Tag: THM

a warrant and a warning

Wendell Berry:

I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.

Sirach 3:21:

Seek not out things that are too hard for thee, neither search the things that are above thy strength. But what is commanded thee, think thereupon with reverence, for it is not needful for thee to see with thine eyes the things that are in secret. Be not curious in unnecessary matters: for more things are shewed unto thee than men understand.



The importance of Chesterton was for me long ago secured, but seems to regularly grow again.

Just want to note the common-cause here between Taylor’s thesis on secularity—a (unholy.. holy?) bastard of isolated Christian impulses, reconfigurations, and elite-led reforms attempting to set incompatible great goods on new footings—and Chesterton’s.

But you can add Illich (the search for agapé-analogues once it has been unredeemably institutionalised) and DBH (the necessary purgatory of a world that created, and so in fullness of time was forced to kill, a purely voluntaristic god with his accompanying mechanistic universe) to the list.

Does such a post-Christian diagnosis require a post-modern-inflected pluralistic mindset?

Something (something deeply Chestertonian) seems lost if we lose a reading of secular history with declamations of spiritual infamy and whoredom, of national-betrayal and enemies-under-the-feet, the kind which animated Christendom and Israel for all those millennia prior to our—disconcertingly recent—moral enlightenment.

to quest, or not to quest

I want to connect an older post from Jung with some Wendell Berry.


Dear Frau V.. 15 December 1933

Your questions are unanswerable because you want to know how one ought to live.
One lives as one can.
There is no single, definite way for the individual which is prescribed for him or would be the proper one.
If that’s what you want you had best join the Catholic Church, where they tell yo what’s what.
Moreover this way fits in with the average way of mankind in general.
But if you want to go your individual way, it is the way you make for yourself, which s never prescribed, which you do not know in advance, and which simply comes into being of itself when you put one foot in front of the other.
If you always do the next thing that needs to be done, you will go most safely and sure-footedly along the path prescribed by your unconscious.
Then it is naturally no help at all to speculate about how you ought to live.
And then you know, too that you cannot know it, but quietly do the next and most necessary thing.
Sc as you think you don’t yet know what this is, you still have too much money long to spend in useless speculation.
But if you do with conviction the next and most necessary thing, you are always doing something meaningful and intended by fate.

With kind regards and wishes,
Yours sincerely,
C.G. Jung

Kingsnorth on Berry:

Wendell Berry’s formula for a good life and a good community is simple and pleasingly unoriginal:
Slow down. Pay attention. Do good work. Love your neighbours.
Love your place. Stay in your place. Settle for less, enjoy it more.

Charles Taylor:

The modern ‘Maximal Demand’: “how to define our highest spiritual or moral aspirations for human beings, while showing a path to the transformation involved which doesn’t crush, mutilate or deny what is essential to our humanity”

In the nature of things, Christianity offers no global solution, no general organization of things here and now which will fully resolve the dilemma, and meet the maximal demand [in disagreement with Jung here]. It can only show ways in which we can, as individuals, and as churches, hold open the path to the fullness of the kingdom… we can’t exhibit fully what it means, lay it out in a code or a fully-specified life form, but only point to the exemplary lives of certain trail-blazing people and communities [this then is what is going on with Berry-peddlers].

There is a hard distinction running through spiritual thought (and hence, the church—or should that be the other way around?), a division of “spiritual attitude”, of “religious sensibility” as Taylor demarcates it—and Taylor is the only one I have seen name it and talk about it at any length. I returned to him in the course of writing this most, and gosh it’s all in there, or most of it anyway. I’ll have to return to him and follow up.

But I have only made the connection with both Jungian thought and Berry’s thought. It is a tension between ‘dwelling’ and ‘seeking’, and while Taylor (rightly) argues that those who flatten the reality of the two (something he accuses the doctrines of the western church of directly doing)—and hence drive self-understanding to the extremes—do a disservice to everyone involved, the distinction is remains stark in concrete lives and leaves uncomfortable (unanswerable?) questions for the individual.

I—like many—fall back on Rilke (although that is perhaps to already have foreclosed as a seeker!), “Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer”.
Our lives, the families, churches and communities we create will be our answers.

“There is no single, definite way for the individual which is prescribed for him or would be the proper one. If that’s what you want you had best join the Catholic Church”. Well one must ask, is that what we want? Is it up for debate? And if it is—in any given life—then the ‘questers’ seem to win by default.

