the truest expression of Catholicity, I am a Roman Catholic. But this ‘Anglican Patrimony’ strikes me as disingenuous. If there has ever been truth to Anglicanism, then it remains true. If it has always been incorrect, it will never be righted. This isn’t to say there shouldn’t be an English Rite of some kind, or a liturgical method that comes from the See of Canterbury, but it should not be Anglican. Anglicanism is not a style, it is a theology. It is a cultural heritage to some, yes, and any reunion between English and Roman Catholics will not predicate one being entirely correct and the other entirely wrong, but what we should strive towards is Universality—Catholicity—not distinctions between Anglo-this and Roman-that.  The retention of Anglicanism as a valid tradition is an admission of Branch Theory, which this Anglo-Catholic-Papist-Orthodox isn’t so broken up about. But from the Roman Catholic point of view, which is anti-Branch Theory, we may as well adopt a Lutheran Patrimony or an Amish Patrimony if these schisms and heresies are totally invalid but can be righted by Papal Decree.

            So I may join the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, or the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, or the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Or I may not. This expression of my misgiving will not, I hope, peg me as one of the ‘opponents of the Ordinariate’, as we insolent Anglo-Catholics who remain in the Anglican Communion have been branded (of course, by the Ordinarians). Anglo-Catholics in favour of Branch Theory are perhaps the least threatening human beings to Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians alike. We recognize their legitimacy and even the strict reasoning behind them. We ask to be included in their Communion and aren’t particularly broken up when we’re not. I understand those terms of exclusion, but the attitude continues to baffle me. It’s as though Anglicans are hoping to join a social club, and the members not only reject them based on their credentials (which is understandable, if disappointing), but then do all they can to publicly defame the applicant as a show of elitism. Anglicans and Romanists have a very strenuous relationship, and always have. Liberal Anglicans to this day continue to demonize the Roman Catholic Church to some degree, and vice-versa. But the assault on Anglo-Catholics, who came about specifically to reconcile the two and in many instances root for Rome over Canterbury, there’s still an attitude of dismissal and even contempt. I hope this is merely hurt feelings that need more time and Christian love before they heal, and not a deep fracture that will keep the Christian Church divided permanently. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Future of Traditionalism

What surprises me is that, in this day and age, my political and religious views are seen as more of an eccentricity than they are generally taken seriously. In a time and place that values nothing more than diversity of opinion and self-expression, it's apparently shocking that anyone, like the Baron Evola, might shrug their shoulders and simply say, 'My principles are only those that, before the French Revolution, every well-born person considered sane and normal.' Was there nothing good in the 18th century that has since been lost? No values or traditions that industrialization, urbanization, liberalization, globalization, nationalization, and secularization might have taken from us that we might want back? I don't believe that's really so inconceivable. It might just be that I've been at this game so long, but I don't understand this visceral reaction I get occasionally to the "Altar and Throne" conservatism of my cohorts and mine. In cases such as the United States, though I am an ideologically convinced Monarchist, I am comfortable arguing for an American, Kirk-style Traditionalist Conservatism. If a library is burning, every book that can be saved counts. Likewise, in the United States, with the onset of materialism and corporatism, the deepening entrenchment of the liberal elite, the suppression of the Church and traditional morality—these aren't grievances foreign to anyone who knows a thing or two about the contemporary Right. This mass awareness is of nothing less than the festering anger in conservative and otherwise moderate men and women who are being motivated, not by their own radicalism, but by the radicalism of the Left. Conservatives will only ever be as radical as their contemporary Progressives. There never has been, and never feasibly will be, an occasion where a group of people spontaneously react to slow and moderate change. Reactionary thought is only ever a 'reaction', and oftentimes a sudden, jarring lurch to the Left in a given political climate can cause a large-scale awakening to the serious setbacks that the warlike spirit of "Progress" has ushered in.

Alongside this rise in youth Traditionalism is also a rising youth population motivated by an Evolan Traditionalism that jumps out of the bounds of Evola himself. 'The New Right', and its most notable incarnation Nouvelle Droite, has made a rather sudden explosion onto the European political scene and is dominated by non-Christian and otherwise explicitly neopagan views—ritual suicide, 'ethnic religion', and what I feel comfortable saying is a general neo-Romanticism. I could take this in the direction of a Romantic vs. Classicist worldview dividing the ND vs. High Tory worldview but this would be a tangent better left on its own. 

