Tag: culture

“Post-Modernity” – II

“Post-Modernity” – II posted in Eleison Comments on August 31, 2019

At the risk of wearying readers with variations on the theme of Truth, these “Comments” will make further comment on the summary of Wojcieck Niemczewski’s Culture as religion; the post-modern interpretation of the relationship between culture and religion, quoted here last week. For indeed we must save our souls, and one deep danger in the way of saving our souls is the blinding of our highest faculty, which is our minds, upon which follows immediately the corruption of our hearts. And the deepest danger for our minds today is the universal assumption that ideas do not matter, that truth is not important. See how Vatican II preferred modernity to faithful Catholicism, notably in the Conciliar document of Gaudium et Spes, and then how the Society of St Pius X preferred the Conciliar Romans to their faithful Founder, and in each case, how the large majority of priests and lay-folk followed along.

Let us begin by laying out Niemczewski’s thoughts in order, so as to see where he is coming from and where he is going to: 1 There is no objective God because “God” is the subjective fabrication inside each one of us. 2 Therefore the old “truths” of yesterday’s religion and philosophy no longer have any foundation. 3 Moreover they no longer fit today’s real world, which is changing in all domains and faster than ever. 4 Worse, they are actually blocking modern progress, or the “culture of choice” which enables us to adapt to change, and which guarantees the freedom of each of us to put together his own way of life. 5 So to remain adaptable to modernity, post-modern man must accept this non-universal and non-obligatory “culture of choice” which imposes on man neither norms nor any being superior to him. 6 In conclusion, truth must give way to liberty, religion to culture, and direction to drift. 7 Therefore down with Truth, up with the “culture of choice”!

Alas for post-modern man, there is a reality outside his mind, as close to him as his own arms and legs, and this extra-mental reality has laws of its own, in no way dependent on his mind. For instance if he has tooth-ache, he will have to go to the dentist and not to the fishmonger. And these laws are not only physical but also moral. For instance if a poor girl has an abortion, she is not going to be able to wish away her pangs of conscience, however much she would like to. The free-will of each of us human beings is unquestionably free – hence the possibility of Niemczewski’s “culture of choice” – but that culture of choice can only function inside and not outside of the structured framework of the laws of extra-mental reality, physical and moral. Thus for my eternity I am free to choose Heaven or Hell, but I am not free to choose to break seriously the moral law and still go to Heaven.

The ancient Greeks in their prime pre-dated Our Lord’s Incarnation by hundreds of years, so that they had no benefit of supernatural grace or illumination. But just naturally they observed – they did not invent – the grave and unavoidable consequences of human beings rearing up against the moral structure of human life, and they gave that rearing up a name – “hubris,” today we would call it “pride.” Thus Niemczewski’s presentation of the “culture of choice” begins by denying God and ends by defying Him, but while he may bend men’s minds in favour of his “culture,” he is powerless to bend the eternal and ineffable Existence of God, or the eternal and absolute necessity of Truth. For instance, if there is no such thing as truth, then that at least is a truth. Hence in denying all or any dogma, nobody is so dogmatic as the Freemasons, and in their subjective undermining of all doctrine, nobody is so doctrinal as the Modernists and Neo-modernists.

In brief, a man like Niemczewski is refusing to recognise that around mankind’s arena of choice is a ring of reality which is not of man’s choice. The churchmen of Vatican II are refusing to recognise that the Deposit of Faith cannot be modernised. And the leaders of the Newsociety of St Pius X are refusing to recognise that the Conciliar Romans are fantasy merchants. The “culture of choice” will finish by costing all of them dearly. It may cost them their eternity if they cannot come to their Catholic senses.

Kyrie eleison.

