A Third Way

It proves very difficult to make any sense of the world, at least as it seems on the media and other internet sources. I live in the country and feel increasingly anxious faced with the prospect of travelling to a city or through “systems” like air travel. The “paying” unit goes into the system and loses all personality or autonomy until he emerges from the destination point. This impression goes beyond travel and into every aspect of life.

I follow on from my last posting on the Archons, whether they are purely spiritual or incarnate entities. There is an amusing slogan Make Orwell Fiction Again based on Donald Trump’s saying Make America Great Again. Orwell’s major novels, Animal Farm and 1984, were supposed to be warnings in the form of fiction. Orwell, a socialist himself, finally found the reductio ad absurdam of socialism and communism, so he wrote those books to warn future generations off the idea. The Nazis and Fascists were also collectivists, putting the state or the nation above the human person.

We are now faced with a “progressive Left” which appears to oppose the oligarchy of obscene wealth, greed and extreme inequality, the beginning of a new system based on medieval feudalism. In reality, it is a closed circle where the ends meet and amount to the same thing. The difference is that in the Middle Ages, the Church assumed a social role from helping the sick and the poor.

The onset of the Covid pandemic brought a barrage of cognitive dissonance around mismanagement and the exploitation of the pandemic for pharmaceutical companies to make massive profits. The same is happening today with oil and gas companies, as the current crisis caused by Putin’s war in Ukraine and our rigid zero-carbon policies reflects the pandemic almost as an analogy.

The next stage seems to be a “Great Reset” vision of a fourth industrial revolution, transhumanism, and a new social class structure. To what extent is this a conspiracy theory without serious credibility or something real overshadowing our future?

Is there an alternative to the capitalism / communism paradigm? I am not an expert in political philosophy, but I am painfully aware of the need for a new paradigm, no less than a new Renaissance to follow the worst of neo-medievalism. I have often dreamed of ideas like Chesterton’s Distributism, favouring small independent craftsmen and producers or cooperatives. We need a world that favours small businesses. Actually, I do better as a self-employed translator under the present Macron administration in France than under the more Socialist policies. It is fashionable to talk of La Macronie in negative terms as the national populists and the communist dinosaurs do. He is no saint or idol – who is? – but he does have positive things to say and do. Distributism came out of the influence of Romanticism and the Arts & Crafts movement of William Morris. We need a new form of Romanticism that will appeal to our time that is analogous with the tumultuous times of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. The dialectic is almost the same between our time and 1780 to about the mid nineteenth century.

The dark vision of the fourth industrial revolution, transhumanism, the dark satanic mill of a fusion of man and machine, and total centralised control by a small group of unelected elite Davos overlords is presented as inevitable, but we can follow Orwell’s advice – Don’t let it happen. It depends on you. I am not a politician or an activist, but I write things like this blog which is of interest to a few like-minded people. Sometimes, an idea gets through even if I will never get the credit for it. I throw out a few ideas and things that matter to me, just messages in bottles thrown into the sea from a desert island.

The resistance will not necessarily be neo-Romantic (or a better term) but is already out there. We don’t have everything to work out from scratch, but we can look around and discern wisdom coming from a diversity of ideas and ambitions. The amazing thing is that I see the same dialectics and conflicts of ideas in the Church as in society as a whole. The big difference with the Church is becoming increasingly irrelevant as time goes by.

We can be grateful that there is a consensus against centralised authority and a need for a new kind of democracy. The fundamental choice we have is the dystopian and totalitarian ant-hill, a two-class system of overlords and obedient serfs – or the possibility of distributing not only money and wealth, but also responsibility and decision-making power. This second possibility involves critical thought and being able to think for ourselves, to think and act outside the box. Too many people follow the crowd and fashions, repeating slogans and mantras without the least critical thought. Freedom is indeed painful.

We should read Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, or at least see the excellent dramatisation played by John Gielgud. Already, Russia was lurching into nihilism, communism and totalitarianism in the nineteenth century. Putin is nothing new!

It is by depth of thought and suffering that we will hope to arrive at the degree of independence we need to resist. There are not only the human qualities, but also our spiritual life and values. I suppose I express very little that is new since discussing my reading of Berdyaev (at least what was translated into English or French) and the contemporary author Rob Riemen on Nobility of Spirit and other subjects close to the resistance against modern forms of Fascist and national socialist ideologies. It is a matter of intelligence, responsibility, human maturity and a spiritual life of some kind.

In the temporal world of the judiciary, the administrative and the legislative, the three powers of the State that are (or should be) separate and distinct, those who are called to these responsibilities need to have a sound understanding of human nature and the nature of reality. They have to understand their identity as human beings, coherence and an ability to relate to reality. Vital questions for any statesman or legal authority revolve around the understanding of the human individual in society, and of the individual and society in reality at large. This understanding has to repose on a solid philosophical basis in terms of metaphysics and epistemology. You won’t find very much of that in most politicians whose ideology is little more than self-interest. From metaphysics comes a basis of spirituality in the individual and the community in the form of the Church. Chesterton once said “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything“. “Nature abhors a vacuum” is a postulate attributed to Aristotle. In a benign form, religion provides man with self-understanding and a sense of community.

A spiritual model of humanity links the individual or person to ultimate reality, even if that truth is mysterious and unattainable by the simple use of reason. There are issues to be faced between German Idealism and various forms of Realism. What is Truth? I have already written a few articles in my open-minded scepticism. Post-Truth. Novalis has always been a great favourite of mine. He offers a refreshing alternative view on Truth than something that powerful people possess. I quote from the encyclopaedia article:

The challenge of romantic philosophy consists in the attempt to think systematically but without allowing thought to stagnate in a final set of truths or dogma. Philosophy ought to be open-ended; it should develop in close interaction with the natural sciences as well as the humanities. In short, philosophy should take the shape of a sustained intellectual experiment; it should be forever on its way and thoroughly inductively minded.

The idea of “ultimate reality” is a partial description of God. the archetype of the reality to which we aspire. Totalitarianism, with its roots in history, understands the human being as a mechanistic automaton driven by individual self-interest and governed by impersonal laws of nature. We are governed by self-interest, a function of the pleasure and happiness, freedom from want, pain, and sadness, and standards of biological fitness including survival and reproduction. These are governed by the use of money. In its excess, man is viewed as an economic unit subject to monetary control, through centralisation and mechanical determinism. This is a negation of human dignity and sovereignty, reducing the human race to cattle. Such a dystopia is incompatible with any kind of religion other than what Marx called the “opiate of the masses“.

I see so many parallels between the early nineteenth century and our own time. There were authors like Dostoevsky and Charles Dickens who gave us a highly realistic portrait of their time, the sufferings of the poor and the weak. From the late eighteenth century, we have the prophetic personality of William Blake (1757-1827) who wrote the famous hymn Jerusalem containing the enigmatic words satanic mills, which probably did not mean cotton factories in Lancashire, but atheistic universities and governments. We live in a time of abundance, with more comfort, food and technology than we would ever need. Poverty is still as real as it ever was, but in most of the western world, the Welfare State will generally offer basic accommodation and a minimum income. What was implicit in the era of the Industrial Revolution becomes that much more radical in our dialectic between the time of abundance and the negation of the human person.

What we need now is a new Renaissance, a new humanism and a new Romantic movement. We need to be Christians but Christian Humanists. I may be accused of “going along with” Vatican II and Pope John Paul II. The latter was introducing a form of Romantic philosophy in his “existential personalism”. There were many fine intuitions in reaction to the old scholasticism and totalitarianism of the central Papal authority. In reality, a century or so ago, European Catholicism was less centralised than many think. Dioceses had little bureaucracy and the Bishops ministered like parish priests – just as today in the small Continuing Anglican Churches. The Synod truly had a meaning in the convergence of independently-thinking responsible members of the institution. “Synodality” is something else, and nothing more than the introduction of technocratic and Woke totalitarianism into the Church.

We first have to work on ourselves. It isn’t easy. Jung called it individuation, which comes from suffering and self-knowledge. Few of us ever dare to break out of the mould and leave the Matrix! Hope in the future will be brought by those who have learned à se démerder (manage on your own, find the solution by your own means to the problem and not depend on others). Fontaine said in his fable Le Chartier – “Aidetoi, le ciel t’aidera“. It means, loosely, God helps those who help themselves. It applies as much to humanity as to the individual person.

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For we wrestle not against flesh and blood…

It is some time since I last wrote on this blog. Events in the world have had a profound effect on me, like the two world wars had on those who lived in those soul-destroying days. The horrors of the trenches destroyed the faith of Vaughan Williams and Elgar. The latter stopped composing until shortly before his death in 1934. On the other hand, the American pilot who released a nuclear bomb on Japan entered the monastic life with the Trappists. It all depends on how we take the mystery of evil! This morning at Mass, I read the words of St Paul’s Epistle (Ephesians vi. 10) in Latin and understood them clearly. I broke down in tears as the mendacious world of politics was made so clear:

My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

We are not faced with horrible human beings lusting for power and money through lies and deceit, but against a vast and ancient conspiracy of evil spirits, whether we call them demons or Archons, or indeed other names in different spiritual traditions around the world. A human representation of that world of evil would be called a psychopath, showing what we are up against in the spiritual world beyond our time and space.

What is a psychopath? It is essentially a being who is devoid of empathy or moral conscience, who has no care faced with the sufferings of his (her) victims. We are not only considering the worst serial murderers who justly died on America’s electric chairs and hanging ropes, but a minority of humanity who are as if infected by a “virus” that takes away their humanity. They operate in unison, even if not consciously, in sowing terror and disruption in the world. Psychopaths are not only serial killers like Ted Bundy or Jack the Ripper. They are not always killers and most have never been held to account by the law. We become increasingly aware that many psychopaths hold positions in government, politics, big business, the medical and pharmaceutical professions. When we find them in science, they are developing biological and other weapons, trans-humanism, great resets, a replay of Nazism, “playing God”. Some want to replace humans through genetic manipulation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and nano-technology. They view humans as inferior, fit for slavery or slaughter. It is difficult to typify psychopathy in empirical scientific terms, but the key comes in the form of a supernatural category and concept.