The majestic symbol of High Toryism...
According to Wikipedia
What I do believe the ND represents is an emotive, ideological response to circumstances quite like the rise of Fascism after WWI, the Free Love Revolution of the 1960s, and all of the flash-pan,  extremist movements throughout history whose influence we claim has "endured". In many cases seems disingenuous to me. Political racialism is hardly different than tribal warfare. Free Love is a thinly intellectual justification to indulge in animalistic, carnal desires. In short, they're primitivistic movements—which isn't necessarily a negative in itself, but they must be recognized as such. They claim higher spiritual messages: Free Love is often attached to Tantrism and Fascism to various occult and spiritualist practices. But these ideologies are not rooted in lasting religious traditions, are usually based loosely in pieces of Eastern and primordial religions from which the movement can pick and choose as is convenient, and those interpretations die with the ideology itself. They deny an organic view of society, deny the Christian and Monarchial traditions of Europe's heritage.

Instead they affirm an ideological formula for how society ought to be organized. Issues concerning the traditional definition of marriage are drawn purely from 'Natural Law' with no mediator such as Christianity. As a member of the Catholic Church and defender of Christian ethics, I don't doubt the importance of Natural Law, which is as authentic as biblical law—indeed, they are one and the same. But, as was demonstrated in Dominique Venner's suicide, the Nouvelle Droite is incompatible with Traditionalist Conservatism, 'High Toryism', and any philosophy affirming Christianity. Mr Venner's actions, which courageous by the ND's standards, cannot be condoned by a Christian Conservative. He did what he did to draw attention to the gravity of the marriage debate in France—that patiently observing the desecration of marriage is totally unacceptable—but in doing so he horribly desecrated an eminently important Roman Catholic Cathedral. Mr Venner was not an ignorant man; he knew full well that his actions could not be considered in line with Christian conduct in a Christian place of worship. I believe he also meant to slight the Roman Catholic Bishops who have done less than their part to uphold traditional marriage in their country. Is there any way to defend one act of desecration and not another? And, while it may be only one man's act, the reaction by Nouvelle Droite and other 'New Right' thinkers and leaders was telling. If they fully support such an act, what sort of alliance can Traditionalist Conservatives forge with these new ideologues?

I had a debate with a ND adherent, who said the institutions of Church and Monarchy have failed to preserve the traditional values they are entrusted with. That utilitarian logic assumes both a non-Christian reality and an anti-Divine Right line of thinking, both of which I believed this fellow knew I wouldn't settle for. But if we approach the question with Maurrassisme logic and need to justify institutions by how utilitarian they are for us as traditionalists, that's another debate altogether, and one I'm not opposed to having.

I do believe God desires the preservation of both Altar and Throne, and this, I think, is in itself enough of a reason to fight for them both. But the God of Christianity isn't given to laws for their own sake. He doesn't forbid shellfish or mixed fabrics. He warns against needless extravagance and blinding excess. So it's not unreasonable, I think, to assume God has some purpose for all these old robes and funny hats that have meant so much to old-fashioned, high-minded folk for so long.

Man is a fallen creature. I doubt that's much in question these days. If utopia exists we're as far from it as we've ever been. As we cure one terrible disease, another two or three seem to appear. We've learned to almost double the body's lifespan, and yet we now see how difficult it is to preserve the mind. The developed world has food in greater abundance, but in abysmal quality. Science hasn't been the benevolent master we'd hoped it would be. There's little reason to rage endlessly against the likes of Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers for setting us down the unknown path of Rationalism. There is also no excuse for continuing down that road. From the terrible realities of abortion and prostitution even when they're supposedly "safe and legal", to Catholic expressions of faith being threatened on university campuses, to the decline of stable families and households, it seems we've come a long way in terms of... Erm... Plumbing, and refrigeration, and other things they didn't have so much of in the 1800s. But doesn't it seem like there's something on a deeper, spiritual level that we're losing?
Yukio Mishima, Japanese neo-Bushido adherent hugely
influential in the New Right

New Rightists and ND adherents would certainly agree. But the nature of the Fallen Man is that we have our moments of cloying hunger for gnosis, but by and large we're happy to have an excuse to take the easy, immediately satisfying route. In an ideal world, we'd all be contemplative enough to resist these temptations. But, alas, this is not human nature. We cannot all be as mindfully upright as the Nouvelle Droite because our souls cry out loudly for the well-worn path in the shade of the mountains. Most of us have to see that path to walk it. And I don't mean that sardonically. (Well, not entirely.) I think the Nouvelle Droite is composed mostly of spiritually rigorous men and women who assume their contemplativeness is the natural state of all mankind. I can personally attest that this is far from true in the case of most men and women. The huge majority of us are eaten away by the Seven Deadly Sins and need some kind of presence to remind us just how straight and narrow the straight and narrow is.

