Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Christian Intellectual Tradition

The other day I did a post featuring a description of the Neo-gnostic currents of ideology that are so dominant among the Ruling Class in modern America. While these ideologies obviously involve the manipulation of concepts--often to an excessive degree of complexity, with resort to outlandish neologisms--they are actually characterized by a desire to conform reality to the human will, either in the form of escapism or, as we see increasingly, a demonic will to power. As such, despite the excessive rationalism they exhibit--the conceptual gymnastics--these ideologies are actually anti-intellectual in this sense: the use of conceptualism is about escapism or domination, but in neither case about deep and sympathetic understanding of reality.

Today at the same site that I linked (above) Peter Kwaśniewski--another traditionalist Catholic thinker--has an article that describes the alternative to Neo-gnostic ideology: What Is the Catholic Intellectual Tradition? Before quoting several of the basic elements of this intellectual tradition--or perhaps, better, this tradition of intellectualism that seeks to unite the understanding to reality in a sympathetic fashion--I'd like to suggest two points of reference for readers in evaluating what Kwaśniewski has to say.

The first point of reference is the thought of C. S. Lewis. I suspect many will be familiar with one or more of Lewis' books. Lewis himself, of course, was a noted intellectual as well as a committed Christian and championed in his books the Thomist style of intellectualism that came down through the likes of Anglican thinkers like Richard Hooker.

The second point of reference is simply the experience of each reader. My contention is that these essentials of intellectualism reflect what we could call the overall spirit of the American tradition--a tradition of reasonability and of an embrace of reality that unites the American tradition with the intellectual tradition of the West while setting it apart from Neo-gnostic ideologies. I'm thinking here of something along the lines of Russell Kirk's Roots Of American Order.

I realize that, historically, this may appear to be an over simplification. However, I'm not attempting here a detailed demonstration but simply a kinship of spirit, of intellectual approach, as distinct from the dominant ideologies of our Ruling Class that so violently reject the intellectual tradition of the West.

So, here we go, in severely abbreviated excerpts. I offer this for those who are seeking to consciously define where they stand as opposed to the currently dominant forces that seek to transform us into their image and likeness.

The Catholic Intellectual Tradition possesses a number of stable, recognizable characteristics:

    1. The profound harmony of faith and reason, ... Faith and reason are not only compatible, but mutually purifying and assisting. ...
    1. A natural law ethic based on the inherent dignity of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God, offering the only objective foundation for a coherent doctrine of human rights and duties; and following from this, an emphasis on moral liberty (“freedom for”) as more important than physical liberty (“freedom from”)—crowned by the freedom to find and adhere to God.
    1. The recognition that man is an integral being made up of body and soul: he is his body and his soul in their dynamic unity, and therefore his body is not mere property (much less anyone else’s property) but part of himself, endowed with dignity, and the subject of rights and duties. Catholics are the greatest and last champions of matter, nature, sexuality, and the value of life. [Here, the clear contrast is to the ideologies that regard the body as not a true part of the self but something to be chosen and shaped by our own desires.]
    1. Respect for the Christian Tradition as such and for its great voices: ... We revere and follow what has been handed down because it is a treasure and an inheritance, as befits children of one family.
    1. ...

Skepticism toward tradition

In our times, the very concept of “the Catholic Intellectual Tradition” has come under fire. Many question the value of any tradition, of anything handed down from the past. Modern men need modern things, so the opinion goes; our world is too different from that of earlier ages, and the answers that satisfied them cannot satisfy us. Such a view overlooks and underestimates the naturalness and importance of tradition, and why Catholics should be especially grateful for their own tradition.

The intellect of man, like man himself, is social. We are not born autonomous, on our own two legs and ready to face the world; we are born into the “social womb” of the family, from which we learn our language, our habits, our loves, our way of interacting with others and the world. Just as it is not good for man to be alone, it is not good to think alone, and in fact, we cannot do so. ...


Postmodern power plays

The importance of the intellectual life—of thought aimed at truth—is nevertheless viewed with suspicion by postmoderns. Isn’t “truth” whatever the powerful have decided to impose on the rest of us? Some people are not so sanguine about the possibility of the search for and discovery of timeless truth. The response we can make is to point to the inseparable relationship between truth, human identity, and personal dignity.

As Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and countless other lights of the Church teach us in their lives and in their writings, and as the pagan philosophers Plato and Aristotle and many others had seen before them, truth is the proper object of the human mind—it is the good of the intellect. It is precisely when we do not adhere to this good that we are flung into a roiling ocean of selfish claims and manipulative desires. If we do not constantly seek this good, we are abdicating what is most distinctive in our humanity. If we do not strive to share this good with our fellow human beings, we are not loving them.

In this sense, the opposite of an intellectual tradition is not sentimentalism or aestheticism, but anti-intellectualism, or what Socrates called “misology”: an impatience of or contempt for sound reasoning, the denial of conscience, the abandonment of self-consistency, reckless self-promotion regardless of the cost to others, a utilitarian outlook on life, the denial that there is anything special or unique about man. Downstream from these views, and collecting their pollution, lies nihilism, characterized by an oppressive will to power. In the absence of truth, there is only the assertion of force and passivity to it.


  1. anti-intellectualism, or what Socrates called “misology”: an impatience of or contempt for sound reasoning,

    Note well the root of "misology" which is "logos". John's Gospel tells us that Christ is "Logos" (In the beginning was the Word/Logos...) thus opposition to logos is opposition to Christ and God.

    E Michael Jones finds other meanings for "logos" in the Greek use of the term, having to do with "order." So mis-ology can also be translated "hatred of order."

    That is exactly what we see in the fevered minds of the Left (and a few on the Right.)