Culture’s Importance – II

Culture’s Importance – II posted in Eleison Comments on December 30, 2017

Let us resort again to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, for some politically incorrect common sense on the notion of “culture,” which he is taking in its broadest but real sense as the values, standards and way of life of different peoples at the national and international level. The enemies of man and God wish to homogenise all nations in a global mush which it will be that much easier for their Antichrist to dominate in the worldwide tyranny of which they dream. Almighty God, on the contrary, establishes an astonishing variety throughout His Creation, because the ordered variety of creatures best reflects His own fullness of being. But any ordered variety means a higher and a lower, in other words inequality. That is why His enemies wish to level everything down in the name of equality – “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” for example. Catholics on the contrary must wish for all creatures to be as varied and as unequal as their Creator meant them to be. Putin is in this respect on the side of Almighty God.

He was here talking to an international group of youngsters attending the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students held in Sochi, Russia, last October. See http://​en.​kremlin.​ru/​events/​president/​news/​55842.

India, our neighbour to the left, has a population of 1.2 billion, and China has a population of 1.5 billion. As for the United States, it continues to receive more and more immigrants; and, as far as I understand, its White Christian population has recently become a minority, less than 50 percent of the total US population. What I mean to say is that the world is going through dramatic, global change. I am not saying this is good or bad, just that global changes are taking place.

You have said Russia is a vast territory – indeed. But from its western to its eastern borders, it is a Eurasian space. As regards culture, even language, language group and history, it is all undoubtedly a European space insofar as it is inhabited by people of European culture. This I say because it is what we have to preserve if we are to remain a significant centre in the world – and I do not mean that in the military sense or any other such sense. We should not divide peoples according to their ethnicity, and we should not look back in history, thinking, say, of the war between France and Russia from 1812 to 1814, rather we should look to the future for ways to build a common future and follow a common path.

This is how we can preserve Russia and its people as a global centre that is significant for relations with Asian countries and the American continent. If we fail to preserve Russia, it will be divided into minor quasi-national associations of States that would eventually lose their significance in the global sense as independent centres. If we do preserve Russia, this will be a great advantage for the development of all mankind as well, because Russia is a major part of the global culture and it certainly has to be preserved.

Indeed. A leading part of men’s culture has always been their literature, visual arts and music, because human beings of all times and in all places stand especially in need of stories, pictures and music to express and share what is going on inside them. That is why theatre and cinema which can combine all three are so influential, especially cinema today. In literature Russia boasts a number of world-famous authors: Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekov, Solzhenitsyn, etc.; in music, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, etc.; in cinema, Eisenstein and Tarkovsky have international reputations. Putin is right – thanks to Russia’s long winters and deep thinkers, his country has much to contribute to world culture that is far superior to the heap of democratic trash presently expressing what is going on inside men.

Pray for Putin not to be assassinated, because God’s enemies hate him, not without reason – he is leading his country towards its Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which will put off, at least for a while, the Antichrist. May She protect him.

Kyrie eleison.

Culture’s Importance – I

Culture’s Importance – I posted in Eleison Comments on December 16, 2017

“When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I reach for my gun,” is a famous quote (often attributed to Reichsmarchall Göring, but coming actually from a Berlin play of 1933), which may be taken to mean that culture is not the ultimate source of the values often attributed to it. Often the word serves as a fig-leaf to cover over the West’s deep-down apostasy by a shameful but long-standing hypocrisy, to which some gun-owners may be instinctively tempted to put a violent end. One American of our own time who realizes that culture depends on religion or its absence is Ron Austin, who has written in December’s issue of the magazine First Things an article on pop culture, arguing that it is neither pop, nor culture.

Austin is a veteran Hollywood writer-producer who spent nearly half a century producing pop culture, mostly for television. He is a member of the American Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, but also a Fellow at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California, which gives him at least a handle on the true dimensions of “culture.” For instance towards the beginning of his article he writes, “The key to understanding modernity and its ultimate failure lies in the many failed efforts to find replacements for religious faith . . . . It was the mass media fostering a “pop culture” that was the most influential and powerful substitute for a meaningful world-view . . . ” Pop culture, says Austin, is an idol . . . as such it is phony . . . it is neither pop nor culture.