Christ, equal parts Man and God, is the only god for such a people. To suffer for us, and for us to suffer with Him, He needed to suffer as humans suffer—He needed to die as we die, that we may be reborn as He was reborn. Regardless of whether one is an orthodox, believing Christian, I've always found this idea of Human Nature and just what kind of god such humans would really need remarkably accurate. C.S. Lewis said it best. We're spiritual beings trapped behind Enemy lines—that is, the material world—fighting desperately to return to our spiritual home in God's arms. But every time our allies try to send us a message, they're lost along the way. Any orders from the High Command need to be delivered very craftily. That is to say, they need to get through our thick skulls.

This is why, after two thousand years, we still have the same Church. A thousand years later, we still have the British Monarchy. In the Church we have the tangible presence of God's grace and forgiveness. We witness His death and rebirth. We join in the body of the saved. We're instructed diligently in His Word. Likewise, in the person and, more importantly, the office of the Monarch, we have the nation's whole identity embodied in one living individual. We have the arbiter and defender of the Law. We have the entirety of the Empire's history culminating in one step, one breath, one word after another. Not because Elizabeth II is so great, or because Prince Charles will be so great, but because England is so Great, Britain is so great, Australia is so great—in the Monarch, we have one leader unbeholden to the political tide that will bear the state with the dignity and honor deserving of the Her Majesy's subjects, both those who have passed, are passing, and those still to come.

Distressing propaganda from
'A Handbook of Traditional Living'
I'm not going to be the fellow that wins the 'Who can be the most right-wing' game by calling the development of improved medicinal science a negative consequence of the Enlightenment. But the loss of our spiritual health is not only unacceptable, it will prove chronically fatal. Our supreme Virtues are still in tact, and while the institutions guarding them might have shifted in the cool earth a bit here and there. They are the bodies that the spirit of the Law inhabits. Our human forms are fallible; certainly anything made of this perpetually-decaying stuff called matter is bound to fail from time to time. And so there have been bad monarchs and bad priests. But we've seen the disproportionate amount of good they've done also—at least compared to republics. We can't expect a perfect messenger of this transcendent Truth, but Monarchy and Catholicity have stood the test of time, prevailed where Puritanism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism, and Nazism have risen and fallen. Rationalism began to undermine the unprecedented spiritual vitality of the Middle Ages, and with some legitimacy.

I don't blame the New Rightists for having a difficult time reconciling the better elements of progress in the modern world with Traditionalist Conservatism. They've fallen victim to the old liberal propaganda that Conservatives are ineffective, pampered old snobs who are either too self-interested, too lazy, or too afraid to take any serious action. They seem to forget that the Church, the Monarchies, and the Aristocracies have only seen their power decline in Europe since the Enlightenment. They believe the same values freed from their vessels—the spirits freed from their bodies—will bring about the reaction they're hoping for. But, like those reckless movements that have come before them on the left and the right, the Nouvelle Droite will fall into obscurity, too. The Church will prevail; the Monarchy will prevail. They always have, and I'm certain they always will.

Principle Nouvelle Droite ideologue
Alain De Benoist
Does this mean we ignore the Nouvelle Droite? Honestly, more or less. Traditionalists really have very little to learn from Mr Venner, Alain de Benoist, and their New Right fellows across Europe. As Burke said, "In what we improve we are never wholly new; in what we retain we are never wholly obsolete." If the New Right is onto something, it's something Tories have been onto for a long time. In terms of policy, the New Right and Toryism are alike—affirming traditional values, opposing egalitarianism, and rejecting neoliberal economics. But their reasons for accepting these values are not an interest in slow, gradual change that brings about true progress, nor that continuity throughout a nation's history produces the combined order and liberty that allows Civilization to flourish. That is the Conservative way. Their reason is ideological—as ideological and un-conservative as libertarianism or Marxism. All ideologies believe they're merely observing nature. Only Conservatism seems to have the credentials. We've been coming to the same conclusions for hundreds and hundreds of years—and that's only the modern incarnation. And only Conservatives, among the great political factions in Europe's history, are here as we have always been. Perhaps there were more of us at some times. In others there were fewer. But we'll always be here, the Collosi standing at the port of this fantastical Nation-State, feet wet with the intrepid rushing and falling of new ideas, each wave proving to another passer-by that these well-wrought bastions will not fall, etc.

