art

Frankfurt School

Frankfurt School posted in Eleison Comments on November 7, 2009

Valuable lessons for all friends or lovers of “Western civilisation” are to be culled from an analysis of the USA’s leftwards lurch in the 1960’s by a Californian Professor of Psychology, accessible at www.theoccidentalobserver.net/articles/MacDonald-WheatlandII.html . Professor Kevin MacDonald is there reviewing the critique of mass culture in a book on “The Frankfurt School in Exile.”

The Frankfurt School needs to be much better known. It was a small but highly influential group of non-Christian intellectuals who, when Hitler came to power, fled from Germany to the USA, where in conjunction with a like-minded group of New York Trotskyists they continued to exert an influence out of all proportion to their numbers. Feeling a profound alienation from the “traditional Anglo-American culture,” says MacDonald, they made war on it by promoting the individual against the family, multi-culture against White leadership, and modernism against tradition in all domains, especially the arts. “Theodor Adorno’s desire for a socialist revolution led him to favour Modernist music that left the listener feeling unsatisfied and dislocated – music that consciously avoided harmony and predictability.” The Frankfurt School wanted “the end of the order that bore the sonata.”

The Frankfurt School scorned the American people’s lack of desire for Revolution, and they blamed it on the people’s “passivity, escapism and conformism,” says the Professor, and on “late capitalist” control of the mass culture by, for instance, conservative organisations imposing moral standards on Hollywood. Yet when in the 1960’s they themselves gained control of the media, universities and politics, they exploited to the full the mass culture and Hollywood and the people’s on-going sleep-like condition to swing them to the left. The Professor laments the resulting vicious attack upon “White interests,” “White identity” and the “traditional people and culture of the West.”

The Professor is right on several counts. For instance, the war is not mainly between capitalism and communism, as the leftists originally thought, and as many Americans still think. Material comfort has lulled the American people to sleep, after the 1960’s as before them. Also, on or off the leash, Hollywood and culture play a huge part in moulding minds and masses (which is why “Eleison Comments” often treat of cultural topics). Also, there does exist a small group, conscious and resolute, of highly influential enemies of “traditional Western culture.”

However, to defend “White interests” the Professor needs to go well beyond White interests as such. The real problem is religious. Why did White Europeans ever have so much to give Because for centuries and centuries they co-operated with God’s grace to profit best by the Catholic Faith. Why does this small group of leftists so hate “Western culture”? Because it is the lingering remains of that Faith. And why did the small group become so powerful from the 1960’s onwards? Because at Vatican II the same “Whites” were mainly responsible for the Catholic officials’ betrayal of the Faith which took place at that Council. Today’s triumph of the leftists is no more nor less than a just punishment from God.

Professor, you are not asleep. Now pick up a Rosary!

Kyrie eleison.

“Tristan” Production

“Tristan” Production posted in Eleison Comments on October 17, 2009

After an absence from London’s Royal Opera House of some 40 years, it was delightful to be offered by friends last week a ticket to Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde.” It did make a delightful evening, but oh dear! – the modern production! The classics of yesteryear are one thing. Their production on stage today can be quite another!

A classic like “Tristan and Isolde,” which was staged for the first time in 1865, becomes a classic because it succeeds in expressing human problems and solutions that belong to all the ages. Never for instance have the passions of romantic love between man and woman been so skilfully and powerfully expressed as in the music-drama of “Tristan.” But every time a classic drama is put on stage, its production can obviously belong only to the time of its staging. So the classic depends in itself on the author, but in its production on the producer, and on how he understands the classic he is producing.

Now Wagner can be called the father of modern music, especially through the revolution wrought by the chromatic harmonies of “Tristan,” constantly shifting. Nobody can say Wagner is not modern. Yet what the current production of “Tristan” at Covent Garden shows is the huge distance even between Wagner’s time and our own. This producer had either no understanding or no regard for Wagner’s text, as two little examples may show. In Act III when Kurwenal is meant to be looking out to sea for Isolde’s ship, he is shown watching Tristan all the time. On the contrary when Isolde finally rushes in to find Tristan dying, Wagner’s text has her of course scanning him for the least sign of life, but this producer has her on the floor with her back turned to him! This flagrant violation of the original text, and of common sense, ran through the production from beginning to end.

What did the producer think he was doing? I would like to know. Either he had no common sense, or if he had any, he set out deliberately to defy it. Worse, the Royal Opera House probably paid him a royal sum to do so, because it will have judged that today’s audiences would enjoy the defiance. One is reminded of Picasso saying that he knew his art was nonsense, but he also knew that it was what people wanted. Indeed last week’s audience, which should have been hooting such nonsense off the stage, instead watched docilely and applauded warmly. In Wagner’s own country today, unless I am mistaken, classic productions of his operas are rare.