I once walked past a man with a woman in the street, very ordinary people it would seem. I was deeply struck by the impression – That man is dead. This thought or feeling is perhaps a root of the popular mythology of zombies, the living dead. A zombie is a mythological un-dead human body created through the reanimation of a corpse, something like Frankenstein’s monster revived through the use of electricity or through black magic like voodoo. This man was certainly a human being, born of a mother and father, perhaps someone charming if only I knew him. But I don’t and all I could see in his face was nothingness. Most people I cross in the street don’t leave me with such an impression.

Gnosticism had a more developed notion of demonology than classical Christianity. We read all over the place about great conspiracies of powerful people associating in secret societies like the alleged Illuminati or Freemasonry. The Nazi empire was truly a criminal conspiracy of some of the most horrible and evil people who ever lived. However, most conspiracy theories contain the seeds of their own lack of credibility. Humans are not intelligent enough to keep something like that going for centuries, in secret, and get away with it. Some popular figures like David Icke tell us that the British Royal Family are shape-shifting alien reptiles! That alone takes his credibility away, which is unfortunate, since he has many profound intuitions in other subjects.

Yet there is a monstrous conspiracy, but it is not human. Are the Archons shape-shifting alien reptiles. Can they be experienced by humans through our normal five senses? We incarnate humans have invented technical means to go to the moon, which took some three weeks. If I remember something I read, a space vehicle takes some seven weeks to go to Mars. To travel light years, even with the future invention of Star Trek technology and warp speed, would take longer than a human’s lifetime. Now, there is strong evidence that this world has been visited by creatures who are represented in ancient Egypt and South America. When did any of us see a giant human body with something like a dog’s head? It is too easy for us to say that they were just figments of an artist’s imagination. The Old Testament is full of myths that are shared with other traditions, the most obvious being the great Flood. Who were the Nephilim? The big guys with animal heads? Shape-shifting reptiles? How can we explain the absence of fossils or other remains except for allegations of very large human giants found here and there? These questions have gone into the making of science fiction films like Stargate, and our imagination find it difficult to discern anything until we dismiss it all as bunk. A popular theory is that they don’t travel through space but between parallel universes – like different frequencies of electro-magnetism than can be picked up by a radio, one at a time. Stephen Hawking took the idea of parallel universes seriously and worked on it. Unfortunately there is no empirical proof of any of this, but nor is there any for God and the Angels. The true sceptic keeps an open mind.

Something influences or even takes possession of a proportion of humanity we call psychopaths, takes away their humanity, and makes those beings into enemies of humanity. Psychiatrists look for a difference in the brain, but the issue is spiritual. It is beyond science. Yet there are some of the most perverted sadists out there who mete out inhumane treatment to their victims. They are often politicians, successful businessmen, military officers and commanders, lawyers, doctors – and even bishops and priests, ministers and clergy of other religions too. History keeps repeating itself, and so does the infernal litany of war, starvation, genocide and murder. We face dire times. What can we do?

I briefly mentioned Gnosticism which had several forms in history. Its most Christian side was represented by the Alexandrian Fathers like Origen and St Clement of Alexandria. Little was known about Gnosticism until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts as recently as 1945. Adolf von Harnack (1851–1930) stated that “Gnosticism is the acute Hellenization of Christianity“. It is a narrow point of view when dealing with such a vast and diverse phenomenon that escapes narrow labelling. A study of Gnosticism does raise some difficulties about God himself and the mystery of evil. Who committed the original sin? I will not attempt to give any answer to that question here. In briefly discussing Gnosticism, the question being asked is who or what were the Archons?

In Gnosticism, creation was not the work of the “God above God” but the Demiurge, this word coming from the Greek δημιουργός, meaning “public or skilled worker”. This figure is also called “Yaldabaoth”, Samael (Aramaic: sæmʻa-ʼel, “blind god”), or “Saklas” (Syriac: sækla, “the foolish one”). The Demiurge is sometimes ignorant of the superior god, and sometimes opposed, in which case he is malevolent. Other names or identifications are Ahriman, El, Satan, and Yahweh. Taken literally, this is blasphemy to the orthodox Christian or Jew. The Gnostics would answer that this divinity is not the God of love and light, but another being. Orthodox (with a small “o”) Christianity lumps God and the Demiurge together and adds the fallen angel called the Devil, Satan or Lucifer among other names. God would have created matter, not the Devil. The origin of Dualism is this attribution of both material creation and evil to the Demiurge. Thus the physical universe and incarnate humanity are compromised or “infected” from the very beginning, without any human sin being involved as related in the Book of Genesis. Christian asceticism is to some extent influenced by this dualism when materiality, including the human body, is perceived as evil and constrictive, a deliberate prison for its inhabitants.

Some variants of Gnosticism used the term archon to refer to several servants of the demiurge. According to Origen’s Contra Celsum, a sect called the Ophites posited the existence of seven archons, beginning with Iadabaoth or Ialdabaoth, who created the six following: Iao, Sabaoth, Adonaios, Elaios, Astaphanos, and Horaios. Two of these names are given to God in the Old Testament, though the meaning of Adonai is extremely confused. What do we make of “Lord God of Sabaoth”? Sabaoth was seem to be a being who is subordinate to Yahweh, also a word similar to Sabbath – the seventh day on which no work is done and everyone goes to the Synagogue. Christ found the meaning of the Sabbath being distorted when the Pharisees took him to task for healing a sick person on this day. This twisting of meaning is often a root of evil.

All this has certainly been studied in great depth, and my own biblical and theological knowledge finds itself at its limit. When Christ exorcises a demon in Luke’s Gospel, he exhorts the person to prudence, saying that the expelled spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. Numbers have always been important in exegesis. Orthodox Christianity was not something monolithic for a very long time, and nor was Gnosticism. I discuss the question because we need to think and learn, to discover a deeper truth through comparison.

Whether humanity has been assailed by demons or archons, obsessed by fear and jealousy, we consider the long history of the suffering and trauma the world has suffered. These beings are bent on destroying mankind. They are vampires and parasites. They possess and use humanity with advanced technological secrets, power and wealth.

I was recently talking with a priest here in France about the current crisis in the world. How could I be against Putin? Surely he proclaims a message of Christian civilisation? I am perhaps a little more familiar with Russian philosophy than many: Dostoievsky, Berdyaev, Soloviev, etc. The Grand Inquisitor in the Karamazov Brothers proclaims a Christian Empire but is essentially an atheist! Would Christ do to Ukrainians what Putin and his army have done? If so, I need to start looking for a new religion or settle for materialism as a philosophy of life! Which god is God and which god is the Demiurge?

Another appealing concept, also present in the Old Testament and Christianity, is Sophia. She is often perceived as a feminine emanation from God, the “mother” of the Demiurge. There are many parallels between Sophia and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and one of the titles of Mary in the Litany of Our Lady is Sedes Sapientiae. Many of the Old Testament reading in Mass of Our Lady expand on wisdom – Σοφία in Greek. Is there confusion between two distinct beings, or is Mary as Mother of Jesus an image of Sophia? Who is bad and who is good? Already, we express ourselves as dualists, and the whole combat is being fought within each one of us.

A number of Russian Orthodox theologians showed a particular interest in Sophia, Sergei Bulgakov in particular. In the west, Louis Bouyer studied and wrote on Sophia in seeking to find the deepest roots of Catholic devotion to Mary. He wrote the monumental Sophia et le Monde en Dieu. Wisdom brings us to know God through the Mystery. Bouyer attempted to tease out an “orthodox” version of Gnosticism to distinguish it from heresy. I recommend these books either in French or English translations that are certainly available.

I return to my theme of today. Our combat is not a material one or an attempt to bring back a Christian empire, especially is it is through atrocities, war crimes and destruction. It is a temptation to look for a material Christian kingdom when we are challenged by the New World Order, Great Reset 2030, Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, post-humanism and all the other terrors of our nightmares, but it is a temptation. We can only fight spirit by spirit, essentially by prayer and fasting, by retreating from the cities and the noise to challenge the enemy within our own souls. St Paul described the world of 2022 as in all other ages of our history – principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places. The rot is established in the institutional Church too, and that is no longer a refuge. What do we do? Just go through this short text. Our defence is God, being in his grace, standing up to evil with truth. Lying is one of the worst sins because of its ability to distort and annihilate. We have to be truthful and strong in ourselves, being virtuous and refusing the temptation to lie and deceive. The Gospel of Peace is not Putin’s “Russian Orthodox Empire”, nor is it our hegemony of power and obscene wealth, our Woke “cancel culture”, gender ideology and all the other stuff from the black box of dirty tricks. Our shield is our faith and our weapon is God’s word. We pray with perseverance with the Saints, both those who are still living as well as those we commemorate at the altar. Our combat does not kill or commit atrocities but is concentrated on filling the evil darkness with light and love.

Lord grant me the courage and bravery to be worthy of such a combat!

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Fr Michael Wood, an Orthodox priest and monk, has published this on Facebook and has given me permission to reproduce it here.


“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

That was a traditional translation of an excerpt from Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6:12.

A literal translation, having regard to the linguistic usage of the period:

“Because we are wrestling not against blood and flesh, but against the Archons, against the Powers, against the Cosmic rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the celestial places.”

An Archon is a Greek term for a worldly lesser ruler, Powers are satanic angels (demons), the Cosmic rulers of the darkness of this world are rulers who are satanically controlled and their controllers, and the spiritual forces of wickedness are the corruptibility and wicked intent of the highest rulers.

