- 1.The Problem of Christianity – Part 1
- 2.The Problem of Christianity – Part 2
What good can Christianity do for us in the present – and in the future?
This will be our final essay for the year, as Arktos Journal will be taking a hiatus for the holidays. We look forward to beginning a new year of critical analysis from the Right, and in the meantime we wish our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
1. The theologico-political problem — About any idea or ideology, one can and must ask three distinct questions: ‘Is it true?’, ‘Is it beautiful?’, and ‘Is it beneficial?’ It might be that in certain cases two of these, or even all three, coincide; but it is both gratuitous and irresponsible to suppose that they must do so.
2. The moralism of the Church — What is the Catholic Church, if nature, at least this human nature, is not corrupt? Without the concept of original sin, that innate blemish on the human material, a taint indelible, save by the intercession of Christ alone, what remains of the rest of the superstructure of church and faith?
3. Consider but the Christian conception of sex, that rigorously and reductively teleological interpretation of an essential organic part of the human being; the Christians really would interpret the entirety of the sexual aspect of man’s nature as tending unambiguously and exclusively toward reproduction alone! By that same logic, one should never eat for the pleasure of it, listen or see or smell for the pleasure of it. Truly, pleasure itself comes into deep suspicion within the context of Christianity – suspicion which, to be sure, is quite wanted in our day, but as compared to the healthy and unashamed vitalism of the ancients may leave something to be desired.
And that to speak of only one aspect of sexuality, the lower and more obvious part of it; for truly, that is but the surface of a very deep phenomenon, one which extends to love, to artistic creation, to spirituality, to transcendence, perhaps to some metaphysical principle in the reality of things – to any number of organic, intellectual and divine aspects of this human soul which suddenly are barred off in the most unsettling and unnatural way when one takes upon oneself the chains of Christian mores.
Surely, this much is clear: one cannot expect from the Christians any unqualified celebration of the beauty of the human form, of the naked human spirit, of a merely human excellence, such as one finds so starkly and boldly in the heathens of old. It is no accident that the nude fell out of favour in the arts of the Church, was even for many centuries quite literally covered in shame; this is not merely a question of prudish moralism. One has but to recall that the great and peerless art of the Renaissance would have been impossible without a prior prying into the physiological secrets of the human body; Michelangelo took up the scalpel in the mortuary before he took up the chisel in the quarry, and in his drawings, Da Vinci, too, revealed that he was no stranger to these mysteries. The fine old innocence of the pagans was surely lost with the Church, briefly reclaimed in the Renaissance – and then lost in a much more offensive and vile way in later Modernity.
Nothing in any of this disproves, of course, that there really might be something ‘corrupt’ or deeply problematic and questionable within in human nature. Suffice it to note that all human societies in all times and all places, from the Greeks to the Persians, from the Romans to the Gauls, from the Chinese to the Cherokees, from the godless moneygrubbers of Wall Street to the simplest Bushmen of the African plains, have seen it fit to cover man’s nudity – a peculiarly human habit noted in religious or allegorical form already in the tale of the Garden of Eden. No society, and certainly no civilized society, could be so much as imagined in which this were not the case. But why should that be, if man really is ‘innocent’?
It would seem that the Greeks pressed ‘human innocence’ as far as it can be pressed – and it is a matter open for debate to what extent the results were healthy.
4. What in Christianity is Judaic, as opposed to Athenian, Roman or Nordic? To what extent has Christianity been a foreign imposition on the ways of Europe? And to what extent is that imposition itself to the detriment, rather than the enlargement of our souls? Original sin, the idea of the chosen people (extended, albeit, to the entirety of practising Christians), the idea of creatio ex nihil – perhaps even monotheism itself – are these European? Hebrew? Human?
5. It is difficult to avoid the impression that even the polytheistic faiths tend toward monotheism in their highest and most clarion expressions – that there is something more rigorously theologically satisfying in the idea of a single deity as sustainer of the world, than of a host who evidently are somehow sustained by it.