Anyway, however we romanticize it, I think there's some real truth to Churchill's saying, 'If you're twenty and not a liberal you have no heart, and if you're forty and not a conservative you have no brains.' He, of course, meant, 'The older you get the more you realize there's no way to really love your neighbor, give of yourself, and all that; so you get content with hoarding all your cash and waiting to die.' Insofar as that's our definition of Conservative I entirely disagree.

But if we take 'heart' to mean reckless, unbridled passions, that is remarkably true. Since the French Revolution, there have been a series of utopian uprisings who firmly believed that all mankind was missing to cross the threshold into Paradise was their ideology. Socialists aspire to a worker's state; Fascists to a military state. Likewise, the New Right believes a revival of primitive naturalism, radical decentralization, and their own brand of racial tribalism, will turn humanity on its heels and bring it to face the sun.

Tories, on the other hand, are well aware of two facts. One, progress takes time, Two, paradise isn't to be found here, but what's beyond.

The elder, happier Eliot
In the meantime, do we cower before the modern world, and make ourselves slaves to a Kingdom in the Clouds that might not even exist? Yes and no. We don't fear the modern world—we don't, in fact, fear anything at all. Our family gives us strength. Our God gives us courage. Our land gives us purpose. We're the people of T.S. Eliot, rapt by the life of the mind. We're the people of C.S. Lewis, surprised by the simple, sudden joy of the Christian life. We're the people of Yeats, understanding our nation and our people by the music that resonates from the beating of our one heart. We're the people of Robert Frost, content to be bewildered by the multitude of the stars. We're the people of Hilaire Belloc, incensed by the suffering of our fellow men and stopping at nothing to show them the Face of God in human kindness. And with a rhetorical flourish I'm even more certain that this awe, this passion, and all this curiosity that lies at the heart of Toryism won't perish. As far as I can tell, Toryism is merely the absence of ideology: reveling in the great mysteries, confronting the great challenges, and living a good life along the way. It's not uproarious or cataclysmic. It's not millennial, it's not revolutionary. But neither, really, are human beings. The Earth shakes at the call of God, and so do we. Not by our own frail powers to affect change are we enlivened, but in others, in the mind, in the soul, in nature, in the Divine. We do revolt against the modern world, but we revolt against this world in all its states; that is the nature of being a Christian. There is no victory in sight but that in the Other Country. Nor can we hasten our departure. We must fight constantly, long, and hard, be prepared to fail, and keep on fighting. Somewhere along the way we realize we only fight for love, and we're ambushed by a quietness that's like a thousand lifetimes of peace.

I'm not so convinced that defining one's self by politics has ever made a sane man, woman or child feel fulfilled for too long. When the world heaves a collective sigh of exhaustion and decides to stop playing at Utopia, the Tories will still be here, right where everyone left us a century or two ago. As John Kekes said, 'Moral traditions, then, are enabling rather than productive; defensive rather than venturesome, regulative rather than goal-directed.' We are conservative because we have better things to do than politics—and even if we don't, we've proven how terrible human beings tend to be at them. So we lean on the collective knowledge of our ancestors: their failures and successes, their means to joy and their means to heartbreak. We get the general sense that there's a deep happiness in living an upright life, that the money is a terrible servant and a worse master, that radical equality tends to pan out badly for everyone, that old laws tend to be just laws, that reverence for one's Sovereign is not slavish but radically empowering, and that God is odd at times but very, very good to us.

This poem might not elucidate all of the metaphysical realities of Traditionalism, but it does give breath to a sentiment that runs through Traditionalist thinkers in the English-speaking world: that politics isn't quite the end of things, and perhaps it isn't even a beginning. In the words of William Butler Yeats:
The elder statesman Yeats

HOW can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?
Yet here's a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there's a politician
That has read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms! 