Saint Paul is drawing our attention to a fact, which is alarmingly evident today: That we are literally fighting for our spiritual lives against pretty well all earthly secular governments and against the very powerful legions of satan himself, who are sensing victory.

We are fighting against the whole secular, morally depraved satanically induced culture of the surrounding society and their governments.

Unlike the typical modern conception, “demon” had a much broader application in the ancient usage, where, originating from the Greek word “δαίμων” (daímōn), it was a generic term for “a spirit” with no connotation as to whether it was good or evil.

With the translation into Greek of the Old Testament, known today as the Septuagint, the word “demon” acquired a negative connotation, and has since come to mean and “evil or unclean spirit”.

In the Early Church, a “demon” can refer to pagan gods which were in fact fallen angels which were in rebellion against God as satan’s legion. These are the beings Saint Paul refers to as “powers” (Ephesians 6:12).

Saint John of Damascus tells us the following about the archangel Lucifer (satan):

“Lucifer was not made wicked in nature but was good, and made for good ends, and received from his Creator no trace whatever of evil in himself. But he did not sustain the brightness and the honour which the Creator had bestowed upon him. Of his free choice, he was changed from what was in harmony to what was at variance with his nature, and became roused against God; thus, he was the first to depart from good and become evil. For evil is nothing else that absence of goodness, just as darkness also is the absence of light. For goodness is the light of the mind, and, similarly, evil is the darkness of the mind….Now along with him an innumerable host of angels, subject to him, were torn away, followed him, and shared in his fall. Therefore, being of the same nature as the angels, they became wicked, turning away at their own free choice from good to evil.”

Lucifer was filled with pride and boasted that he would establish his throne on the clouds of heaven and become equal to God. Isaiah writes, “How has Lucifer, that rose in the morning, fallen from heaven! He that sent orders to all the nations is crushed to the earth. But thou saidst in thy heart, ‘I will go up to heaven, I will set my throne above the stars of heaven; I will sit on a lofty mount, on the lofty mountains toward the north.’ But no thou shalt go down to Hades, even to the foundations of the earth (Is 14:12-15).” Lucifer fell from glory as the Lord reminds us in the Gospel, “I was beholding Satan as lightning having fallen out of the heaven (Lk 10:18).” All the angels that were subject to him also rebelled against God and followed their leader Lucifer. They then assumed a black and dismal appearance instead of their previous radiance and became demons.
And so we are beset with powerful enemies on all sides but one, on that side stands Christ the Anointed, our Saviour, if we will but turn to Him.

Ancient Rome, for all its cruelty and harshness, ancient Greece for its relative licentiousness, the notorious Canaanites were nowhere near as totally morally depraved as is modern western society.

Think about the pornography industry, the LGBTQ agenda, the overt moves towards the legitimising of paedophilia, the introduction of euthanasia, the massive abortion industry, the totally pervasive drug industry through all classes of society, the virtually non-existent sexual morality standards anywhere, the prevalence of divorce, the ongoing wars fomented purely by corporate greed, the repetitive discovery of elected representatives’ sexual deviancy, the acceptance by society of homosexuality and homosexual “marriage” and transgenderism. The “normalisation “ of transgender, homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual exotic sex and ubiquitous permissiveness, the clearly visible corporate production of known dangerous/useless medications, the fairly obvious corruption of elected and non-elected officials.

Nothing is sacred save LGBTQ – it is now a required belief – required to keep your job, and required by law.

All this moral revolution has been coming for a long time, but it only actually broke the surface in the sixties and has grown into a huge, world-consuming monster today.
We are now wading around in a morass of sewage.

The only real way of dealing with this is involving oneself with ones’ Orthodox Church congregation (no other church will do because they are all involved in the modern culture of immorality), attending services, throwing out the TV set and newspapers, restricting use of social media to proclaiming God, trying to find a way of earning a living away from the secular corporate world or large educational institutions.

“Because we are wrestling not against blood and flesh, but against the Archons, against the Powers, against the Cosmic rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the celestial places.”

So how to wrestle? We have the instructions of the Anointed to pray:

“Prayer needs no teacher. It requires diligence, effort and personal ardour, and then God will be its teacher.” – St. Meletius the Confessor

What is prayer? It is the mutual and personal encounter with God. It is through prayer that we open ourselves to the invisible, imperceptible power of God. To pray is to stand before God with our mind in our heart.

First of all, Christ tells us in the Gospel of Luke, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). We pray so that God can help us to become more like Him in our actions. We pray for our renewal and the growth of our soul. We pray to give thanks to God for all He provides for us. We pray to seek forgiveness for our sinfulness. We can also pray to seek help for others as well as ourselves. But we must not forget to pray for His help in our own spiritual growth. This is not selfish, but essential for us to better love and serve others and carry out God’s commandments. We ask also for His help in supporting us in the various ascetic practices we choose to undertake to help purify our inner being.

Begin praying by focusing your consciousness and forcibly gathering all the powers of the soul and body. Take the time at the beginning to quiet your mind and body and to concentrate your energies in your heart. Christ says, “Enter into thy closet and … shut thy door” (Matt 6:6). Remove all activities that could disrupt your inner descent. Set aside, to the best of your ability, all of your problems of the day and your worries for tomorrow. This is not a time for thinking or worrying.

We are asked to pray constantly. Here are the Scripture references to this idea:

Pray without ceasing (1Thess 5:17)

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit (Eph 6:158)

He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)

Our life is to become one of a constant prayer where we are continually in a relationship with God. This is our main task, to draw nearer to God. Saint Isaac of Syria says that it is impossible to draw near to God by any means other than unceasing prayer.

Your time in prayer will grow as your relationship with God grows.

Fast for a reason, fast if you want God to take you really seriously, fast and pray.

This is the means of our resisting the infernally toxic “culture” of secular society that is infecting everything, even, in places, the Church itself. This will help us determine what actions we must take in response to the culture’s destructive course against Christianity. Our prayer is our secret weapon, unknown to our earthly adversaries, and hated by the satanic angels.

* * *

Just a comment of my own: We seem to be in an eschatological mood. The history of the Church has oscillated between the eschatological Sehnsucht and the settled periods of the institutional Church and civil authorities in the form of kingdoms and empires.

Indeed, we have to fast and pray, do something about ourselves and not try to change other people. This is easier said and done – not merely a stoical moral effort but a pilgrimage in knowing ourselves and realising our God-given vocation.

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Rewilding Christianity

We sometimes hear about “rewilding” areas of land that have been used for agriculture. Their owners, for good or bad, decide that it would be best to plant some trees and let nature do what it wants. There are two sides to this one, and this is not the subject of this posting. The term rewilding is used in an analogical way to describe Christianity in its “natural” state as is found in Eastern Orthodoxy in remote places and seemingly in medieval western Catholicism before the Reformation. It is an interesting concept, reflected to some extent in Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, and in some of my own experience in French country parishes where the priest adopted a traditionalist position but as having been the curé of the parish for so many years since something like the 1950’s.

One thing that had always grated with me was what happened to Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, since the Reformation. It had to be reformed on both sides, rationalised, systems of apologetics and catechesis constructed to justify the position being defended. Rationalism arrived to an extreme with Descartes and the supernatural was utterly separated from the natural. This system of Deism, the notion that God pressed the start button and disappeared from the natural world including humanity. Only a step further lay atheism and materialism in science and human life. Only now, in the thought of men like Rupert Sheldrake and others, is materialism being challenged in science as consciousness becomes a credible concept as preceding matter.

We have been aware for a long time that institutional religion is nearing the end of its shelf-life. Go back a hundred years to the poignant story of a young priest in a spiritually barren part of the world in the Journal d’un Curé de Campagne by Georges Bernanos. If I were not a priest belonging to some kind of Church, I ask myself what would attract me to attend services at my local church. The building is something like 11th century, but spiritually dead, and for a very long time. I find the same thing with the traditionalists, mostly political reactionaries and monasteries are largely like the Army: you leave your personality behind you to become a part of the collective. Is that true asceticism? An abbot even admitted to me that monastic life is Communism! Is Christianity so ill that it was never true in the first place? It is a temptation to ask that question, until we consider the alternatives! We are indeed confronted with the cheap grace criticised by Bonhöffer as he considered the state church in Germany blithely going along with Hitler.

I discovered the notion of Romantic Christianity (or Christian Romanticism) through asking myself what revived the corpse to some extent in the nineteenth century. English Romantic poets like Keats and Shelley were quite hostile to Christianity, influenced as they were by the Enlightenment all in claiming human imagination and a profound meaning of death. Not so with Germans like Göthe, Hölderlin and Novalis. There was a line of thought and spiritual aspiration from Jacob Böhme and others in early Lutheranism. Russians like Nicholas Berdyaev latched onto this early Idealism and Romanticism. I went this way while I still a student at Fribourg, unable to cope with the secularism of the institutional Church or with the aggressive apologetics of the traditionalists and conservatives. At a time when I was very ill at ease, I consulted a psychotherapist in Lausanne. His remedy was not a course of drugs, but simply reading Jung, Soloviev and Berdyaev. I found the books at the University Library or buying them from bookshops in England, and I still have and read them. I came to appreciate the Ressourcement of some of my professors at the university and to understand things in a new light. The good psychotherapist saw that I had no money, and he didn’t charge for his consultation. I was lucky to go to the right one! I found stability through getting rid of cognitive dissonance. I kept my mouth shut when I went to Gricigliano, though my “Modernism” didn’t go entirely unnoticed! I had books by Tyrrell on my bookshelf…

I discovered this dialogue between Rupert Sheldrake and Dr Mark Vernon, a writer, psychotherapist and former Anglican priest.