  2. "as the pagan philosophers Plato and Aristotle and many others had seen before them, truth is the proper object of the human mind—it is the good of the intellect."

    It may be worth stressing, the extent to which most of the Rabbinic tradition, and the Confucian one, were at least implicitly very sympathetic with that view.
    In that respect, today's nihilism/ misology is ferociously attacking (almost all?) human traditions.

    1. The major culture with most in common with modern neo-gnostic currents is, unsurprisingly, Islam.

    2. Too bad for them, that they (to my knowledge) had nothing comparable to the Investiture Contest,
      where the diff between civil and clerical authority was so stressed.

  3. Fascinating blog and scary at best. I recall a previous blog post a couple weeks ago referencing similar Gnostic ideals and thoughts by Edward Feser.

    My question is where does this all lead? Does this in fact doom religion/spirituality for people? For our government? To disavow "reality-based" thinking and places us all in a very precarious position.

    1. That's a very nice blog post by Feser, although I think he greatly overestimates the influence of Qanon.

      "where does this all lead?"

      In his final paragraph Feser offers some advice, the spirit of which is behind my post here:

      "more than ever, what the times call for is conservative sobriety. And orthodoxy."

      To extend his line of thinking ...

      If conservatives consciously recapture the spirit of the Western tradition--Feser's "conservative sobriety, orthodoxy" as outlined in its principle by Kwaśiewski, above--it may give the clerics the courage to return to their posts ('restore the Church to health'), their duties of spiritual leadership, which may in turn give courage to us in the secular sphere to increase the intensity of political opposition. It won't happen overnight, but it's the only way in the long run.

      Orthodoxy, of course, is one of GKC's best known works, and I have to wonder whether Feser had it in mind when he used that word.

    2. Makes sense Mark. The church has been quiet for too long. Faith over fear needs to be heard throughout. Thanks for this.

    3. Of COURSE Feser played on the word!

      Burke/Kirk, with the emphasis on Burke.

  4. Very OT

    Tonight I was watching one of the Sherlock Holmes episodes which starred Jeremy Brett, called The Naval Treaty, wherein Holmes makes his rose observation, as quoted above, seemingly apropos of nothing.

    His speech was not quite clear, but I think he also said "there is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion, which has become the buildup of an exact science by the reason"

    What a marvelous set of books. The epitome of the age of reason.


    1. Always good to dip back into the Holmes corpus.

  5. One last thought. I just read Dyer's blog tonight and I "think" it helped put the neo-gnostic ideology in a perspective for my meager intellectual capacity. I'll try to share this as best I can.

    My sort of way of reckoning the neo-gnostic ideology is think of it as a facade. Per Merriam-Webster "2) a false, superficial, or artificial appearance or effect tried to preserve the facade of a happy marriage"

    While reading "The Hill" tonight (boy do I miss J. Solomon here to bring some much needed balance) I read an article entitled "Biden announces Pentagon review of China Strategy".
    Now I read this before I went to read Dyer's blog and then it clicked (IMO). Biden has no real intent to do anything about China as we all know, however this new Defense dept review is intended to provide a false facade to give the American people (via the MSM) the neo-reality version. Nothing of substance will become of this. However, the false impression is "that it's a good and necessary" action.

    Obviously numerous other examples, however my slow brain often times needs time to process. Thought I'd share. Perhaps it will help others make a connection too.

  6. I note that Dyer is stating that the cabal is self-destructing as they go.

    Her vision of the new paradigm is quite hopeful.


    1. Thanks. I'll check it out soon.

    2. @Frank

      Another takeaway from the Dyer article is the implicit acknowledgement that the deadlines which Trump was up against were not up to the task of resolving issues of election irregularities and illegalities. As we have discussed here.

      But she is confident (as I am hopeful) that the truth of these irregularities and illegalities will continue to emerge, even if the duly constituted authorities (FBI, etc) are not the truth-finders.

      She believes that it will be the conspirators themselves who ultimately lead us to the truth, as they have begun to do with the TIME article and Impeachment Hoax II.

      She writes:

      It’s as if they can’t help themselves. Even if the deeper purpose of the Senate trial is to introduce a massive propaganda surge depicting 75 million Americans as seditious terrorists, that effort will only swing the cabal’s fist around to punch itself out. The Big Lies are being exposed every time they are deployed.

      Indeed, such actions amount merely to the cabal dealing itself the final strokes.

      The cabal has been building the fatal case against itself for many years now, seeking to exploit and manipulate the people and abusing their trust. The elements of the cabal (TIME’s word, not mine) have had numerous chances to change their ways, and they have doubled down on them instead.

      The TIME article is evidence of a starkly central reality: they want to rule us with a lie. Without the Trump Senate trial, they were never going to tell us that they rig-fortified the 2020 election. But now they have parted the curtains just a bit on that, in order to refine the lie. And as with all the other lies of theirs that have been exposed through the preternatural Trump filter, this one is now exposed, and the even greater ones will be too.

      We still can’t fully grasp all that will be taken down with them, I think. The scope of this is bigger than we imagine, even now. If you’re looking for evidence that “Trump has a plan” to reenter the White House, you’re watching for the wrong signs (though that doesn’t mean he won’t at some point). The same is true if you think you know anything else for sure: that there will be four years of the current presidency (whoever the figurehead is), or that the Vandals are at the door and they speak Mandarin, or whatever it may be.

      I think she's right. And when we get to the bottom of it we'll finally know what has been motivating all of the lies this blog has been circling around for all these years.

    3. Yes, like me, she sees the Time article as, basically, a sign of weakness: they see that it's not working like they need it to, and so "hey have parted the curtains just a bit on that, in order to refine the lie." But that will likely lead to further problems.