6. Sufficient proof — If it could be definitively shown that even a single Christian virtue was such an innovation upon human morality that its analogue could not be found in all the societies before the birth of Christ – if it could be proved that just one of these Christian virtues bore the watermark or stamp of God himself, in all the enigmatic mysteriousness of divine intervention, such that without the touch and grace and command of some god, such a true virtue could never have arisen in the mortal world of men – that and that alone would be sufficient to demonstrate the necessity and the truth of Christianity as a whole.
7. Christians sometimes speak as if theirs had been the first god to ‘overcome the grave’; haughty claim, in the face of the old initiation rites, and a hundred pre-Christian works of East and West that definitively point to the reality and possibility of a human afterlife, following in the initiatory path of any number of deities and ‘schools’! One does not know if such claims come of a specially Christian cultivation of ignorance – or of a peculiarly Christian excess of subtlety. For it might well be that Christianity was the first to overcome, or to desire to overcome, the potter’s grave, and to extend hope in an afterlife to all of humanity; that, no doubt, is eminently Christian.
One is still entitled to wonder if it is at all justified – and more to the point, if it represents an improvement on human morality.
8. The Christian doctrine of the soul has been a stumbling block to intelligent men for the entire history of that faith’s existence. Setting aside the atheists, who do not concern us here, any man who is attempting to develop a natural theology from out of honest and conscientious observation of the immanent world and the points (today, alas, all at best tangential) at which this immanent world is evidently touched by higher planes, is a thousand times more likely to come to the same conclusions that so many pre-Christians did indeed attain: namely, that the soul is capable of being immortal, in certain exceptional cases; that in the majority of cases the soul (which is generally speaking unformed and inchoate) merely disperses upon death or lingers about in partial and mindless forms (the ghosts of Hades, or even ghosts as such); that a man who cannot remember what he did yesterday or who is incapable of even sufficient wakefulness to recognize the simplest consequences of this or that simplest thought or action is unlikely to possess the raw being necessary to transcend his earthly form; that a man must awaken and work long upon himself to produce anything capable of withstanding the shocking trauma of his demise; that this is part and parcel of the innate and natural aristocratic hierarchy of human souls.
To be sure, there are some pre-Christian figures who seem to suggest the doctrine of the immortal soul, such as Socrates. Most of what we Socrates’ teachings are the mythoi preserved in Plato’s dialogues, which appear to have fulfilled a certain moral or political end, while the argumentation within the Phaedo in particular must be taken carefully within its extremely suggestive context. It appears at any rate that Plato’s Socrates considered the idea of the immortal soul to be a salubrious notion, and attempted to inculcate it accordingly in his interlocutors. To make man better on account of the promise of posthumous award, the threat of posthumous punishment; to extend the idea of justice beyond the course of this life, in order to render it as hard as a diamond amidst the holocaust of human iniquities – to give the life of man depth by giving it breadth, longevity – this idea, contained clearly within Plato, has clear legislative justifications, and its worth in our world of petty, tawdry, greedy economism should be carefully weighed.
But to what extent can the doctrines of Christianity be taken as merely legislative?
9. Christianity substituted theology for mystery, baptism for initiation. This constitutes an act of democratic equalization unheard of in the old religions of the world; it is a Christian innovation. It made the Church into the great bastion of learning to which we owe so very much; but the hand that giveth taketh away, and that same innovation also sewed strict and harsh limits into the fabric of potential studies on the part of the churchmen themselves. Even Abelard ran hard against these in his day, and discovered that while the Church was the great protectress of philosophizing, to the philosophers it was a deadly foe.
This, of course, has never been and never could be otherwise, so far as the general and exoteric teachings of any faith go. Save that all other faiths have their esoteric teaching to somewhat counterbalance this inequality. It was hitherto understood that the sage, for his sagacity, had liberties even in thought that the common man should never be granted.
Does the Church recognize the difference between the exoteric and the esoteric? Has it ever?
10. Whatever is made common is brought low; whatever is exceptional stands on a pinnacle. Beware you then of strewing jewels into the hands of the masses; for they become but pebbles in common fingers, and lose all their lustre and their flame – even for the commoners who now possess them.