Berry’s distinction between ‘Boomers’ (“those who rush through and past”)and ‘Stickers’ (“those who find a place and make it home”) runs uncomfortably close to this same duality—for ‘Questers’ inherently have a disconcerting affinity with the pathologies of modernity; limitless exploration, colonialism, individualism etc. But are Questers fundamentally a modern aberration? Or are they possessed of spiritual aspirations with their roots much deeper in both human history and the human psyche? Completely legitimate—and completely Christian—aspirations?

Eternal aspirations, the kind that the contingent revelations of scripture and church simply frame and reframe but neither create or direct? Taylor dates the division above to the start of modernity, around the time of the Reformation, but it surely goes further, much further?


Perhaps [Gregory of Nyssa’s] most important contribution to Christian thought was (and is) his sophisticated development of Origen’s view of Christian life as unceasing advance, ‘straining forward to what lies ahead’.. because of its limitless nature, this journey is always marked by Desire, by Hope and longing, never coming to possess or control its object… human Nature is seen as essentially restless, precarious, mobile and variegated, because of its orientation towards a reality outside itself.

To shift from a theological-metaphysical key to a (more) physical-historical one. Might they be aspirations which pre-date the agricultural revolution and hence skirt—or have an authority which in some sense supersedes (by what mechanism you may rightly ask), like Melchizedek’s priestly order—the settled compromises and virtues of that cultural architecture?

“All the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts” declaims Ishmael.

As another frontier seems imminent—after the local woods, the remote mountain, the arthurian forests, the eastern steeps of the continent or the southern deserts, then the great ocean, the new world, and the oceans and heart’s of darkness even beyond that—men will, it seems, not be denied the white goddess who were not denied the white whale.

The Jungian connection brings into stark relief how the hero-myth, the grail quest, archtypes and narratives of being which form the substructure of the western soul—perhaps the human soul—partake shamelessly and often extravagantly in questing modes; questing is often the essentially human activity. Christ partakes in it, the patriarchs, our patron saints, and our deepest selves. How fundamental, it must be asked, is questing to being human? How much of ourselves is mutilated by agrarian sedentariness? Can a whole-questing (one which involves whole communities and families like in the paleolithic) ever be recovered once the machine of human techno-‘progress’ levels its way through all frontiers, leaving only the heavens?

What is the true relation between (supposedly) interior and exterior human questing? What of said technological grounds which have enabled the present post-agrarian ‘external’ forms: oceanworthy ships, the automobile, Raptor spaceship engines, gender-reassignment surgery, jungian psychotherapy etc.

One wants to say this is all just extension of aspirations that were and always will be present, aspirations that must be funnelled and directed into traditional (!) forms of spiritual practice; whether that be contemplative prayer, Ignatian excercises, active imagination, or the local charismatic church. But what of the physical necessity, the need for embodied questing (which Taylor doesn’t touch on at all)—the old hunter-gatherer itch for things remote—an itch which is culturally divorced from family and community and therefore must deeply impoverish one in order to be accomplished.

Robert Johnson:

I suppose that the historian Toynbee would say that here the two great archetypes of Western Europe were, once again, fighting it out on a primitive level within my individual soul: on the one hand, the settled landowner and townsman, putting down roots, seeking security, making a life in a stable community; on the other hand, the nomad [this Dionysian, sensual, nomadic quality] roaming the beaches of Solana Beach, California, instead of the steppes of Mongolia, but nevertheless roving, living by his campfire, refusing to be pinned down to a place, a job, or responsibility… If you go to your inner [nomad] and give him or her a chance to live, you find eventually that this bum is really a sunyasin, a wandering mendicant holy man, in disguise. And the nomadic wanderings turn out to be pilgrimages.

Pilgrimages with no family in tow, pilgrimages which further endanger the planet, pilgrimages which (of necessity) uproot and alienate the mendicant (and oh if only we were mendicant!) from any local spiritual dependence or authority. And yet, Berry and those like him, where is their spot on the map for pilgrimage, for its un-accomodated form threatens to suffocate the whole, and explode the world in its striving.

the black death

Everyone, it seems, has their own story of modernity. And there is no better way to rile an academic, it seems, that to tell one.

Nominalism, Disenchantment, Emancipation, the Institutionalisation of Agapé, Silent Reading, Elite-driven Reform, Capitalism, Protestantism, the Printing Press, Fossil Fuels, Democracy, Liberalism. Choose your cause, choose your effect.

Jacob’s claim is a cornerstone of this blog:

“I think all of these narratives are wrong. They are wrong because they are the product of scholars in universities who overrate the historical importance and influence of other scholars in universities, and because they neglect ideas that connect more directly with the material world.