Austin defines “pop” as belonging rather to the people than to any elite. He admits that pop culture has considerable popular appeal today, but he says it is synthetic and industrial in nature, deriving as it does from no natural or organic way of life, so it is not truly popular. “Culture” is difficult to define, but he takes it to mean a way of life with shared values and with the means to express it. Culture in this sense can only grow organically like a tree, at nature’s speed which cannot be forced, and it requires a shared memory with a sense of the past, a continuity of meaning, goals and standards. But “pop culture” erases the past. Therefore it is no true culture. Austin recalls the decades of his own life from this point of view.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s he remembers a growing alienation from the past in which the mass media played a crucial part. In the 1970’s a counter-culture of fragmentation and narcissism grew, with more entertainment than ever, and with it an increasing detachment from reality. The medium itself was becoming the message, and morality was based on subjective emotion, which the media packaged as a product for profit. Entertainment replaced thought or analysis. If not fatal, the disease was highly contagious. In the 1980’s the attempt to restore past values failed in the USA, Europe and Russia. In the 1990’s some false hopes came to an end, but the mass of consumers were more fragmented than ever.

However, in the 2010’s the Catholic Faith does give Austin some hope. True culture depends on human beings being human, he says, and humans have for true models Our Lord and Our Lady. True culture will be replanted, and the Light will return.

Austin is on the track of the real problem, even if his treatment of the problem and of its solution is relatively lightweight. It is today’s total environment, or culture, which is so dangerous for souls and their salvation. It has become totally normal either to disbelieve in God, or if one believes in Him, not to take Him seriously. The past has little to tell us (except the Six Million, of course). Immorality is unimportant. There is no such thing as an order of nature to be respected. Technology saves. Freedom is all. And this sickness is highly contagious, because it is so “liberating.” Heaven help us!

Kyrie eleison.

P.S. As a minor resort to the elite culture of yesteryear, in the true sense of the word, a session of Mozart parallel to the “Beethoven Blast” of two years ago will be held here in Broadstairs, from Friday, February 23rd to Sunday, February the 25th, of next year. Details will follow.

Colour, Poetry…

Colour, Poetry... posted in Eleison Comments on January 21, 2017

“One cannot live any longer on politics, on balance-sheets, and crossword puzzles. One cannot live any longer without poetry, colour, love” – words of Antoine de St Exupéry (1900–1944), French aristocrat, aviator and writer, not Catholic, but struggling in his soul with 20th century materialism. He said of himself, “I am a man raking through ashes, a man struggling to find the embers of life in the bottom of a fireplace.” And describing in his philosophic memoir Wind, Sand and Stars (1939) a scene of workers and their families huddled all over a night train from Paris to Warsaw, he wrote that he was tormented not by their desolate condition, but by “seeing, a little bit in all these men, of Mozart murdered.”

These quotes come to mind after a visit last year to the Bertramka, a villa lying close outside the centre of Prague in the Czech Republic, and made known in the late 18th century by visits there of the famous composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. At that time it was reached from the city by a half-hour walk along country roads and a path lined with horse chestnuts to the gate into the front courtyard, opening onto a sloping garden with flower-beds and fruit-trees. Today the shady lane has given way to an enormous shopping and business centre along a city street loaded with heavy traffic, heeding only the traffic-lights. The gate is still there but the sloping garden has run wild, with a lonely statue of the great musician and with the stone table where he is supposed to have finished composing his world-renowned opera Don Giovanni. Soon afterwards he conducted its first performance in the city opera-house, still in use. As for the two rooms occupied in the Bertramka by Mozart, they have been faithfully preserved, but a once handsome collection of Mozartian exhibits was no longer there this October. The Bertramka still has atmosphere, but much there whispers only of “Mozart murdered.”