Dr Vernon has his own website and a course on Romantic philosophy. This is the first time I have encountered this person. After watching the video, I went to his site and, lo and behold, he shows his interest in Romanticism. What I call Romantic Christianity or “Romantia Christiana” is only a part of a wider vision. Romanticism in its strictest historical meaning is expanded onto a much wider base than simply the reaction against the excesses of the eighteenth century. The concept comes up again and again in history as an analogy of a whole Weltanschauung beyond the cultural vacuum at a popular level and resulting barbarianism, on one side, and materialism or Deism on the other.

These two academic gentlemen speak of “full strength” Christianity as opposed to the watered-down caricatures asking for inclusion in the secular and “woke” sphere. It is not the “hyper-masculine” political ideology of some Christians, but a more profound and mystical approach, a rediscovery of medieval values as expressed in the beauty of our churches and cathedrals, the continuation and perfection of music and choral services. We should not be afraid to take inspiration from esoteric Christianity, from René Guénon and others I have encountered here in France. There is a form of Gnosticism which is compatible with Christianity, especially the Alexandrian Fathers. Jung developed some of those ideas into ways to heal the wounded human soul, through self-knowledge and integration.

We should indeed discover the world of Radical Orthodoxy, C.S Lewis, Owen Barfield and Christian Romanticism. As institutional Christianity withers and dies, a new wave of spirituality might bring about a revival of liturgical beauty and experience of the Divine. It has certainly given me a new meaning of my priestly vocation, even when I am sailing along the dark cliffs of northern Brittany, like Nietzsche in the Alpine mountains or forests. A very interesting intuition is that of panentheism (as opposed to pantheism). The word comes from the Greek πᾶν – all, ἐν – in, Θεός – God. The divine intersects every part of the universe and also extends beyond space and time. Unlike pantheism, which holds that the divine and the universe are identical (all is God), panentheism maintains an ontological distinction between the divine and the created. God is present everywhere and in the time in which we live. This is an important notion that detaches us from the dry absolute distinction between nature and the supernatural that we find in the Scholastics and Nominalists.

Another vital characteristic is the love of music and beauty. Modern secular institutional Christianity is based on the anti-aesthetics of post-modernity and post-humanism. As early as 1912, Arnold Schönberg abolished the rules of mode and harmony and began a movement of chaos and ugliness. He would write on the basis of the chromatic scale, and so the notes seemed to be completely random and dissonant to the ear. Artists like Picasso (yes, I know that collectors pay a fortune for his works) destroyed form, and some works in art galleries were even created by a person with a known name throwing a tin of paint at the canvas. Is it cynical, anti-culture (Cancel Culture) or what? It brought Impressionism to its final reductio ad absurdam. I live in a time when what we used to call pop music in the 1960’s has driven the final nail. It is overbearing and intolerable, yet dominates entertainment and the experience of going into town.

Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote:

Plato contemplates the encounter with beauty as the salutary emotional shock that makes man leave his shell and sparks his “enthusiasm” by attracting him to what is other than himself. Man, says Plato, has lost the original perfection that was conceived for him. He is now perennially searching for the healing primitive form. Nostalgia and longing impel him to pursue the quest; beauty prevents him from being content with just daily life. It causes him to suffer.

These are the words of a Romantic, one who seeks the divine through the visible and audible icon of beauty and musical harmony. One of his better-known quotes is:

The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb.

Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendour of holiness and art which have arisen in the community of believers than by clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark sides which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history.

If the Church is to continue to transform and humanise the world, how can she dispense with beauty in her liturgies, that beauty which is so closely linked with love and with the radiance of the Resurrection?

No. Christians must not be too easily satisfied. They must make their Church into a place where beauty—and hence truth—is at home. Without this the world will become the first circle of hell.

There is no doubt that the world is becoming the first circle of hell, a state of anxiety in which nuclear Armageddon is not excluded, where our own “side” is as immoral and dark as that of Putin. The light is there for all to see, just asking us to walk towards it and become transfigured.

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A Mini Semaine du Golfe

I have just returned home from this wonderful and peaceful week in the Golfe du Morbihan, including a passage out to the island of Hoëdic (insert on the map below). We were three boats, not always the same three, as a friend of my friend Frédéric has a collection of some seventeen boats!

I have already been to the famous event held every two years, La Semaine du Golfe, in 2015, 2017 and 2019. 2021 was cancelled because of the Covid pandemic. I am registered to join Flotilla 3b next May. See the official website. In 2019 there were about 1,200 vessels from three-masted ships to tiny dinghies like my Sarum. Next year, I will go with Novalis.

I left the video with my running commentary unlike my trip to northern Brittany. This is the “low end” of amateur sailing, when I think of the ongoing Golden Globe race in which several boats have come to grief or the skippers have abandoned the attempt. I just like the small and simple.

I hope you enjoy the video and the natural beauty I have lived with.

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Medieval Dystopia?

We are being bombarded by the media about the “climate emergency” and the consequences of Putin invading Ukraine and of the availability of affordable energy in the form of natural gas. We howl in the agony of worry and anxiety faced with massive changes in our lives. For many, it will take the form of no longer having the money to continue living in the world as it is. Someone living in the street no longer has access to technology or communication or even to a place to live or food to eat. He must either end his life or find temporary respite through the rare generosity of others who still have money, homes and food. A person in such a precarious situation is already living in a world without culture or technology, what we might be tempted to call a medieval hovel or simply the pre-death of destitution.

What were the Middle Ages? Historians debate the difference of values and cultural markers between, say, the late fifteenth century and the time of the French Revolution three centuries later. The demise of rationalism provided the growth medium for Romanticism and a yearning for another era, one that was responsible for the most beautiful cultural achievements – like our cathedrals. The notion of that long period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Reformation holds a different meaning for the historian and the Romantic, one like Novalis who wrote Die Christenheit oder Europa. This work is generally understood to be a parable, an analogy, to describe a state of mind and yearning rather than a historical truth.

We have not to forget that the Middle Ages was not a time when more “advanced” people retreated into a less rational and more primitive era, like the destitute person I mentioned above. The rationalist will generally consider the Middle Ages by their obscurantism and inhumanity, the barbaric way by which condemned criminals were executed for the entertainment of the crowds gathered around the gallows and the quartering block. I feel very intensely that we are returning to a fascination for darkness, the night, castles, witches and wizards, pre or post rationalism – and all the themes of many computer games.

The media carries much of the responsibility for this fear and anxiety. The eschatology associated with global warming is a part of this post-rational mindset. The ideologies of crowds are nothing new, and we have only to think of the rise of Fascism and Nazism a hundred years ago. We stand in awe in the monuments of the Middle Ages, yet we totter between the wake of the Enlightenment and the darkness of many applications of science. Frankenstein was written more than two hundred years ago in response to the consequences of a catastrophic volcanic eruption on the world’s climate – in 1816. We are in a way entering a new Romantic era. The era from 1790 to roughly 1820 marked the inspiration of poets and dreamers, but also the wildest spiritual prophecies and religious revivals in America and Europe.

I am not convinced that humanity follows trends uniformly, but rather that different values become manifest during a same historical era. There were rationalists in the fourteenth century, and there were massive witch-hunts in the era of Descartes. Nazism was defeated only fourteen years before my birth and left its black mark in the culture of Germany, Europe and the entire modern world of science and technology! Winston Churchill made a speech in 1940 in which he described the world into which Europe and the United States would be plunged if Hitler prevailed:— “the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more prolonged, by the lights of perverted science”.

The Catholicism of the Middle Ages is still with us. It suffices to visit a place of pilgrimage like Lourdes or Fatima to see the naivety of people each with their special needs, but also their absolute faith. It suffices to visit a monastery like the Benedictines of Fontgombault or Le Barroux to witness medieval liturgical life at first-hand. Their life is not a theatrical reconstruction but the life they have chosen (or which chose them). Our problem is that we have also known something else. Léon Bloy once wrote Souffrir passe, avoir souffert ne passe jamais, meaning that our life experience leaves a permanent mark on us. We yearn for the monism of medieval life and thought, but we have to realise that it was no more united than our current fragmentation. Our reflections of faith and reason are full of fallacies and traps for the unwary. Religious belief and thought were more diverse than we would like to imagine, and Islam perhaps had more influence than Christianity in the world of philosophy and science. That period was less hostile to science and rationalism than many of us would imagine. Novalis certainly sought a meaning in Christian Europe that he would never find otherwise than by analogy.

The amazing ting about the Middle Ages is that they represent a period in the past, studied by historians, but also, in the future by analogy. This is probably what was in the back of the mind of that young man between Jena university and his father’s salt mines. In thirty years’ time, when global warming has forced us all to live in northern Canada or Siberia, we won’t be building cathedrals or singing Gregorian chant, but learning to live without electricity or gas! We already find it hard to find a family doctor in the countryside. My own is Romanian and speaks English slightly better than the French in which she should be fluent to practice medicine in this country! We might be back to quacks, faith-healing and bleeding quicker than we think. We are divided between the idea of the shitty hovel and the cathedral, as today between an oligarch billionaire’s super yacht and a group of tramps dossing under a railway bridge. One author for whom I have great esteem is Umberto Eco (1932-2016), not only for that entertaining story about the monastery in Italy and the whodunnit mysteries, but also for his philosophy and analysis of human thought and language. His work is quite mysterious and very technical in its analysis. I have to confess that I am more familiar with his fiction than his more academic works.

There are certain characteristics by which we identify that age of Aristotelian and Thomist reasoning, already a forerunner of Enlightenment rationalism. What we come to call medievalism becomes an interpretive tool to examine our contemporary age and its hermeneutic, ideological distortions and fears. Umberto Eco spoke of ways to “dream” the Middle Ages – Dieci modi di sognare il Medioevo. We have in particular Millenarianism, the doom-mongering and eschatological expression and the orthodoxy of Christendom. This notion of “dreaming” the era again reminds us of Novalis’ most celebrated fragment of 1799.