One is bound to ask, what is happening to common sense? Where are today’s audiences going? How can a people long survive which takes pleasure, for example, in lovers turning their backs on one another at the moment of death? Objection: it is only theatre. Reply: theatre holds up the mirror to society. Conclusion: society today either has no common sense, or what little it still has, it is trampling on. Since common sense is the sense of reality, such a society cannot survive.

Kyrie eleison.

Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart posted in Eleison Comments on June 20, 2009

Yesterday was the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Before I became a Catholic the mere expression “Sacred Heart of Jesus” would have made my blood curdle, because it sounded too sweet and sticky for words. This impression would have been confirmed by a number of pictures representing the Sacred Heart, which are so melting that one is surprised not to find, in place of the picture on the wall, a pictorial puddle at the foot of the wall!

However, as one grows older, one may hope one grows a little wiser as well as sadder. Soon after I entered the Church, the Lord God put in my hands a marvellous book on the Sacred Heart, one could say written by the Sacred Heart: “The Way of Divine Love” by Sister Josefa Menendez (1890–1923). She was a little Spanish nun buried away from all publicity in a convent of the Sacred Heart Sisters in Poitiers, France, who during the last three years of her short life acted as messenger for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to deliver one more urgent message of God’s love to modern souls in ever more danger of falling away from Him.

“I am God” (page 377 of the first edition in English), “but a God of love! I am a Father, but a Father full of compassion and never harsh. My Heart is infinitely holy but also infinitely wise, and knowing human frailty and infirmity stoops to poor sinners with infinite mercy.” This book gave me to understand that just as the special revelations of the Sacred Heart had begun in the 17th century which was growing cold with rationalism and Jansenism, so those revelations became progressively warmer as the world grew colder and colder, until the pictures indeed almost melted off the wall! As though Our Lord were saying to us, it no longer matters if we understand His Justice, or appreciate the fine arts, just so long as we understand His true Mercy.

“I love those who after a first fall come to me for pardon . . . I love them still more when they beg pardon for their second sin, and should this happen again, I do not say a million times but a million million times, I still love them and pardon them, and I will wash in My Blood their last as fully as their first sin. Never shall I weary of repentant sinners, nor cease from hoping for their return, and the greater their distress, the greater My welcome . . .This is what I wish all to know. I will teach sinners that the mercy of my Heart is inexhaustible . . . It is so easy to trust completely in My Heart!”

It is so easy to trust in His Heart. But we modern men are distracted, and we are proud. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Kyrie eleison.

Kings Insufficient

Kings Insufficient posted in Eleison Comments on May 2, 2009

I have never felt entirely comfortable around monarchists, by which I mean people for whom a return to kings and queens would solve a large part of our present democratic woes. I agree that bygone monarchies like those of England, France and Russia are great landscapes for a nostalgia trip, and that Cromwell, Robespierre and Lenin were treacherous pioneers of a ghastly New World Order. Nevertheless the nostalgia comes across to me as a distraction.

Such thoughts arise from a visit to the delightful Exhibition at the Tate (Britain) Gallery in London, open until May 17, entitled “Van Dyck and Britain.” Sir Anthony van Dyck, knighted by King Charles I, was the outstanding painter of 17th century England. Born in 1599 in Antwerp, in today’s Belgium, he showed an early talent for painting, and soon became the “best pupil” of the famous Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). Amidst youthful travels on the Continent, in particular to Genoa to learn from the Italian masters, he made a brief visit to London in 1620–1621.

However, from 1632 until his early death in 1641, at the invitation of the Stuart King Charles I, a keen patron of the arts, van Dyck came to England mostly to stay. Here he became the fashionable and highly influential portrait painter of England’s ruling class, projecting, as no doubt the King had wished, a glamorous image of the Stuart kingdom. The glamour lives on in the colorful and characterful portraits that make up the bulk of this Exhibition.

Like his Continental masters, Rubens and Titian, and like the King’s spouse, Henrietta Maria of France, van Dyck was a Catholic. Even if a Puritan could be a painter, never could he rejoice as does van Dyck in the play of light upon gorgeous fabrics, nor could he portray costumes still more fanciful than they were in reality, like van Dyck’s ballooning sleeves. Of course the Puritans made war on Charles, and in 1649 they cut off his head, but with the Stuart Restoration of 1660 some of the color and joy returned, and van Dyck’s influence upon English portrait painting lasted – one thinks in particular of Gainsborough and Reynolds in the 18th century – through to the early 20th century, when at last the lights were switched out all over Europe, and remaining monarchies were extinguished with them, or gutted.