Yet 18th century Prague had been very kind to him. In 1786, unlike Vienna, it gave a rapturous reception to Mozart’s equally popular and famous opera the Marriage of Figaro, as it gave in the following year to Don Giovanni. And when Mozart died in 1791, his home city,Vienna, gave him merely a poor man’s grave, whereas Prague honoured him with a lavish Requiem Mass attended by thousands, and performed by a hundred musicians refusing any payment. It was Catholic Emperors and nobles who, to restore Catholic Bohemia after the devastating 30 years’ religious war (1618–1648), had established widespread musical education for Bohemian youth to be able to play music in Church services. It was this Catholic education which generated in Prague a public capable immediately of loving Mozart and his music.

Can the same be said for Catholics today, or are we also “murderers of Mozart”? For St Exupéry, Mozart was somehow the very opposite of materialism. But how many Traditionalists today are bored with a sung Mass, and cannot wait to get back to their balance-sheets and crossword-puzzles? Alas, are not many of our boys almost ashamed of knowing how to sing? And as for our girls, Oh my! Would a mass of them not prefer to be astronauts or volleyball stars rather than know how to play a musical instrument which might help them to civilise their husbands, humanise their children and put harmony in their home? A German proverb says that men make the culture but women transmit it. Is it not suicidal for a society not to promote in its girls the true “culture, poetry and love” which will go deep into their future families and through their families into society?

As for Mozart, he is certainly not the height of spirituality in Western music, and later in life he did join Freemasonry, then fashionable in Vienna. But he is far more spiritual than the world of shopping centres and traffic lights, as St Exupéry well saw, and it was certainly not Masons but deeply Catholic parents who formed in the child and youth the Catholic heart from which sprang all the spirituality of the music of the adult. Surely the most often performed piece of all Mozart’s music, composed shortly before he died, is his Ave Verum Corpus, because it is so frequently performed at Mass. And his deeply Catholic Requiem he was still composing on his deathbed. May his soul rest in peace.

Kyrie eleison.

Culture Matters!

Culture Matters! posted in Eleison Comments on April 25, 2015

From Friday evening, May 1st, to Sunday mid-day, May 3rd, there will be held here in Queen of Martyrs House, Broadstairs, another seminar by Dr. David White, as last year on Charles Dickens, so this year on T.S. Eliot (1888–1965), another giant of English literature with a direct connection to this corner of England. It was in an open-air pavilion overlooking Margate beach about five miles north of Broadstairs that between October and November of 1921 the world famous Anglo-American poet broke a writing-block and composed some 50 lines of the third of five parts of the most influential poem of the 20th century, at any rate in the English language, The Wasteland (1922).

The poem is a brilliant portrait of the nothingness in men’s hearts and minds in the wake of World War I (1914–1918). In The Wasteland Eliot forged a new fragmentary way of writing poetry that captured the broken spiritual condition of modern man. By his broad and deep grasp of the artistic masterpieces from the past, notably Dante and Shakespeare, Eliot was able to give shape to the spiritual poverty of today. For instance in the six lines of the peom which are clearly connected to Margate, one of three working-class girls tells how she gave away her honour, for nothing, and to highlight the emptiness of the lives of all three maidens, their words are framed within fragments from the song of the three Rhine maidens who open and close the cosmic vision of Wagner’s epic Ring of the Nibelungs.

Emptiness and nothingness. Why on earth should Catholics bother with such depressing authors? Salvation is by Our Lord Jesus Christ, not by culture, especially not by nihilistic culture. A particular answer concerns T S Eliot. A general answer concerns all “culture,” defined as those stories, pictures and music with which all men of all ages cannot help furnishing and forming their hearts and minds.

As for T S Eliot, he himself soon dismissed The Wasteland as “rhythmic grumbling,” and a few years later he became a member of the Church of England. He had given brilliant expression to modern nothingness, but he did not wallow in it. He went on to write a number of plays and especially the long poem of the Four Quartets, which are by no means nihilistic, and about which Dr White, who loves Eliot, will also be talking in Broadstairs in a few days’ time. Having grappled honestly with the problem, Eliot came up with no ostrich solution, like countless Catholics that have fallen for Vatican II.