11. The love of Christ! A love extended to all the world, to the lowly, the meek, the helpless, the damaged, the suffering, the sinner (supposing he only ‘repent’!); a love like a net spread out to catch even small fry, eels and anglerfish; a love like a sieve which captures rubies, diamonds, chunks of granite and bits of shale, and calls all of them to a one gemstones. Truly, there is much that is ‘mysterious’ in this kind of love. But it is a vulgar curiosity which goes prying at each and every mystery as though it were necessarily a veil over a lamp, rather than a fig-leaf over a pudendum, and one is tempted, and more than tempted, to wonder if there is not something untoward and even ugly in such ‘divine affections’…
12. The love proposed by the Christians was as a doorway leading down; through it stumbled the magnanimous virtue of the ancients, passing from their lofty noble heights to the lowly brother-love of the Nazarene. Magnificence degraded to munificence, the crowning greatness of the single towering giant to the sleepy and complacent democratic embrace of our modern world.
But a door once opened can be traversed in both directions, and it is well worth asking if even this path might not be tread again, only now in the upward way. For truly, this Christian love is much more accessible to our democratized modernity than any higher love of prior epochs. Might it then become the doorway by which the small-souled modern man is once again trained to morality – and thence to virtue?
13. The philosophers of early Modernity rebelled against the Church – and why? Because they were made cattle-like to keep to the safe pasture indicated by the Church’s doctrine and dogma, when their souls yearned as ever for the wild and dizzy peaks – those places where sheep, yes, will fall and break upon the clefts, but where hardy bearded goats like them leap with greater ease and liberty.
The Church played a subtle game: you can have your reason, and work it to its uttermost limits, and be philosophical as much as you please within the same. Indeed, within the proper borders of reason, the Church has her ‘philosophy’ – that is, her apologia: an apologia such as the world has never known, in which I do not doubt that every pointed objection and every valid question ever raised against the Church has now or then been assessed and answered – aye, even the question as to why the true Church should need such a gargantuan, sophisticated, sometimes sophistical apparatus to protect her. Beyond these proper borders of reason lie the enigmatic and mysterious wildlands of faith, in which a few gleaming points of divine revelation stand out like fires. And who will determine precisely where the unmovable merestones of these borders are truly placed? Why, Holy Mother Church! In which one must have faith…
Christianity does not mark, of course, the first time the philosophers came up against the walls of a creed. Ever have they lived ‘in their time and against their time’; that is a riddle posed already by the execution of Socrates for impiety, and resolved by none other than one of the greatest riddlers and unriddlers of all time, Plato himself. The philosophers had dwelt uneasily and in their half-occult way beneath the pagans and the politicians, beneath Jew and Muslim – but something changed within Christianity, and particularly the Christianity of the High Middle Ages, which caused the philosophers to revolt against it as they had never done before. What had changed? Was it the institutionalization of philosophy under the doctrine of faith that somehow rendered true philosophers impotent and helpless as they had never been beneath regimes that were more or less openly hostile toward their practice? Or was it that the philosophers themselves had become unsubtle in the course of time, and forgotten the canny and uncanny arts of their long survival, and the limits of their own special legislation?
Are the two things not deeply intertwined?
14. What philosopher would ever deny at least the possibility that reason has its limits? The question is always one of assignation: who or what power will assign borders to the kingdom of the mind? And how can one ever be certain that these borders might not be pressed a foot or a yard the further? And supposing there were some divinity standing on the other side and speaking to us in suave and persuasive tones about ‘truth’ and ‘goodness’ and ‘beauty’, all lying at the other side of yon mountain – well, what philosopher would not strive with all his being to catch that god and force him to tell his secrets about the way hence, even as it is said that Midas once caught Silenus, and even if the secrets be so desperate as those that the satyr revealed?
Reason – or Faith. That is an old enmity one can never hope to bind, save by making one of these powers the handmaiden to the other.
As for Evola’s ‘super-reason’ – well enough, but in essence, that is only reason once again, understood perchance in a truer and fuller sense.
15. The morality of the Church — Where else but in Christianity can we hope once more for the moralizing of man, that most enigmatic deepening of the common human soul, by which alone man may improve himself rather than wallowing in the animal-like parts of his nature? Can Paganism give us so much today? Or can it stand against the diminution of our populations, this burning out of the seed that would waste a potential new generation in base hedonism and wanton abortions? Or can it recall to man the width and scope of his spiritual status on this Earth today, in our lost and wandering epoch?