We find that the Middle Ages is not a threat of the future, like the rants of Greta Thunberg and other cheap demagogues, but a reality that is already with us. Uncertainty is our companion and stability is found to be an illusion. We try to keep everything under control by classifying and labelling everything and every identity. The “new” Middle Age will be seen as a nightmare, a utopia or an epiphany. Our ideology describes us as rational, but perhaps we are rational because we are ideological. Perhaps it is in this light of our own medieval era that we would form a more objective opinion on the sixth to the sixteenth centuries. I think of the quaint harbourmaster’s office in Dinan and the superimposition of black oaken beams over modern toilets and showers. Medieval man adapted Roman ruins and Romanesque churches and modified their style and use.

Perhaps we are more ready for change than we imagine. Our uncertainty and fear bring us to a sense of determinism. We are scared of losing the identity we claim. The temptation to nationalism is still there as are other expressions of resentment.

What do I imagine happening now? Firstly, the incessant pressure from the media, politicians and demagogues is no more than vacuous claptrap. I hope that my own reflections are more based on my acquired knowledge and experience of life. My scepticism (keeping an open mind for as long as I am not convinced of something) is a great asset. My big question is whether medieval man knew he was medieval, in the way we call ourselves modern. Did he try to define and constitute life as we have done since about the time of Descartes. Did they have a notion of progress and growth that we are now losing for our very survival? I was very impressed at school on studying William Golding’s Lord of the Flies portraying a particularly pessimistic and nihilistic view of human nature. Strip away the veneer of culture and mankind becomes something worthy of death and destruction! Fortunately, humanity is also capable of love, truth, beauty, art and music, literature and discovery of nature. As a Christian humanist, I believe that good outweighs and beats evil.

I have no idea about what is going to happen with Russia and Ukraine. The “post-truth machine” has obscured everything and we cannot trust any narrative. I find it tragic, because Russia at its most noble has produced a sublime contribution to human culture. There may be no winner or loser, since it is in the interests of the West to negotiate. Germany in the early 1930’s was ruined economically, and what came out of that? Hitler. Putin chose his moment as his stroke of genius: call the West’s bluff as we started to engage the process of energy transition to solve the “climate emergency” (as if man could do anything about it). Like in the past, we can do nothing against the weather or the fury of the sea. We take ourselves for gods, but we are not. In the end, we either come to terms with Putin or we learn to go without energy (gas and electricity) and all the technology those two resources make possible.

The last time I took my little boat to sea, I had a few books with me, including Nicholas Berdyaev’s The End of our Time. It contains a chapter on the New Middle Ages as well as some reflections on Soviet Communism. His thesis begins with his observation that Renaissance humanism is exhausted and over and done with. He sees history in cycles. I begin to doubt that view, given that all cultures and all humanities exist simultaneously in all periods of time. For example, I have nothing to do with “post-modern” culture and its destruction of humanist aesthetics (musical harmony, clear language, realism in art, etc.). Perhaps history can “live” because there are survivals in a world where most of what we cherish is mercilessly trashed. Anyway, back to Berdyaev… He was describing his time – 1933, but he could have been talking to us in 2022. What has changed? What made it possible to build cathedrals, vandalise and deface them in Reformation times, guillotine the French nobility and send millions of Jews and other minorities to the gas chambers? The answer is humanity, what we all have within ourselves, our capacity for beauty, goodness – and evil.

Berdyaev tried to understand things in terms of philosophy (love of wisdom) and what I would call “proto-Romantic” mysticism, especially from German Lutheran roots. Berdyaev constantly refers to Jacob Böhme and the Ungrund, that primaeval state of darkness and indetermination that preceded even God the Creator and the Λόγος. Each day, we live a period of night when the part of the earth where we live is facing away from the sun. Shapes lose their clarity and the world becomes silent (at least out here in the countryside). Movement ceases and we are taken by sleep. It is a time of wordless longing. uncertainty and nostalgia. We are like the Israelites in exile:

By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept: when we remembered thee, O Sion.
As for our harps, we hanged them up: upon the trees that are therein.
For they that led us away captive required of us then a song, and melody in our heaviness:
Sing us one of the songs of Sion.
How shall we sing the Lord’s song: in a strange land?

It is the spirit of Romanticism and the increasing darkness of our own existence. The light of day, the Enlightenment or Aufklärung, can deceive us and keep us on the surface, superficial. We long for depth of spirit, a new symbolism. The beginning of this new middle age is marked by barbarism, cruelty and violence. Berdyaev wrote in 1933, but he was aware of a world that died in the trenches of World War I. Our woes of 2022 are nothing more than a continuation. We seek to return to a comfort zone, some measure of certitude, but it is not there. We wallow in darkness.

We hope that the vacuum left by man’s pride will be filled by a true discovery of freedom of the spirit. It could be that we are at the brink of a new soviet revolution using different language, or even a new form of Nazism with a completely different appearance but the same ideology. We read everything Berdyaev says about Socialism, and we recognise it in the Great Reset and the climate fanatics in their uncontrolled braying for a deconstruction without any positive plan. Christianity, like the sun before dawn, is waiting to fill our despair and nihilism with spirit and faith. It will not be the caricature of Christianity in the institutional Churches that have become forces of secularism and socialism, but something new and within each of us. The malaise is no different in 2022 than in 1933. It is the same Kali Yuga.

Without a doubt, most of us who are still alive in thirty years’ time will not be driving cars, living in a house, having access to electricity or the technology we now use. Would we even have a postal service or a telephone, or even a horse? No doubt, the oligarchs and billionaires would still have these things, plus medical and trans-humanist technology to make them able to live for centuries. The imagination is fired by any number of science fiction films. Would the new feudal lords be happy without God? Most of us, if the predictions are accurate, would die of pogroms and exterminations, pandemics, starvation and inability to adapt to a post-technical world.

What I think is more likely is that much less would change than we fear. We will adapt to extremes of climate and temperature. We will eat what is available. We will find somewhere to live if we lose our homes. Above all, we will return to God and spiritual values. What would a new Middle Age look like? More than material things, individualism and liberalism would have to go. We will have to re-learn the meaning of the Church, the mystical body of Christ, the universal communion. Art, literature and music would have to be re-invented or re-discovered. This Church can only draw us in through our freedom of spirit and our desire, not through coercion. We cannot tolerate a clerical totalitarianism, nor one of the State. God will be at the centre of our lives and desires. It won’t come about by magic, but this could take decades or centuries. Those of us alive today would be dead by then and experiencing a whole new existence. There would be a whole new attitude to work, money, class, law, justice, energy, natural resources including renewables like wind, solar and tides. This is our hope and prayer for those who will come after those of us who will be dead and probably forgotten.

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Brutal Nihilism

Without divulging the source, I read this in a forum in response to some reflections about the extreme heatwaves in various parts of the world.

“Most of us will perish in scorching heat waves lasting for months and months during the coming years! And if it would not be the heat that kills us, then most likely starvation and/or dehydration or even cannibalism – when the entire agricultural food supply chain collapses due to unviable climatic conditions, human meat will be the last resort.

Parents, be prepared to kill and eat your children… children, be prepared to kill and eat your parents… friends and neighbours, be prepared to kill and eat yourselves mutually, lovers and loved ones, be prepared to kill and eat yourselves mutually… a global Holodomor.

And there will be no God, no Jesus Christ, no Mahdi, no Messiah, no Saoshyant, no Maitreya to save us, as they are all just delusions of the human brain which desperately wants to hope, to believe – but there is no hope. Face it.

Perish, human race!

Millions and millions of years from now, eventually some other species might evolve into sapient beings, and the whole senseless dance begins once more… and so in countless liveable locations throughout the Universe, until the last red dwarf stars have faded to blackness.

Yes, Arthur Schopenhauer was so right…”

I have often reflected on the sheer irresponsibility of portraying climate change in such eschatological terms. I can only suppose that the person who wrote the above piece was influenced by something like the following:

Since the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century, man has been burning fossil fuels and producing pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. These emissions retain the heat of the sun like a greenhouse and cause average temperatures to go up. If these temperatures are recorded on a graph, the graph resembles a hockey stick. There has never been any global warming until our own time. We have about twenty or thirty years to eliminate our carbon emissions, or else we face calamities such as were never imagined in the Book of the Apocalypse! Vast numbers of people would migrate to cooler parts of the world and the sea level would reclaim much of that available land. All because of our fault…

Also see an explanation of Lord Byron’s Darkness, written in July 1816. I wonder if I detect a form of neo-Romanticism in this wave of climatic Weltschmerz. A recent book, David Higgins, British Romanticism, Climate Change, and the Anthropocene gets an interesting introduction:

This book is the first major ecocritical study of the relationship between British Romanticism and climate change. It analyses a wide range of texts – by authors including Lord Byron, William Cobbett, Sir Stamford Raffles, Mary Shelley, and Percy Shelley – in relation to the global crisis produced by the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815. By connecting these texts to current debates in the environmental humanities, it reveals the value of a historicized approach to the Anthropocene. British Romanticism, Climate Change, and the Anthropocene examines how Romantic texts affirm the human capacity to shape and make sense of a world with which we are profoundly entangled and at the same time represent our humiliation by powerful elemental forces that we do not fully comprehend. It will appeal not only to scholars of British Romanticism, but to anyone interested in the relationship between culture and climate change.

There is definitely a connection, though I myself veer to my “Classical” side on this one.

So I am a denier or at least a sceptic? I wrote on this subject in Scepticism and Freedom of Thought just as the world was about to lock down against the mysterious virus from China. I am sometimes yelled at for being “sceptical”, and I would reply that I am indeed sceptical in that I suspend my judgement on the subject not being in possession of scientific data that I could trust is not influenced by political ideology. Science used to be sceptical until repeated experiments producing the same result confirmed a theory. Water freezes at 0°C and boils at 100°C. I also wrote Saving the Planet… the year before. I am a Romantic in terms of my love of nature and our duty to refrain from acts of pollution like throwing waste plastic into the sea. What I hate as much as plastic in the sea and smog above cities is the hysteria of people who are close to suicide and the irrationality of witch-burners. Certainly, unregulated industry, concentrations of humans in cities, the increasing use of petrol and diesel cars and other means of internal combustion-powered transport are polluting the earth and causing big problems. Perhaps we need to go back to feudalism and life like in the Middle-Ages. Remove modern medicine and hygiene and that would get the population down! I say this in cynical jest, because my first question is that of whether I would be the first to live without so much as a horse to provide basic transport for the purpose of trading or working.

I won’t attempt to go into the science, but there are sources available on the internet. Which ones do we believe, not being ourselves climate scientists? I find it easier to believe that nuclear and natural gas used to generate electricity have reduced greenhouse gas emissions more than those who want to limit everything to wind, solar, and geothermal energy. Do your own searches on Google, and I have an open-mind, except to hysteria and obscurantism. I find it ironic that Germany opposes nuclear power and is now deprived of Russian gas. Check mate. They will have to re-light the coal furnaces! Switching off the lights and heating of millions of households next January, telling the population to “eat cake”, is hardly likely to endear political authorities without military force!

Perhaps we will end up like the Morlocks in H.G. Wells’ Time Machine. Maybe the oligarch billionaires would get sufficiently organised to set themselves up as a new aristocracy and give the starving masses a choice between death or serfdom. There are many science fiction and dystopian films offering a spectrum of possibilities that would make us prefer to die. Berdyaev suggested in The End of Our Time, that there could be a new Middle Age, a Christian one. This is a recurring theme of many Romantic authors, a prime example being Die Christenheit oder Europa by Novalis written in the wake of the French Revolution. Maybe we must learn to live again without technology, medicine, mass communications, transport on demand. How many of us could adapt? Fewer than we think.

As an ordinary guy who is not a scientist, I think that we need to stop the hysteria and do what we can to slow down the degradation of the planet because of human pollution. Nuclear fission can be very dangerous but is usually safe. Nuclear fusion is a possibility, and that would solve everything. We need to get out of consumerism and reflexes that usually come with city life. We need to live more simple and frugal lives, go back to organic farming, who knows. Whatever, all that will take time and responsibility in political decisions (anyone heard about the common good recently?).

Dreher’s Benedict Option comes into my mind, but it needs to be much more thought out to adapt to more than formerly urban Americans. The author could justly rebuke me for being unfair, because he is thinking exactly along these lines. Christianity will give us hope, spirituality and morality that would be a breath of fresh air compared with the brutal nihilism I mentioned at the beginning of this article. What can we offer in response? Certainly not what is found in “junk” Christianity and the hypocrisy of institutions and their clergy. We have a long way to go ourselves.

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Homage to Brittany

This account of my cruise in North Brittany is based on my Facebook entries. I leave my viewer to look at my show of slides and videos with musical accompaniment, since a voice-over commentary would be boring!

29 July

I launched Novalis yesterday morning at Plouër sur Rance. I motored against the headwind which made it impossible to sail. My engine lost power and died when I was on anything other than tickover with the choke on. I decided not to go through the lock at Saint Malo and sailed back to Plouër with a following wind. I was resigned to having to put the boat back on the trailer and go home.

This morning, It dawned on me that there was a boat repair workshop in Plouër, so I left Novalis moored to a buoy and took the engine ashore with my tender. The young mechanic found that there was no need for new spare parts, but that the carburettor was fouled up. He dismantled and cleaned it, and then put everything back together. I had just one man-hour to pay.

This was a game-changer, and I left the Rance this evening by the lock and am now moored at Solidor, just next to St Malo. I went ashore for a little while and visited the church, a magnificent 19th century classical building. There was an organ recital, and I sat down to listen to a piece that sounded like César Franck, but was not recognisably of him. A considered eating a meal in a restaurant, but there was so much noise, people and cars. I returned to the boat.

I will go to St Cast le Guildo tomorrow on a north-westerly wind by sailing to the Ile of Cézembre and avoiding the rocks to the north of Dinard. After St Cast, it will be a new discovery for me to pass Cap Fréhel and the many isles. For the first time, I have the boat for it. The engine performed well up the Rance and against the fierce current between the lock and St Malo.

30 July

I left Solidor this morning and sailed to Saint-Cast le Guildo. I had a light NW wind and went to the Ile de Cézembre. I didn’t land. There is only a restaurant with a very rude owner, and the relics of man’s favourite activity – warfare. The island is full of bombed WWII defences and unexploded bombs. All forbidden, not that I would want to take my morning constitutional there!

As I sailed off the west of the island, I beheld the sight of a massive car ferry coming towards me. I steered toward the north of the island and started the engine for more speed. Within a minute or so, I was well out of the way. I was concerned about the ship’s wake, but it was going slow ahead. When the ship was away from me, I tacked and steered towards the Ile de Jacut and St Cast. The wind freshened but the ebb tide created a heck of a chop. The current was in my favour, but the chop made it difficult to advance close-hauled.

I arrived at St Cast this afternoon and paid for two nights at the marina. It is Sunday tomorrow and the Lord’s Day and a day for rest. This afternoon, I will try to find a grocery shop and a new bucket (the old one is leaking – “There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza…” Also, the wind is forecast to be quite strong and the shore the other side of Cap Fréhel will be a lee shore. The chop there can be quite dangerous with a strong wind and contrary current. It should be more reasonable on Monday. Then I will go toward St Brieuc, which should be “plain sailing. From St Brieuc to the Ile de Bréhat, I will be close-hauling and tacking or motoring.

I recently bought a plastic tender with oars, and it has proven very useful to get from my moored boat to shore. There are lots of new things to get used to…

31 July

I wake up to Sunday morning in Saint Cast le Guildo. Yesterday afternoon, I went for a walk into the town, which has become a playground of the well-to-do and summertime holidaymakers on the beach, from children making sandcastles to young people playing volleyball and making a lot of noise. The seaside entertainment culture reminded me of Blackpool, only in the older times, there was Reginald Dixon on the mighty Wurlizer. Now it is heavy rock or whatever they call it – “Oof-ta-oof-ta”. As Charlie Chaplin said “Machine minds and machine hearts”!

Was I going to go all Augustinian about fallen human nature? I withdrew from such a judgement, since there is goodness in everyone. I brought a few books with me for these quiet days, in particular Berdyaev’s The End of our Time. He wrote this book in 1933, but could have been describing 2022! I have learned not to idolise the “good old days”. 1972 was 50 years ago and was a ghastly period as had been the 1930’s. Individualism, collectivism, man who has rejected the image of God in his soul. Already in the last years of the 19th century, Oscar Wilde wrote The Soul of Man under Socialism.

These thoughts dashed through my mind as I worked my way through the crowd and the heavily tattooed young men and women. What right have I to judge without judging myself? They go to the beach. I go for cruises on my boat. I hope I seek a more spiritual view and a slower life.

In the night, drunken young people bellowed at the top of their voices. Were they on a boat in the port or on the shore? There was nothing intelligible in their ravings.

To be positive, I need to go and buy some bread, say Mass (I can do so on board in a “minimalist” way) and go for a walk. The weather is overcast and cooler. I have a few little jobs to do on the boat with a few bits and pieces from the shipchandler. I will have a quiet day, and then will go to Saint-Brieuc and Bréhat tomorrow.

1 August

I arrived at Erquy (look it up on Google Maps) from St Cast le Guildo. I had a very nasty chop to Face off the Cap de Fréhel but I survived! Novalis is dried out on the beach.

2 August

The cruise continues. I left Erquy dry-out port this morning and motored WSW into the immense bay of Saint-Brieuc. After a time, some wind started coming in from the north, which allowed me to stop the engine and continue under sail. Accurate navigation is of the essence, since these waters are full of rocks! I finally avoided a whole field of underwater rocks and turned up the channel into the port of Saint-Quay-Portrieux, Port d’Armor. My plan is now to sail to the Ile Bréhat and stay there next weekend to wait out some forecast unpleasant weather. My final port of call will be Paimpol just to the south, said to be a very beautiful place. Then I will return to Erquy and carefully plan a passage round the Cap Fréhel to avoid the vicious chop I had to combat last time.

I have been looking at the weather and strong winds are announced for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I have decided to forego my visit to the beautiful island of Bréhat, and I need to go back past the Cap Fréhel to avoid dangerous conditions. By Thursday evening, I hope to be in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer which will protect me from the NE wind and waves over the weekend. I will just hole up during that time and then return to Saint-Malo and the Rance next week. I may well finish my cruise with another visit to that beautiful medieval town Dinan at the bottom of the Rance before returning to Plouër sur Rance. This new plan seems more reasonable. I have a huge distance to cover in 2 days, but I believe it is possible.

3 August

I spent no less than 9 hours at the helm as I left Saint-Quay-Portrieux and took a due-east course past the rocks affectionately called “Les Contesses”. I navigated up the Channel of Erquy. I was not able to see across the bay to begin with because of a gloomy mist. There was nearly no wind, so I motored most of the way and consumed 5 litres of petrol in my 2.6 hp outboard engine. After passing the Cap Fréhel, I met the ebb current, but was able to advance all the same. From about that point I had enough wind to sail in a full reach. Finally I reached Saint-Cast-de-Guildo and am in port for the night. I will go across the Bays of Arguenon and Lancieux to Saint-Briac-sur-Mer to hole up for 3 days (Friday to Sunday) from a strong NE wind. On Monday I will return to the Rance and spend some restful days before hauling the boat out and going home.

4 August

I am now dried out at St Briac sur Mer. We are moored bow and stern since the boats are rather close together. The NE wind has begun and will be quite strong over the next 3 days. The floating period is only about 2 hours before and 2 hours after high tide. I can leave here next Monday from 2.20 pm until 6.20 pm. It seems about right to go to the Anse de Solidor or into the port of St Malo to wait for the right time to go through the Rance dam lock. I will need to get that worked out. It all depends on the tides and being in the right place at the right time. The two bays are beautiful as I left St Cast le Guildo and was very careful about the rocks.