For indeed culture in general is to religion (or irreligion) like the suburbs of a city are to the city centre. And just as a military general with the task of defending a city would be most foolish to leave the suburbs to be occupied by the enemy, so any Catholic concerned for his religion cannot be indifferent to the stories, pictures and music which are moulding the souls all around him. Of course religion (or irreligion) is central to a man’s life, compared with which “culture” is peripheral, because men’s culture is, deep down, a spin-off from their relation with their God. Nevertheless culture and religion interact. For instance, were so many Catholics not under the spell of “The Sound of Music,” would they so easily have fallen for Vatican II? Or had the present leaders of the Society of St Pius X, by contrasting Catholic culture and modern anti-culture, grasped the depth of the modern problem, would they be now so intent on getting back under the perpetrators of Vatican II? Culture can matter like Heaven and Hell!

Kyrie eleison.

Culture Alert

Culture Alert posted in Eleison Comments on December 29, 2012

As the leadership of the Society of St Pius X seems to be faltering, so Catholics who love the Society because they have received so much from it in years gone by might be tempted to think that there is nothing much that they as simple faithful can do about it. They would be wrong. Let them read these reflections from a friend of mine, and they should be able to read between the lines that if God does not rescue the Society for them, as of course he could do, then it has at least in part depended on them. My friend’s letter is adapted here below:—

“A practical agreement would be ruinous to the cause of Catholic Tradition. One need only look at what has happened to the Traditional Redemptorists in Scotland . . . The two Masses cannot co-exist. One will always drive the other out . . . At a Novus Ordo Mass I attended recently, the whole church was pervaded by chatter and continual clapping . . . The two sides are simply too far apart for an agreement to work. No meeting of the minds is possible between modernity and Tradition.

“Then there is the profound revolution which has overwhelmed modern civilization, including the Traditional movement, and which has for the most part been missed by the leadership of Tradition . . . Electronic technology has wrought a cultural revolution in our lives, especially of the younger generation. If it is not managed properly, it certainly weakens the faith because it can take over people’s whole lives. Youngsters are liable to be captured by it. They hang on it all day long. People too engulfed in it become dysfunctional, unable to get up in the morning, or to maintain a live conversation, or to hold down a job.

“Now if a sports team is not admonished by its coach, its playing standards begin to fall. If Catholics are not admonished on cultural issues like music, women’s dress, or watching television, their cultural standards begin to fall, which has profound implications for their faith. Traditional parents are being left to struggle alone with their families to keep the worldliness of modern society out of their homes, because the leadership of the SSPX has either missed this cultural revolution, or it is not giving it the attention that it deserves. I have had many long discussions with Traditional families who are concerned about the way that the Traditional movement is going. Religious movements must take a stand on cultural issues if they are to flourish. Tradition was strengthened when it used to take a stand on television. But if a stand is not taken on cultural issues, the stand on doctrinal issues soon begins to weaken.

“The latest Chapter of the SSPX may have pulled the organization back from the brink, but I cannot take much comfort from it. It spent much attention on defining the parameters of any future discussions with Rome in making an agreement. Yet, Rome is basically unchanged from 1988. In my opinion, the SSPX needs to recover the prophetic role that it performed when Archbishop Lefebvre was still alive. The Traditional movement needs to strongly denounce the modernism and liberalism that is leading the Catholic Church to its destruction. These denunciations lately have been muted. Perhaps many Traditional priests are distracted by the comforts that they think an agreement with Rome would bring them.”

Over to you, dear readers. Away with trashy and valueless music in the home. Get rid of the television set. Reduce electronics to a minimum. Mothers, wear skirts whenever possible, which is most of the time. Otherwise do not complain if God does not rescue the Society. He forces his gifts upon nobody. Blessed be his name for ever.

Kyrie eleison.