Well it is plague season, and a factor I haven’t heard spoken of (at all, its not in Taylor so far as I remember) is the Black Death.

How’s a cataclysmic plague for something with historical importance and influence; a cause that connected directly to the material world (the most intimate material world of all: our bodies)? huh?

It doesn’t seem connected with other society wide influencers. I guess other than—just like in our days—accelerating processes already in motion?

But I suspect this also connects deeply with my bigger question of the relation between Incarnation/Bodily Immanence and the need for ‘Technological Histories of Modernity’—histories which “connect more directly with the material world” which account for the way atom-events (as opposed to bit-events, or Geist-events) “press in upon” human life and steer human history.

But why the lack of Black Death coverage in the grand recits?1


[dispatch] fossil fuels and thought

Out of Your Car, Off Your Horse – The Atlantic – Wendell Berry

I. Properly speaking, global thinking is not possible.

Unless one is willing to be destructive on a very large scale, one cannot do something except locally, in a small place.

Consequences for the internet and blockchain technology?

III. …The right local questions and answers will be the right global ones.

The Amish question “What will this do to our community?” tends toward the right answer for the world.

XXI. [The question then becomes]…how do we begin to remake, or to make, local culture that will preserve our part of the world while we use it?

…The locality, by becoming partly sustainable, would produce the thought it would need to become more sustainable.

This last thought (the last line of the essay actually) interests me. The claim that place—the milieu of material things one lives among—can produce certain thoughts, and subsequently cultivating material environment may be the first step to having certain thoughts. I think Berry would also make the stronger claim that there are parts of a person’s non-material aspect which are *only* available after living in certain external(!) material situatedness. It’s a claim about Incarnation.

“If we wish to understand.. it must not be as tourists or inquirers, it must be with the loyalty of children and the great patience of poets” Chesterton1

VIII. …Rome destroyed the balance with slave labor; we have destroyed it with “cheap” fossil fuel

Fossil Fuels have always been produced at the expense of local ecosystems and of local human communities.

Both this and the previous point (about the developmental necessity of parochialism for the human spirit) are connected to “the power of science and technology to provide.. the myths we live by”. The material things we live among “press with great force upon our ideas”; incarnation works both ways.

Being embodied means physical things can (and do) work back up the chain in ways our executive functioning often seems disconcertingly blind to.2.That all applies specifically here as thinking about A Grand Unified Theory of Modernity™ Berry seems to be giving (for me) unexpected weight to the pure physical artefacts that are coal, oil and gas themselves. How much is the simple existence of fossil fuels responsible for?

The existence of (seemingly) unlimited material energy mainlined into a society for several centuries; bathing its streets, heating its homes, fuelling its war machines, touching the pages of every book, firing the horizon of every artist, stoking the dreams of every child.

striking out and running

reality bats last
nature bats last
God bats last

these are always wise responses, they are bedrock true.
do they undermine Apocalyptic thinking, by undermining the power we give to our own endeavours, our own ability to destroy the world as much as to save it.
what is the state those three forces bring man back to exactly, or are they merely negative, curbs on hubris. reality will spring back in your face, but will it take you by the hand and lead you home?

connected to the history of ideas, or ‘the diachronic question’, what is causing what in history. is technology primary? ideas and dialectic now seem naive drivers. Alan Jacobs pronouncement, as I’ve linked to before, is a bit of a credo:

All of these grands recits should be set aside, and they should not immediately be replaced with others, but with more particular, less sweeping, and more technologically-oriented stories. The technologies that Marshall McLuhan called “the extensions of Man” are infinitely more important for Man’s story, for good and for ill, than the debates of the schoolmen and interpreters of the Bible. Instead of grand narratives of the emergence of The Modern we need something far more plural: technological histories of modernity

We need a complex, multifaceted, materially-oriented account of how modernity arose and developed, starting with the later Middle Ages. The three big stories, with their overemphasis on theological and philosophical ideas and inattentiveness to economics and technology, have reigned long enough — more than long enough

The principalities and powers then, the back and forward of “spiritual powers in the heavenly realms”. That view is profoundly inspired from Leszek Kolakowski’s ‘Politics and the Devil’, and forced the open question of the link between the devil and technologies—the ontology of the Machine.

But man is also never struck out. I take that to be the thing deBoer keeps driving at, and Kolakowski too:

The only comfort we have comes from the simple fact that we are not passive observers or victims of this contest but participants as well..and therefore our destiny is decided on the field on which we run.[something which probably ends up being a matter of faith?] To say this is trivial, and, as many trivial truths, worth repeating.