5 August

The wind seemed to calm a little this afternoon as I decided to leave Saint-Briac. You will understand that I took no photos.

“They are carried up to the heaven, and down again to the deep. Their soul melteth away, because of the trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. (Psalm 107)

The waves were vicious as the wind blew at about 20 knots. I reefed the main and drove through the waves with my engine, which ran out of petrol almost at the entrance to the port of Saint-Malo. I hove-to and refilled the engine’s tiny fuel tank, and this was quite hard in the waves, just to keep my balance sitting on the stern with the petrol can. I restarted the engine, Took down the main which suffered a little damage. I have some sewing to do this evening! The wind is whistling through the rigging of the moored boats in the port. I took my chance with the wind and the rough sea, and I made it. It was a good test for the seaworthiness of this boat and her ballasted keel. Tomorrow, I will go into the Rance and there is a little festival at Saint-Suliac on Sunday. We often have the Fête de la Mer at this time of year, usually just before the Assumption or on the Feast itself. There are more mariner-priests than many imagine.

Here are a few photos I took yesterday of St Briac sur Mer. There’s a lot of money in those houses, even more in Dinard. I trust I have not invaded anyone’s privacy. The last photo is my mainsail under repairs. The leech (the hypotenuse not attached to the mast or the boom) needed a row of stitches, by hand with a sailmaker’s needle and special sail thread. I really would like to find a fresher mainsail of the same dimensions with a reefing line. It was an exciting time today in those big waves!

6 August

I am now moored at St Suliac. See my blog postings and the French TV series “Entre Terre et Mer”. This afternoon, I have some things to buy from the little grocery shop, and I will visit the church where there is that poignant Lady Altar where Our Lady pulls a shipwrecked sailor out of the sea. I love churches where seafarers leave their ex-votos. I wish you all a happy Feast of the Transfiguration

Here are today’s photos, entering the Rance after the lock and a visit to Saint-Suliac.There is a gap between two buildings that is so narrow that I can’t imagine a person slim enough to squeeze through, though there is a gate at the far end. I took more detailed photos of the Lady Altar in the church. Indeed the Infant Jesus is saving the shipwrecked mariner with a boathook. It is a fine but badly defaced church with heavy dark wood nineteenth-century altars and choir stalls. I am moored in the bay, but the vicious wind is creating a chop on the water – makes it difficult for me to type!

7 August

I’m still in St Suliac today and there is a little village celebration. Here is a little traditional Breton music with a couple of ladies dressed like a hundred years ago.

Some photos from my trip ashore this morning. I tried some Lançons, which is the same thing as whitebait. They are tiny eel-like fish that are rubbed in flour and deep-fried. You eat them head, bones and everything – delicious!

I decided to leave St Suliac this evening when the sun was a little less hot. The boat was tossing up and down, even moored near the weather shore. The wind was quite strong like since Friday, north to north-east, perfect anticyclone conditions. The village festival started quite nicely, but it was much more “chanson française” throughout the afternoon and crowds around the bars and food places. I didn’t go ashore in the afternoon. I read the lovely book of Berdyaev I have. His writing in 1933, without mentioning Hitler, was so prophetic about our present time. His understanding of the Russian Revolution was uncanny. I decided to go to the port of Plouër sur Rance, where the water is calmer than a cup of tea. I sailed with the genoa (big jib) alone and the vicious gusts gave me speed against the ebb current. I was quite exhilarated. I only needed to use my engine to manoeuvre in port. I will go to the medieval town of Dinan tomorrow or Tuesday and spend a couple of days there. There are some beautiful churches.

8 August

Novalis left Plouër sur Rance under genoa with the strong north-east wind funnelling down the Rance as it became narrower. I went through the lock and into the non-tidal section of the Rance. I arrived in Dinan and had the courage to climb the extremely steep medieval street from the port to the town centre. I returned to the boat and fried up some pork and sauté potatoes that I bought this morning at the supermarket in Plouër.

9 August

I went to the showers of the harbour master’s office. You get in with a code they give you. This is the first time I have gone through a door into a medieval building with that unique smell of very old wood. The facilities were modern and obviously installed in an extension built in the back yard. The sun is now rising and will give us another very hot day. I have finished breakfast. I’m going up that steep street again whilst it is still cool and I will visit the church and take some photos.

Here is another visit to town in the coolness of the morning and when most visitors were in their hotels having breakfast. I went to the church of Saint-Sauveur, which is magnificent.

“The construction of St. Sauveur Basilica was commissioned around 1120 by Sir Rivallon le Roux, Lord of Dinan, on his return from the first Crusade. The church was extensively rebuilt and extended during the 15th and 16th centuries and is a successful blend of architectural styles. The lower part of facade is part of the original 12th century building. The bell tower was built during the 18th century to replace the 17th century dome which had been destroyed by lightning.”

I notice the radical reordering of the Counter-Reformation and the baroque era. The two side altars mark the place of a disappeared choir screen, and holes in the walls for the beam are a witness. The choir stalls are found in different places in the church, removed from the choir by the post-Vatican II installation of a forward altar. The organ is totally without interest.

I am in the boat cabin and there is a pleasant breeze coming into the cabin. I will go and find a moderately-priced lunch on a terrace somewhere and take a book with me. It’s now 26°C. I had lunch at a brasserie: andouille, chips and salad with a beer.

My holiday draws to a close. I already have a new translating order for the 16th and there will be others. I have to earn my living! I went out in my rowing tender to see the Rance the other side of the old bridge. I didn’t go very far because I had to row against the wind on my way back, which was easier than I thought. The tender only draws a few inches and its square bow rides above the water. To go back to Plouër sur Rance, I really need to be on the ebb tide with the calmer wind in the morning. Also I need quiet conditions to get Novalis onto her trailer albeit with a helping hand to do a bit of cranking on the trailer as I wade into the water to keep the stern straight.

10 August

I left Dinan this morning a little after 7 am to get through the lock of Le Chatelier and go with the ebb tide to Plouër sur Rance. With a north wind, it was motoring all the way. I arrived at the slipway at Plouër and went and got my van and trailer. I now have the knack of launching and recovering this boat, since I did it all alone without needing any help. I unrigged the boat in the full sunshine with only a hat to protect me. It took less than 2 hours to get home, where I am now. The house is reasonably cool with it being shut up all this time.

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For Those in Peril on the Sea

I am planning another passage in Novalis along the northern coast of Brittany at the end of July and a week or so of August. I hope to sail from the Rance, past Saint-Suliac and westwards to the Ile de Bréhat.

The tides will be moderate, so we can only hope for fair weather and a calm sea. I take great care as an amateur sailor to avoid risky situations, though they can happen like on mountains and other wild places where man experiences his fragility and the limit of his influence. There are lots of rocks, and my trusty GPS chart plotter will give me accurate position checks to avoid them.

Of course the title of this posting refers to the famous hymn Eternal Father, strong to save. The Church has always shown its concern for sailors in the Navy, Merchant Navy and fishing vessels. They take greater risks than we amateur sailors in our little sailing vessels and a less than perfect knowledge of navigation and other essential skills. There is not only this hymn, but also the touching ex-votos in the form of model ships and paintings, usually offered by sailors who survived life-threatening situations at sea and express their gratitude. There are many votive chapels in Normandy and Brittany. Here is the example of Notre-Dame de la Grâce in Honfleur. There are not only model ships, but paintings depicting storms at sea, shipwrecks and miraculous rescues.

May be an image of indoor

Another I found very poignant is the Lady Altar in Saint Suliac, a quiet port on the Rance inland from Saint-Malo.

I know these places well because I go there in my boat. In the photo here, look at the carving under the statue. Shipwrecked sailors are reaching out for help at the point of drowning. The wrecked boat and tattered sails are on the right. I find it very moving.

Eglise Saint-Suliac et cimetière

Saint-Suliac was immortalised by the French TV series Entre Terre et Mer, about the Terre Neuvas that went to Newfoundland to catch cod and store them in salt. The story is extremely poignant. The fish were caught on hooks and lines from small boats, and many of these dory boats were lost at sea. Here are the six episodes set in the 1920’s.

We see the human drama about these lewd men who found employment in this way to support their wives and children living on the north Brittany coast. They had no one to count on other than God. It was almost a survival of life in the Middle Ages, the absolute dependence of human persons on the feudal lord and the elements, their simple piety. The Captain of La Charmeuse is portrayed as a just and kind man, concerned for his men as a commander who knows that motivation and self-esteem, not flogging, makes a man he can rely on.

One again, I will sleep in my cramped cabin, which is much more comfortable than sleeping in a dinghy on hard boards under a tent. I will be able to spend nights in ports and with mains electricity to recharge my 140-watt battery, or tied to a buoy in a little cove in calm water, and use my rubber dinghy to get ashore.

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Liturgical Nihilism

For those who read French, I draw your attention to Le pape François laisse entendre que l’attachement au rite tridentin constitue un produit du nihilisme. This is a fascinating article from the French Catholic periodical La Croix by the theologian Grégory Solari.

* * *

Also see Fr Zuhlsdorf’s More on Desisdeede – Desiderio desideravi. This time through a particularly vicious lens that might be at the core of the document. This article contains a translation of the Solari article.

* * *

The idea that RC traditionalists were nihilists seems quite absurd, but I could imagine that some might be twisted in their desire for the old liturgy and, above all, the “old” social and political order. Any kind of religious fanatic can be identified with a wider “spiritual narcissism” or caricature of something from the past for the sake of individual or group identity. However, my immediate intuition is that the same could be said of the followers of Pope Francis and the post-Vatican II status quo.