Therefore kings alone are not enough. They may patronize the arts, and their courts may uphold for a while the glamour and the glory, as reflected for instance by van Dyck, in whose dashing canvases one finds surprisingly little or no trace of the murderous tensions underlying the 1630’s in England. Nevertheless soon after him King and court were swept away, and only Restored on modern skids. What then does it take to overcome colorless and glamourless modernity? No less than the King of kings, and his Catholic Cross! “O crux ave, spes unica” – “Hail to thee, Cross, our only hope.”

Kyrie eleison.

Juvenal Again

Juvenal Again posted in Eleison Comments on November 29, 2008

Last week “Eleison Comments” drew attention to the remarkable (in a pagan) natural wisdom in matters spiritual of the Roman satirist Juvenal, who was in his prime about 100 years after Our Lord was born, but who is not known (as far as I can discover) for any contact with the Catholic religion then rising in Rome.

A first lesson drawn from the passage concluding the Tenth Satire was that grace is in line with that God-given nature of ours from which Juvenal was working. Grace is only out of line with our fallen nature, which fell with Adam and has ever since been flawed with original sin in all of us, making all too easy the succession of our personal sins. On this sinful nature, as sinful, grace does make war, but only to heal and elevate that God-given nature which necessarily underlies the sinful nature, as some apple necessarily underlies the rot of any rotten apple. That Juvenal with no apparent help from grace could write so well not only of human rot but also of the underlying nature refutes the dreadful heresy that there is nothing in human nature which is not rotten.

A second lesson for our own times was that the ancient pagan satirist who promoted natural sanity even without any notion of supernatural grace, was a better man than the mass of apostate post-Christian pagans who are today rotting and rooting out both nature and grace. Similarly, to one who visited a week ago the Washington DC Museum of Modern Art, the current exhibition of ancient artistic pieces from pagan Pompeii offered much more for the human heart and mind than did all the modern exhibits put together.

A third lesson, accentuated by modern times, might be the value of reading the classical Latin authors, such as Juvenal. When it comes to the learning of Latin, some pious souls argue that Catholic youth should be immersed rather in the abundant Latin texts of the grace-filled Church Fathers than in pagans like Juvenal. True, the Church Fathers are stainless where pagan authors are always more or less stained, but precisely because the Fathers are filled with grace, surely they cannot in the same way testify to that God-given nature in us which is prior in being, not in value, to God-given grace. Does not this nature need today all the help it can get?

Kyrie eleison.

Carrot Again

Carrot Again posted in Eleison Comments on July 5, 2008

So it looks as though I guessed right last week. On the one hand the Society of St. Pius X did not comply with the June 5 “ultimatum” of Cardinal Castrillón as the Cardinal might have wished. It replied instead with a letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to Pope Paul VI in which in 1975 the Archbishop explained why he was defending Tradition, yet with no disrespect intended towards the Church authorities in Rome. Once again, the Society may have raised a few anxieties, but it has not “given away the store”

On the other hand, the Cardinal did not proceed to any further official exorcism of the Society, but – reportedly – declared that he had never intended his text of June 5 to be an “ultimatum.” And so the situation returns to where it was before. I think we may expect the past pattern to go on repeating itself. The loving son will continue to try to get close to his leprous mother, the leprous mother will continue to try to hug him, the loving son will continue to jump back, then try to get close again, and so on.

What confusion! A distinguished Italian journalist cannot understand the Society’s rejecting Rome’s “generous advances.” Reportedly Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Castrillón have both been sincerely hurt by recent statements coming from the Society about Rome or about Romans suffering from leprosy. “What? Lepers? Us???” “Ay, there’s the rub,” as Hamlet said. Leprosy is an Old Testament figure of heresy, and Vatican II is not only heresy, it is a total new religion.

A Catholic is a Catholic primarily by his faith. He chooses with his mind to adhere to a series of true propositions which are supernatural, i.e. beyond the reach of his merely natural mind. His will is therefore needed to push his mind to submit to these truths above it. But these truths are not merely wishful thinking. They are revealed by God, transmitted by the Church, and may not be tampered with. Did or did not Vatican II tamper with them? Hamlet again: “That is the question.”

The leader of the Traditional Redemptorists based in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland, who has just led as many of them as will follow him back into the embrace of Conciliar Rome, writes ecstatically of how “sweet” it “tastes” to be once more in “peaceful and undisputed communion” with the Vicar of Christ. Good luck, dear Father, with avoiding the leprosy! But at least you must be giving some consolation to Cardinal Castrillón! What confusion!

Kyrie eleison.