‘But surely not even Christianity can do as much, with its pandering to “meekness” and docile obeisance in the face of authority! Surely, not even it can bring us back to the fullness of spiritual greatness…’
So, Mr. All-Or-Nothing, you find that the ‘all’ is impossible, and you opt instead for – what? Nihilism? But these are not times for purist calculations. A thousand times better a nearing perfection within narrow limits today, than a great hollow imperfection spread across the face of the world.
16. The secular state – The secular state is one of those barbarous inventions that could only have arisen in Modernity, on modern presuppositions, as part and parcel of this modern project of humanization and egalitarianism. One wants the Kingdom of God – sans God.
Never once has any secularist philosophy proposed any value or vision that did not seem but the wan and distorted reflection of an older religious view. Most particularly, the whole of the Enlightenment is but the illsome reflection of Christian virtues, a kind of mass Christianity without the Christ – a low-laying road to ‘paradise’ that has proved a great temptation even to wayward Christians themselves, and lately even to the Church. Man does away with god, hoping to make himself into the same – and finds that he remains man, only now without so much as the ladder to climb upward into the heavens. Truly, man is capable of becoming like the gods – but not without living belief in the same.
And still we find it all around us, this godless pipedream. The ‘new atheists’ rise up even today in defence of science and progress. World peace, the elimination of famine, poverty and unnatural old age as guaranteed by our science, the solemn abolishment of sickness, disease, misfortune, and all the other inconveniences imposed on us by our merest nature – perhaps even the avoidance of irksome parturition and the overcoming of the unhappy necessity of death, who knows!
And what do they propose as the end of this path? Why, some kind of transmutation of the substance of man via robotics and the digital revolution and the ‘singularity’, making man into – what? A spirit? A giant? A gargantuan dwarf? Do they even know? Do they even care? These are but artificial substitutes for that same spirit and that same kingdom they themselves have sought to obliterate! They cannot get away from it, they are negators through and through: in seeking to escape the orbit of the ages, they find themselves rotating about the same sun, only now in the bleak void, and so distant to that star that not even its heat and light any longer reach them save in the most suggestive and dimmest glimmers. And there are some, even on the Right, who really see in this the future of mankind, an ant-like pullulating and colinization of other balls of stone in the void, as if mankind itself were sufficient unto itself – as if they had not known quite enough ‘men’ to realize that man, left to his own devices and cut off entirely from all divine support, example and encouragement, is really almost exclusively but ‘one of the apes’…
Nietzsche long ago laid bare this hypocrisy, and Dostoevsky disposed of this sickly myth with a master’s hand and an unmatchable creative gravitas. Evola laid the crown upon their efforts. And yet still we find ourselves beating our faces against the same cinderblock wall. It has wielded its own strange kind of gravity – the gravity of low things that draw one ever lower. It is the inevitability of sinking, it is the lure of the fall itself.
But where, friends, will we find the force to counter that grave power, if not in the bosom of some church?
17. Power and truth — When shall we have had enough of this vulgarity which conflates size with power, and which, seeing the ‘smallness’ of man and the ‘vastness’ of the material universe, concludes the absolute unimportance of the one, the absolute and terrible gravity of the other!
The real fallacy here is to be found in the quintessentially modern equation of power with truth. Christianity is one of the few forces remaining today that can cure men of such an elementary error.
18. There is much to be said for the aesthetic power of Christianity – nor should the aesthetic question be relegated to third or fourth rank, as is often thoughtlessly done today. The beauty of Church ceremonies, that weekly touch of an ennobling and spiritualizing ritual on the life of man – who can estimate the consequences that the Catholic mass alone has had on human life, in the sum total of its effect over these many centuries!
This not to speak of the question of good and evil itself, which gave to life a profundity and a terrible richness it has subsequently most sorely missed. The skies, the ground beneath our feet, were both infinitely deeper in Christendom – in both a metaphorical and a literal sense – and the souls within us were the theatres of great moral dramas, where today they are not even the scenes of puppet plays. Man’s life on this Earth took on a thousand different hues that today our eyes can barely even perceive, and every action had weight to it. Angels and demons, paradise and inferno, love and hate, fire and light, darkness and goodness, salvation and damnation – what ‘good and bad’ in all the world can match this chiaroscuro? This not to speak of the the whole of hagiography, or the glamour and unspoiled selfless glory of the knightly code, the art and the music to which these things have given rise! Surely, the Renaissance was as brilliant outwardly – but how if that was but the gorgeous spark-show of the hammer beating the chain, followed by the worst and most disappointing kind of ‘freedom’? Why, even the wicked has never had so varied and interesting an aspect as when the Church still deigned to denounce Hell and Lucifer. Truly, life has become simply bland since the ‘death of God’.
19. Eclipse — Is it any wonder that Europe’s star is on the wane? We do not believe in anything; our enemies abroad believe in everything.
20. It is clear that now, as has been the case indeed for more than a thousand years, Christianity has always been the obstacle to the growth of Islam in Europe. Islam would claim Europe for its own, today as ever, and it is a thousand times stronger in spirit than is this sickly egalitarian liberalism which shutters our vision and dams up our minds – this dim view of the world which looks at everything, not even as the frog (for the frog still sees up), but rather as the mole.
21. The Brotherhood of Man — We would put walls around Europe and European peoples – through Christianity? Through the universal religion par excellence, from which even Islam learned its tricks? From the faith that has built itself on proselytizing (though now, of course, it has decided to quell that dirty business), on conversion, on traversing the world from Karachi to Kingdom Come, seeking to ‘save souls’ and win new members of the church, no matter what their substance or mettle or heritage might be, since every man is endowed with his own immortal and precious soul, each equal in the fundamental sense to the next –
What, this belief would save Europe?
One recalls the Crusades to exonerate Christianity of the charge of too gross a universality, as demonstration of the capacity within Christianity to uphold the banner of Europe herself. And rightly enough, for by this faith was Europe saved, not once, but many times. But it is not idle to wonder what would have been the fate of Europe if the Arab hordes had simply converted. And yet, is this not really what Christianity craves and must crave?
How can this faith, which was born from the destruction of all borders and all barriers, the substitution of ‘Jew’ and ‘gentile’ with ‘believer’ and ‘non-believer’, succour us in our need today?
22. That this religion, a faith first of Jewish fishermen, rug-weavers and carpenters, could become then the faith of heretics and martyrs, then of Rome and Empire, then of knights and Crusaders, then of saints and anchorites, then of fat prelates and supercilious bishops, then of petty moralists and mean bigots, then at last of meek egalitarians and self-immolating globalists – to name but several of the most prominent of its historical incarnations! – what does this say of the Christian faith? Have all of these forms been the manifestations of one and a single belief? Have they been but superimpositions on an original foundation that was so plastic it could be molded to sustain such a variety of structures? Could so protean a beast as this – have a single heart?
This much at least seems sure: the men of early Modernity who did what they could (and it was much indeed) to undercut the Church and to secularize the state seem not to have had sufficient awareness of the mutability of the thing they fought; else why should they not have sought to right the straying ship and guide it back to port? The best of them were not lacking in patience: why not then cultivate the great patience of the legislator?
23. Supposing for a moment – strange and tempting supposition! – that the Church has indeed its divine mission in this world, which may or may not be identical to that which it has so long proposed for itself; supposing that ‘God resides within it’, and has never once abandoned it these long centuries since the birth of Christ; supposing that its mission, its life, its destiny has always in some almost inscrutable way been connected to Europe, despite its ecumenicalism or even its ecumenism; – well? Granting all of this (admittedly a great deal to grant!), would it not be clear that we must throw all our strength and will behind it, in the good hope that it will be the first part of this Modernity to – be resurrected?
Is the Church not a fit place to look for the first sign of the end of Satan’s reign?
24. Why Catholicism today? — Never have we been so much in need of God the Father, God the Judge, God the Rewarder; even the old idea, as contestable and strange and indeed objectionable as it might seem, of the eternal human soul that rises or burns, would be a great improvement over this mewling stew of second-rate machines, facetiously called ‘human beings’, that live for purchase and for pleasure, and, in believing themselves to be slaves to ‘chemicals’ or ‘evolutionary laws’, have finally become so.
To be sure, such a God as the Christian’s lives far from us, does not seem to answer to our prayers and most desperate needs at this late hour, and speaks, it would seem, eternally in puzzles. But might it not be that today above all, with our ‘clear-sighted’ science, our technological prowess, our obsession with fact and figure, information and data, we are in need of nothing more than a riddler God who will confound the wisdom of our ‘wise’, and remind us that whatever the limits of this world might be, they do not lie there where we would seek them with our eyes…
25. Here we stand in some nominally Catholic town, and lo! the church bells ring, and one is tempted to bathe a moment in the clean fine old sound of them. Yet perk up your ears: these are not church bells you hear, but rather some recording of bells, played out on megaphones mounted within the church tower, by some computer they have stowed away therein. Rather than the daily renewed symbol of a living spirit, a living will, a living desire to be placed once more in direct communion with God, deliberately rung out by men who await the hour with aware and ready minds – men who lay their hands upon the rope and, in cognizance of their act and all its pregnant significance, pull – we have but the stale recording of the same, played out automatically, mechanically by some computerized system that at hour x, robotically releases sound z.
And that is an allegory for all the Church today.
26. And the Orthodox Church? Has the Orthodox Church ever been Western? Or is the West, the Occident, Europe itself finally living up to the probable etymology embedded within all these terms? Is it dwelling at last in the land where the sun declines and sinks and vanishes? Is it living its twilight? Then perhaps we are in need of precisely something non-Western and yet still Western, to revitalize us? A new sun risen from the East, in a land we have seeded, but not cultivated? Do we finally need Russia, the ‘Westernized East’, and Russia’s Orthodoxy?
And could Orthodoxy ever take root in the north, the west, the south of Europe, in more than that superficial, sporadic, almost inorganic way it already has?
27. Catholicism chose Latin, Orthodoxy Greek. That is a simplified expression of a most evocative, perhaps even fateful historical datum: two Churches divided by a common faith, to steal a quip from George Bernard Shaw. And admittedly, whatever doctrinal differences there might stand between them, there is above all a world of difference in terms of the feel of them. Catholicism, at its highest, has been a splendid hierarchy and unity, presided over by a single head; the Orthodoxy, a monkish and spiritually intent faith spread throughout a network of most diligent faithful. The Catholics have been more politically and philosophically astute, for they have been eminently European; the Orthodoxy, perhaps on account of its penetration of the East, its penetration by the East, has been morally deep and almost mystical, and has never once lost its various links to given places, given lands, given sets of custom. It is interesting, fateful almost, that the Church should be linked eternally to the eternal city, should be Roman, while the Orthodoxy should be, among other things, Greek: one is almost tempted to suppose in these two distinct manifestations of the Christian Church the continuation of the old brotherly quarrel between Rome and Athens.
One steps into the best kind of Catholic Church, and at once one has the sense of rising, ascension, verticality, grandeur, hierarchy, space, exultation and exaltation – the greatness of God in the works of man; man as the vessel for divinity on Earth, man transfigured by his faith — God-man. One steps into the best kind of Orthodox Church and all is intimate and spiritual, internalized and drawing one inward, into meditation, into communion with spirit, with Spirit: deep, byzantine, mysterious.
Do we go too far to say that the Orthodoxy has been the more Christian of the two, and that Catholicism has been more – Western? But then –
28. Must Europe cede to Russia? Must she tend, as a wilted flower, to the stronger light, which has yet to be totally frozen by this chill Modernity? If it is to be so, then it is clear as well that the Orthodoxy might yet become the faith for faithful Europeans – that is, Europeans who hold their faith, not only to the True God, but to their own true land…
Europe, loyal to Europe through betrayal of Europe. A modernized Europe ceding to a Westernized Russia. If that is to come, then perhaps the Orthodox Church, too, has a future among us.
29. The Orthodox Church has proved excellent at surviving. It is nothing to be frowned at that it managed to live through three-quarters of a century of the worst kind of Communist tyranny. The Catholic Church, meanwhile, once excelled at championing the faith: once, it was a ‘religion of the sword’ and did not hesitate to bring the sword against its enemies.
Which of these do we need today? Has the time come to take up arms once more, and to defend this Europe tooth and claw, with all the power at our disposal? Or rather to store up, to stock up, to hold up in some rock fortress in hopes that the hurricane will soon abate? Or rather to prepare for some new Dark Age, to take the long breath before the plunge? – And supposing a man wished to ‘convert’ – would his choice of Church not reflect something about his view of the future, as well?
30. Give unto Caesar… — Christianity seemed to abandon all desire for political power from the beginning, and did not hesitate to draw a clear line between state and religion, which the old cults had never sought to draw and which in its way prefigured even that ‘separation between Church and State’, so absurdly celebrated in our day. It is no wonder that the Romans smelled something apolitical and therefore politically dangerous in this new cult sprung up among them; one can comprehend the error they made, of attempting to put it down with the sword, not realizing it was the very hydra they were so striking.
31. …what is Caesar’s. — And yet this apolitical cult, this merely religious cult, rose up by and by and was recognized – by the emperor of Rome. What is the meaning of that? What is the meaning of Constantine, of the conflict between Pope and Emperor, the Guelphs and Ghibellines, the Investiture Controversy, or that fateful moment which now and then has approached the Church, when it seemed that this or that Pope would gather all spiritual and also secular authority to his bosom, to become highest representative on Earth of the both?
The Pope as King of Kings – one cannot help but wonder –
32. East and West, Rome and Athens, Catholic Church and Orthodox Church, Europe and Russia – we speak here of two divided halves of what might be forged into a single destiny. Europe is in need of rejuvenation, Russia of defence against the juggernaut of Yankee globalism; might one dream at last the spiritual unification of this Europe, this Russia, at a single point? And what could bring together this fractured geode, to enclose its riches again within itself and to be the well-spring of a new inner life, if not a common faith?
33. ‘We are in want of new gods.’
Then you shall be a long time awaiting, friend. For no more arid earth than this modern ground, sown with all the special salts of the Enlightenment, can be found for the birth of a new cult, a new faith, a new deity. You are come upon a desolate land, and you seek at once to build an orchard and a grove. Seek you rather to put up a garden and to reclaim a little spot of this land: sink you a well, and reconstitute this bit of earth. A fountain is wanted for lack of a sea; no millennial oak ever came but of a sprout. Build a modest wall and begin with a small settlement of fine and upright men; not the most splendid city of all of history every started otherwise.
Then and then alone we will see what can be done with the rest.
It is no accident that we have posed a great many questions and counter-questions in this all-too-brief and all-too-shallow overview of the Christian problem. Few certainties are to be had in this morass of complexity and vicissitude that spreads over the face of no less than two millennia. But amidst all these doubts, all these curiosities and qualms, this, I think, can and must be said with decisive surety by any man of the Deep Right: some god is needed to draw our flagging societies to a straightness of spine and uprightness of purpose; some faith is wanted in the life of man to bring him full into his divine mansion, and to provide for him once again a vital vision of the future. And well should any man of the Right ask himself, in as much sincerity, clarity and candour as he can muster: what could this be today, if not Christianity?
It seems to me that G. K. Chesterton was right when he said that paganism is the single valid competitor on the religious plane to Christianity. To be sure, he cast a rather wide net with that, and probably meant to catch Hinduism in its snares as well – dubious equivalency – nor did he give sufficient heed to the potential that Islam could have in the face of a declining Church. Suffice it to say regarding Hinduism (as well as other Oriental traditions) that it cannot validly be thought a potential substitute for popular Western religious forms, for the simple spaces of geography and tradition that separate it from us; and suffice it to recall of Islam, in its generalized and ‘mass’ manifestation, that it would scrape the plaster from the Sistine, break the arcs upon their violins and burn Dante in his own Hell. Supposing one wants to redeem and reconstitute Europe as Europe, one must look to European forms of spirituality. It is therefore to the specific manifestations of European paganism that one must look, if one seeks a valid alternative to Christianity.
We leave off that question in the good hope we might return to it after the close of the present year.