That disposition, that history is a live entity, seems to be shared by this book, I’m excited to see if it sheds any new light.

chalking it up to the slogans

Freddie deBoer:

The best book ever written about totalitarianism isn’t actually 1984. It’s A Tale of Two Cities. And in that book, the most commonly repeated image, the central symbol, is of a giant eye. What Charles Dickens understood, and what the book argues, is that there is no such thing as freedom without privacy, that being truly free means being free to do things that you don’t want other people to know about. And what I insist is that all the people who are busily denying that these revelations really mean anything recognize: if we give up these rights, we are choosing to do it. Every aspect of this is a product of human choice. We might be trapped in systems. But those systems are made up of human beings, and they are choosing to erode our basic freedom. Nothing can be chalked up to slogans or “the arc of history” or technology or Just the Way Things Are Going to Be. If our rights are getting eroded, it’s because we’re choosing to let them. Tell that to the defeatists and the apathetic alike.

sotu fall 2021

Eschatological Media Ecology

I’ve been thinking lately that if I had to summarise the themes someone would find here, “Eschatological Media Ecology” wouldn’t be a bad start. Some nexus of the History of Ideas, an absolutely serious engagement with special revelation’s dictate for history and the eschaton (with special reference to John’s Apocalypse), mixed with an uncertain but ever-growing conviction in the centrality of the Machine and the Antichrist (the metaphysical status of technocracy and institutionalised agape respectively).

The End at the Start of the 21st Century: Status Reports

Mostly how those themes cash out in the early 21st century is surveillance capitalism, system’s thinking, the status of the supposed ‘End of the West’, the Great Upheaval, the ever approaching cultural capitulation—the big something that’s supposedly just around corner and relates to all of the above—a serious questioning of the status of church critique (valid? if so how much, how far, and on what specifically?), bleeding into the felt need pervading Christendom to rehabilitate the body, just as much as our communities, the need for roots, to be sacramentally ‘plugged into’ this earth as it dies.

The current limitless insanity of economy, consumption, pollution, mobility and personhood ties the need for a New Erotics to the unfolding identity insanity (cf. Successor Ideology), mostly of the sexual kind. And is being a Christ-facist an insult or a high compliment, is being a Humanist heretical or the only defence against inhumanity? I still don’t know.

The Technological History of Modernity

A key fingerpost for all this is the technological history of modernity as articulated by Alan Jacobs, and it’s consequences for the history of ideas (or to put it in Taylorian terms: The Diachronic Question) and the stories smart Christians tell themselves about how we got here: buffered rootless gnostic techno-Mammon worshippers—you know the spiel.

The Ontological Status of the Machine

Principalities and Powers play a key role in whatever this story is, and they’re the link between a New Theology of the Antichrist (spawning from the extent to which the institutionalisation of the gospel has itself spawned modernities various idolatries/gods, Illich’s unnerving gift to the world) and the Machine, the reifying mythic name given to technology-as-god by R.S. Thomas.

How far back do the origins of the Machine reach, how implicated is language-as-technology, what does that mean for a linguistic special revelation, and chronologically for human flourishing, redemption, and Darwinian theory? ie. Is special revelation a response to the advent of the Machine? Did humans flourish best in the Upper Paleolithic1?

What is the ontological status of the Machine and how does it relate to the Principalities and Powers? Is it one? How central is it in the history of human corruption? Has something new, unique, manifest in our centuries? And what do all these themes mean for space exploration, digital humanism, the potential for transhumanism, the future of the internet, the church, the body, the Apocalypse?

And that leaves out dreams, altered states of consciousness, the status of psychedelics, the unreality of time, and ego death. Perhaps in a different post.

your brain is not a computer

Your brain is not a computer.

If people would take this seriously it is just absolutely devastating.

Like finding out God’s not real. Where is Zarathustra’s madman? Here’s a reigning paradigm that needs akilling.

Granted it’s a metaphor-myth that has reigned for decades not millennia.. but it may be no less potent for all that, being symbiotic as it is with all the unprecedented and unwelcome aspects of the information age.


  • Someone needs to make a start documenting all the IP-metaphor propaganda in pop-culture, I might try and do some of that here.
  • The kenotic aspects of the epistemic black hole that lies back off the metaphors truth claims I find appealing and well.. consistent with the deepest realities.
  • The status of the body/spirit metaphor that pervades special revelation is of interest. Are all cutting-edge-technology metaphors for human mind/consciousness created equal? Or is there—as I’d instinctively suspect—a validity to that one that predates and undermines the others?