Politics, by W.B. Yeats

For God, Queen, and Country,
   I am yours,
M.W. Davis

The American High Tory

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Ascendency and Irish Nationalism

The Ascendency and Irish Nationalism

I'd like to take the occasion of the 131st birthday of James Joyce - who is generally considered the greatest writer in any language ever, with no exaggeration - to touch on an idea Joyce himself constantly grappled with. Joyce, like the Irishman in Shakespeare's Henry V, spent his whole life asking, "What ish my nation?"

Of my nation? What ish my nation? Ish a villain and a basterd and a knave and a rascal. What ish my nation? Who talks of my nation?(Henry V, Act III, Scene II)

At the risk of alienating myself from my reactionary peers, and at the more grievous risk of being an American telling the British and Irish how to handle their dispute, I'd like to offer my humble opinion as as an artist and passionate admirer of the culture of the British Isles as a whole, one who would align himself as closely, politically and artistically, with Yeats as with Blake, with Heaney as with Eliot, and of course with Joyce as closely as with-- well, who can compare to Joyce? But so I do.

My own roots are Anglo-Irish and Catholic Irish. Among my ancestors I find no unionists, but two prominent nationalists: Thomas Osborne Davis, poet and founder of the Young Ireland movement; and Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher, the Young Irelander leader during the Rebellion of 1848 and subsequent leader of the United States Irish Brigade in the American Civil War. I'm intensely proud of both of these gentlemen, whose politics I don't agree with whole-heartedly but whose courage and honor few men have ever achieved.

I often get slapped with the label 'Anglophile', which I really detest. I don't have any undue affection for English culture. That I happen to be primarily of Anglo-Irish heritage and as such of English descent, and that I'm inclined towards the works of Ted Hughes, Sir Edward Elgar, Edward Burne-Jones, and Sir Robert Filmer says nothing for my admiration of Louis MacNiece, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, George William Russell, and C.S. Lewis - let alone my love for American artists and thinkers.

As an American I feel deeply indebted to the United Kingdom, the political, cultural, philosophical, and literal mother of my country, without whom there would be no United States. Likewise, I feel indebted to the nation that my ancestors called home - the nation of Ireland.

Flag of the Kingdom of Ireland
Ireland was no doubt dominated - culturally and politically - by its Anglo-Irish/Protestant Ascendency. A quick skim of the politicians and artists who belonged to the Ascendency will prove that to be undeniably true. Whether they did so by any legitimate means is irrelevant: just as the Anglo-Saxons came to be dominated by their Norman invaders, Ireland was dominated by the Anglo-Irish, and its heritage is totally inseparable form that privileged class.

But Ireland feels no need to reject this legacy, and for two reasons: for one, its artists and thinkers are the pride of the Irish people; and, more conveniently, they were all either sympathetic to their downtrodden countrymen or were out-and-out Nationalists.

I'll just bite the bullet and confess: yes, I'm an Irish nationalist. Yes, yes, I think Ireland's political and cultural heritage is too unique and rich to be dominated or Anglicized. And, without a doubt, I think the Irish people are a people all their own, and their country is their country to govern as an Irish country of Irishmen should be governed.

My sympathy with Irish nationalism comes out of my Traditionalism: to put it bluntly, the Irish have just as much right to celebrate their traditions, customs, and national heritage as the English, the Scottish, the Welsh, the Americans, and whatever land a people call home.

However, my Traditionalism brings me into conflict with Irish republicanism as it is commonly understood. The greatest detriment to Irish independence was, I strongly believe, its abandonment of the Ascendency and its refusal to acknowledge any links with England.

