Archive for September, 2009

Russia and Belarus’s War Games

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 30, 2009 by The Cult of King Alfred
Russia Today reports that these games are making the West nervous.  Again, it is really hypocritical for NATO and the EU to complain of Russia’s war games when 1) NATO does the same thing with its satellites and 2) it has expanded all the way to Moscow’s border.  The recently-abandoned missile defense shield was simply a front for NATO’s armies to reach the Kremlin in less than an hour.
America is grudgingly beginning to realize that it is cashing checks it doesn’t have the money for. Russia is not the same as it was in 1999.  Belarus informed the West that it will not allow a Soros-oriented takeover like Soros did in the Ukraine, Georgia, and Serbia.
That’s not to say that all is well in Russia and Belarus.  These two countries have had minor squabbles this year.  And I think this is Belarus’s way of telling Russia, “While we honor you as the de facto leader of the Slavic world, you are not the ruler of the Belarussians.”  And I think that’s fair.  In any case, however, both countries know that a united Slavic Orthodox world is the only way to resist the New World Order.
For a better analysis than mine, see Fr Raphael’s talk on The Defense Ministries of Russia and Belarus.

Caesaropapism–really?

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29, 2009 by The Cult of King Alfred
A common charge against Eastern political theory is that it turned the Emperor into a Pope and he ruled the church with an iron hand.  In other words, it was Erastianism on steroids.  John Meyendorff, however, has challenged this line of thought in Byzantium and the Rise of Russia.
Meyendorff writes,
“Abundant evidence, is indeed, available, and was quoted in the preceeding chapters, to show that the monks, while remaining faithful to imperial ideology, were also, in practice and in theory, opposed to caesaropapism.  They contributed to the formulation of the Byzantine Imperial idea along wthe more practical lines of a Commonwealth of Orthodox nations, acknowledging the idea supremacy of the Emperor. Furthermore, the Turkish threat seems to have led at least some of them to believe that the Slavic nations, and particularly Muscovite Russia, would be able to act as bulwarks of Orthodox Christianity, as Byzantium had done for centuries” (263).
“All this suggests that Byzantium’s covenant with Russian in the fourteenth century, as expressed by the hesychast monks controlling the patriarchate, was not caesaropapism, but rather the idea of a strong, unified Church, transcending national allegiances and political boundaries.  To the Russians, the Byzantine Emperor [and later the Tsar–JBA] was presented a supporter, not a master, of this Church” (264-265).

Library of Russian Philosophy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 29, 2009 by The Cult of King Alfred

This is from the editorial blurb in Sergei Bulgakov’s Divine Sophia: An Outline of Sophiology.  I don’t endorse everything Lindisfarne publishes, since some of their work seems to be borderline pagan, but this stuff is good.

Characteristic features of this tradition are: epistemological realism; integral knowledge (knowledge as an organic, all-embracing unity that includes sensuous, intellectual, and mystical intuition); the celebration of integral personality, which is at once mystical, rational, and sensous; and an emphasis on the transformability of the flesh.  In a word, Russian philosophers sought a theory of the world as a whole, including its transformation.
Russian philosophy is simultaneously religious and psychological, ontological, and cosmological.  Filled with remarkably imaginative thinking about our global future, it joins speculative metaphysics, depth psychology, ethics, aesthetics, mysticism, and science…It is bolshaya–big–as philosophy should be…Above all it is universal.  The principle of sobornost or all-togetherness is of paramount importance in it.  And it is future-oriented, expressing a philosophy of history passing into metahistory, the life of the world to come in the kingdom of God.

Tolkien: The Ride of the Rohirrim–they sang as they slew

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 28, 2009 by The Cult of King Alfred

This is easily the greatest moment in all of human literature. Like anything else Tolkien wrote, every word, every syllable is perfect. The Christian symbolism is too rich it is actually painfully beautiful to read. This is the arche of human perfection. People today are blessed to live at this hour so they can read such pure awesomeness.

—————————-

then suddenly merry felt it at last, beyond doubt: a change.  Wind was in his face! Light was glimmering.  Far, far away, in the South the clouds could be dimly seen as remote grey shapes, rolling up, drifting: morning lay beyond them.

But at that same moment there was a flash, as if lightning had sprung from the earth beneath the City.  For a searing second it stood dazzling far off in black and white, its topmost tower like a glittering needle; and then as the darkness closed there came rolling over the fields a great boom.

At that sound the bent shape of the king sprang suddenly erect.  Tall and proud he seemed again; and rising in his stirrups he cried in a loud foice, more clear than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve before,

Arise,arise, Riders of Theoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

With that he seized a great horn from Guthlaf his banner-bearer and he blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder.  And straightway all horns in the host were lifted up in music, and th blowing of the horns of Rohan in that hour was like a storm upon the plain and a thunder in the mountains.

Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane and the horse sprang away.  Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it.  After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them.  Eomer roder there, the white horsetail on his helm floating in his speed, and the front of the first eored roared like a breaker foaming to the shore, but Theoden could not be outpaced.  Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Orome the Great in the bttle of the Valar when the world was young.  HIs golden shield was uncovered, and lo! it shone like an image of the Sun, and the grass flamed into green abou the white feet of his steed.  For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of NATO wailed, and terror took them, and they fled, and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them.  And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and the sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City.

theoden-1

Materiality in Worship: Redemption of Vision

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 26, 2009 by The Cult of King Alfred

John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock make a crucial, almost parenthetical point, about materiality and sense in worship

“Aquinas is quite explicit: names stand for ideas in the mind which refers to things, and our minds can only grasp finite things by the mediation of the senses…In other words, the metaphysics of participation in Aquinas is immediately and implicitly a phenomenology of seeing more than one sees, or recognizing the invisible in the visible” (Truth in Aquinas, p. 47)

Milbank later writes,

Or, alternatively, does not the lack of mediation of the divine word by sacred grove, spring, image, altar, and icon lead inevitably to manic claims of direct access to an arbitrary divine voice and so to religious terrorism?

“Alternative Protestantism,” 40

In other words, an iconoclastic worldview flattens ontology, failing to see depth within reality.

David Bentley Hart notes,

“Such thinking confines God and world to a relationship of totality, an oscillation between wealth and impoverishment, ideal and shadow, truth and falsehood, rather than recognizing the world as the free expression of the infinite’s all-embracing abundance of light” (Beauty of the Infinite, p.255).

Musings on St Methodius

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 25, 2009 by The Cult of King Alfred

I’ve been trying to learn Russian for quite a while now.  It is a harder language than some of the others I have studied (Greek, Latin, German, Spanish), but it’s not impossible.  It’s definitely easier than Hebrew.  And with the resources at LiveMocha, it is very easy to learn the most basic, conversational Russian.  I can recognize Russian words (and theoretically, I can recognize some Serbo-Croatian words).

I got a lot of people either angry or annoyed with me this week, which is understandable.  Sometimes debate is good.  And people really don’t like it when they are reminded that the neo-con, neo-lib or even Lockean worldview is a joke and just a front from the Virtual Empire.  Deep down, they know I (we) am (are) right.

Sometimes it’s best to step back from the battle.(St George Brigade Blog)

Schmemann or Solzhenitsyn?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 24, 2009 by The Cult of King Alfred

Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Alexander Schmemann:  Who is Correct?

 
I often expect my sympathy for Slavic Nationalism over against neo-conservative, neo-liberal imperialism will get a lot of “conservatives” angry.  One interesting criticism–and it does have some merit, a little granted–is that Solzhenitsyn was a border-line phyletist who identified the Chuch with the Russian soil.  On the surface, it is hard to see what this criticism has to do with the merits or demerits of Slavic nationalism or neocon imperialism.  Actually, it is completely irrelevant as it stands.
 
However, in all fairness, I think I know what the critic is saying.  It does point to a larger issue.  Fr. Alexander Schmemann was a Lithuanian ex-patriat from Russia around the time of the Communist takeover.  Schooled in Paris and later emigrating to America, he offered numerous insightful comments about American culture and American religion (be it Protestant or Catholic).  His books on the sacraments literally stop the earth in its orbit.  I feast on his works daily. 
 
While a dear friend of Solzhenitsyn, he became concerned with a lot of Solzhenitsyn’s “Old Russia vs. the World” comments.  He saw, probably rightly, that Solzhenitsyn was identifying the Church with Old Russia.  If this is true–and I’ve read his journals–then Solzhenitsyn is open to rebuke.  We should not crystallize one cultural expression and make it normative for the Church.  Did Solzhenitsyn really do this?  Well, that’s a tricky question.  Solzhenitsyn died 25 years after Schmemann died.  Therefore, one can’t make final judgments on Solzhenitsyn simply based on Schmemann’s comments.
 
However, I’ve always contended that Schmemann (and essentially almost every American Christian, regardless of denomination, regardless of political affiliation) is open to the same criticism.  In Schmemann’s Journals, around the time of President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, he made a comment along the lines of “this is how politics should be” (no doubt he was referring to the peaceful transfer of power that characterizes America [except, perhaps, for the 2000 election]).  What’s interesting is that Schmemann is making one brief moment of Western history–that of late, decadent democratic capitalism the way things should be. 
 
And if late decadent democratic capitalism is your cup of tea, you are certainly welcome to it.  But you can’t make criticisms of Soborpravna for doing x when your own tradition has done x, bombed other countries for not doing x, and can’t even successfully do x in the long run. 
 
Anyway, Solzhenitsyn wasn’t the mindless Russian nationalist that people make him out to be.  In his book The Russian Question at the End of the Twentieth Century he rebukes Russian leaders of the past two centuries for getting into wars they should have avoided.  In other words, in the area where Russian arms acquired the most glory (e.g., Napoleonic War and the Crimean War), Russian should have sat out.  Rather odd statements for a mindless Nationalist, eh?  (and I disagree with Solzhenitsyn  on this points).  Solzhenitsyn also makes another move that is hard to peg him:  as I understand him, he disagrees with Tsarist Russia, something most Nationalists cherish.  He makes these points in August 1914.
 
So who’s right:  Solzhenitsyn or Schmeman?  Both have good points to make.  Solzhenitsyn set himself up for a lot of legitimate criticism but Schmemann wasn’t a good political analyst.