Most adepts of Christianity in one institutional church or another are poorly catechised and have little knowledge of theology, the liturgy and church history. Such people are unlikely to be committed to nihilism as a philosophical paradigm. Maybe nihilism can emerge as an un-named default attitude, maybe in some people, and for reasons quite unrelated to liturgical preferences. Nihilism is generally understood as the way we relate to values. Nothing has any intrinsic value other than exterior criteria, economical, political, aesthetic, sociological, etc. For Francis, traditionalists have recourse to a notion of tradition to compensate the symbolic deficit that characterises modernity. If we try to understand the thought of Nietzsche and apply it to this question, tradition is confused with the past. Value is based on a will to power. Only Christ gives this value through the link between the lex orandi and the lex credendi. Away from the Church, in what the institutional Catholic would call schism, liturgical forms are transformed into formalism. The “neo” imitation becomes another name of the nothing. It seems to be a sophisticated argument to suggest a sacramental theology that denies any value “outside the Church”. Only the Church escapes nihilism, and the liturgy only has meaning when expressed by the ecclesial institution.

According to the author of the article, the intention of Benedict XVI in his motu proprio of 2007 was to create a situation in which the two Roman rites would coexist and enrich each other in a process of natural healing and organic development in time. According to this reasoning, Pope Benedict was mistaken in his trust in the traditionalist institutes, and Pope Francis found that they refused the rite of Paul VI. Therefore the experiment had failed and attachment to the old rite constituted a rupture between the communion of the Church and the liturgical life. The question needs a long period of critical thought with no premature conclusions.

My own intuition is that the accusation of nihilism is a Jesuit sophism, something to be set into a whole world of clashing ideologies of the left and the right. I deeply regret the time I spent as a Roman Catholic, both as a traditionalist and a sincere effort to integrate into the mainstream Church. I perceived a toxic and diseased humanity in its quest for spiritual justification, to such an extent that I was brought to believe that I was the one who was unstable and disordered. Having had a similar experience with marriage, I set about the task of discovering myself from a clinical and a spiritual point of view. The progressivism of Francis and all the time I spent in the RC Church from the pontificate of John Paul II seemed at variance with what I sought. Perhaps I am the nihilist! I was also very ill at ease in the reactionary world of the traditionalists and their zeal to control. I am aware of my own fragility!

Over the past few days, I have been watching videos by exponents of other spiritual traditions and psychologists who are aware of the harm done by materialism and nihilism. Here is a relevant video by the gritty psychologist Richard Grannon.

Dr Ramani is specialised in the narcissistic personality disorder. I have often watched her videos in my own time of introspection and “fact-checking”.

I have no idea of whether Pope Francis and his advisors have been going along such lines of thought. If they have, they undoubtedly fall into the same narcissism and control-freakery as their adversaries. They blame liturgical rites, a pure red herring, from deeper human issues from which they believe themselves to be protected by a narrow notion of ecclesial communion.

I left that absurd and insane world, at least that is how I found it. “Cradle Catholics” would see things differently. I came from Anglican origins. I have nothing to be triumphalist about, but perhaps our liturgical diversity was a more successful expression of Benedict XVI’s idea and desire to calm the conflicts that was possible in the authoritarian structure of the RC Church. Anglicanism too is a mess, and our continuing Churches are still marginal and fragile. There are many diseased caricatures of Christianity in conflict with materialism and atheism. Both are destructive to the human spirit.

Before trusting others, we have to look into ourselves and seek the real meaning of Christ and his teaching. Spend time in nature and its beauty. Learn gratitude and a sense of wonder. I express my own love of the sea and I remember my many family outings with the dogs on the Fells of the Lake District. We need to go back to origins, the deepest meaning of the disputed notion and caricature of being born again. It is not merely the Sacrament of Baptism or an event that marks our conversion to Christ. That is too narrow and schematised in an ideology of controlling people. We need to make our own discernment and Tiefenpsychologie to find Christ within us, where he is within each of us. What will that do to our church life. Precious little remains of that unless we have the commitment and self-discipline of hermits. I think we should belong to some community in the way that I belong to the Anglican Catholic Church, aware that this is fragile – especially the further away we are geographically.

We may be tempted at times to give up that little that remains. One thing we can remember is that there is no positive alternative. Nihilism and despair are not the answer. We can all live with this contradiction in our own way, as best we can. Going to the Roman Catholic Church, its dull and boring Pope and its diseased clerocracy is no guarantee against nihilism. Being true to ourselves is.

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Behold the Sea!

This blog has suffered neglect over the past few months. The current polemics in the Roman Catholic and other churches do little more than prove the inadequacy of ecclesial institutions and the sinfulness of the most sanctimonious of the men and women involved. My life as a priest has been painfully affected by my pending divorce and the death of my parents. We are faced with the same great obstacle – the mystery of evil. It matters not what clever arguments we produce to justify evil and get God “off the hook”! The alternatives to belief are nihilism and a feeling of absurdity that leaves us in agony. I would advise more Christians to read Albert Camus to make a new approach to God that really means something more than vacuous words. We can then discover the mysticism of Jacob Böhme, Nicholas Berdyaev and Novalis in a world other than that of monotheistic fundamentalism.

Perhaps life in this world is to be compared with going to sea on a small boat, facing a vastness that reveals our insignificance. That is certainly my experience, though I take great care to choose the weather conditions that allow me to launch the boat and sail. In the following video, the sea seems benign, calm and contained by the surrounding land. The north-east wind howled between the Ile Ronde and Brest and the heavy chop made it very difficult to bring the boat about for tacking. That was the part I filmed very little for the reason of having to handle the boat.

I have not forgotten Fr Claude Barbarit, the priest for whom I crewed in a regatta in 2011.

If the sea of our ancestors inspired fear, our contemporaries seem to have mastered it. We think of those who work at sea, fishermen with reliable weather forecasting devices. Disasters still happen offshore and rescuers die helping a vessel in a storm. This saying “There are three sorts of people: those who are alive, those who are dead, and those who are at sea” is sometimes attributed to Aristotle.

Psalm 107 mentions the seasickness and the terror of those who work at sea:

They that go down to the sea in ships, * and occupy their business in great waters;
These men see the works of the Lord, * and his wonders in the deep.
For at his word the stormy wind ariseth, * which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They are carried up to the heaven, and down again to the deep; * their soul melteth away because of the trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, * and are at their wit’s end.
So when they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, * he delivereth them out of their distress.
For he maketh the storm to cease, * so that the waves thereof are still.

You can’t trick the sea. It requires our truth ad loyalty. The sea is a place of courage. You have always to be available for the effort it can suddenly require from us. The sea is a place of solidarity. We challenge it together. The fraternity of the sea is experienced by mutual help, mutual respect and tolerance. The sea requires our care and attention to detail. Order must reign onboard. “Shipshape and Bristol”, the Royal Navy used to say. Disorder engenders panic. True seamen are the masters of everything we learn, and their experience is priceless. The sea is a place of beauty. Polluting it is intolerable, even the smallest piece of plastic, fishing line or spilled petrol! We are called to savour the constantly changing harmony and splendour of the sky and the sea. The sea is the most beautiful place, giving us a wide space of silence. If we are believers, our meditation affirms what we believe and opens our heart. The Star of the Sea above the horizon invites us to go that one step further. Remember that the sea is always the stronger.

La mer nous apprend la modestie”.

I leave my readers with a few lines from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman:

O vast Rondure, swimming in space,
Cover’d all over with visible power and beauty,
Alternate light and day and the teeming spiritual darkness,
Unspeakable high processions of sun and moon and countless stars above,
Below, the manifold grass and waters, animals, mountains, trees,
With inscrutable purpose, some hidden prophetic intention,
Now first it seems my thought begins to span thee.

Down from the gardens of Asia descending radiating,
Adam and Eve appear, then their myriad progeny after them,
Wandering, yearning, curious, with restless explorations,
With questionings, baffled, formless, feverish, with never-happy hearts,
With that sad incessant refrain, Wherefore unsatisfied soul? and
Whither O mocking life?

Ah who shall soothe these feverish children?
Who justify these restless explorations?
Who speak the secret of impassive earth?
Who bind it to us? what is this separate Nature so unnatural?
What is this earth to our affections? (unloving earth, without a
throb to answer ours,
Cold earth, the place of graves.)

Yet soul be sure the first intent remains, and shall be carried out,
Perhaps even now the time has arrived.

After the seas are all cross’d, (as they seem already cross’d,)
After the great captains and engineers have accomplish’d their
After the noble inventors, after the scientists, the chemist, the
geologist, ethnologist,
Finally shall come the poet worthy that name,
The true son of God shall come singing his songs.

* * *

Ah more than any priest O soul we too believe in God,
But with the mystery of God we dare not dally.

O soul thou pleasest me, I thee,
Sailing these seas or on the hills, or waking in the night,
Thoughts, silent thoughts, of Time and Space and Death, like
waters flowing,
Bear me indeed as through the regions infinite,
Whose air I breathe, whose ripples hear, lave me all over,
Bathe me O God in thee, mounting to thee,
I and my soul to range in range of thee.

O Thou transcendent,
Nameless, the fibre and the breath,
Light of the light, shedding forth universes, thou centre of them,
Thou mightier centre of the true, the good, the loving,
Thou moral, spiritual fountain—affection’s source—thou reservoir,
(O pensive soul of me—O thirst unsatisfied—waitest not there?
Waitest not haply for us somewhere there the Comrade perfect?)
Thou pulse—thou motive of the stars, suns, systems,
That, circling, move in order, safe, harmonious,
Athwart the shapeless vastnesses of space,
How should I think, how breathe a single breath, how speak, if, out of myself,
I could not launch, to those, superior universes?

Swiftly I shrivel at the thought of God,
At Nature and its wonders, Time and Space and Death,
But that I, turning, call to thee O soul, thou actual Me.

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