W.B. Yeats, the Protestant Nationalist, spent his whole life struggling to revive the idea of Irish Nationhood, to revive pride in Irish culture, and to restore the dignity of the Irish people. But he was dismayed when the nationalist sentiment, which had been dominated by the Anglo-Irish, began to incorporate egalitarianism and anti-Protestantism. Was this the same Ireland that had fought and died for King Charles I against Cromwell's Roundheads and suffered his horrible wrath? Was this the same Ireland that defended James II's Divine Right to rule over those islands and who fought for the Stuart Pretender in every Jacobite War? Catholic Irishmen turned on the Anglo-Irish and, in the name of Parnell, Davis, and Tone, Irish Catholics began persecuting their sons and daughters. Yeats, in his famous eulogy for the Ascendency, said:
William Butler Yeats
I think it is tragic that within three years of this country gaining its independence we should be discussing a measure which a minority of this nation considers to be grossly oppressive. I am proud to consider myself a typical man of that minority. We against whom you have done this thing, are no petty people. (...) We have created the most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence. (...) You have defined our position and have given us a popular following. If we have not lost our stamina then your victory will be brief, and your defeat final, and when it comes this nation may be transformed.
In abandoning its able governors and cultural champions, the nation of Ireland has found itself void of effective leadership and totally unable to find common ground. We still bear witness to the struggle between Catholics and Protestants, Nationalists and Unionists in Ireland: a nation whose leaders were drawn from a minority, and where the class who knew nothing about self-government has disallowed its privileged minority to do what they do best - lead. Ireland made experienced leadership unpatriotic; it made Protestantism unpatriotic; it made the highly educated and highly cultured unpatriotic; it celebrates its spiritually rich and noble working-class at the expense of its astonishingly gifted aristocracy. To whose benefit? Not to the benefit of the Irish people. Not at all.

As in the United States, Anglophobia has blurred the sensibilities of the Irish. In America, suggesting that we owe a debt to the British in any way is met with indignation, such as "But... the Revolution! They were horrible to us!" and "But... the War of 1812! They burned down our capital!" True, we don't have a stainless history with the British, but no parent-and-child relationship is ever flawless. The fabric of our nation is British  and when we didn't have that to unite us we struggled to find our identity in something else, which we have yet to do (even the most ardent American Patriot will not deny that America is the most disunited we've been since the Civil War).
Charles Stuart Parnell

The same is not exactly true of Ireland, in part because their cultural heritage did exist without England's intervention, where the United States was populated by Englishmen, and the atrocities committed in Ireland understandably muddy the water between Ireland and England. But haven't the two peoples' histories been richly and beautifully intertwined? What would England be without Ireland, and Ireland without England? Would Ireland be better without William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Louis MacNiece, Edmund Burke, Bernard Shaw, the Duke of Wellington, Charles Stuart Parnell, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, and every Anglo-Irishman who compose the bulk of Ireland's heroes, their most celebrated legacy?

Ireland would have flourished under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which gave appropriate deference to the Monarchy which Ireland had loyally served since they struggled together against Cromwell, acknowledged the familial bond between Ireland and Great Britain, and allowed the majority-Protestant north to become incorporated into the United Kingdom with full parliamentary representation. Everyone was, practically speaking, satisfied - except for those radicals who understandably but falsely associated England with all things un-Irish, and so that peace, too, was shattered, and Ireland (much like America) tore itself from its traditions, its leaders, and its national identity.

The Republic of Ireland advocacy organization, the Reform Group, hopes to bring the Republic back into the Commonwealth of Nations and is comprised largely of Anglo-Irishmen. In terms of practical solutions to the question of Irish nationhood, I think their ends are in the best interests of Ireland. But, of course, there can be no progress until the people of Ireland want to move forward, embracing their heritage which is drawn from both the Emerald Isle and England's green and pleasant land.

I hope the United States will someday reconcile itself with its roots, which are English. National unity - and, indeed, a universal understanding of what one's nation ish - is the most fundamental element of just government, flourishing culture, and a sense of community among a nation's fill of individuals. I hope we never forget, too, our home-grown champions - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, Allen Tate, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Amy and Robert Lowell, William Faulkner, and Donald Hall, to name a few who bring me closer to understanding who 'Americans' are.

A statue of James Joyce in Dublin
I have this same hope for Ireland - that she celebrate all her roots, those that find their ground in the Emerald Isle and those that stretch across the Irish Sea, across the Atlantic and even into the Pacific, into those far-off lands which have never ceased them from being Irish, but whose foreign soil has enriched them all the same.

I did little to celebrate Ireland in this post, but I hope my love for her is evident enough. In the words of my forefather Thomas Davis,

So, as I grew from boy to man,
I bent me to that bidding-
My spirit of each selfish plan
And cruel passion ridding;
For, thus I hoped some day to aid-
Oh! can such hope be in vain?-
When my dear country shall be made
A nation once again.
 Have a very happy birthday, Mr. Joyce; and I offer you all in parting these quotes from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

"I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use — silence, exile and cunning.
"Welcome, O life, I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead."