Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Art Of Spiritual Warfare

Over on the Dems Launch On Catholic Church thread commenter Frank provided a link and some commentary regarding an article by Michael Anton:

The Art of Spiritual War

Anton has a very interesting background. He served for many years in the belly of the beast, so to speak, but then came out as a major supporter of Trump--bridging the gap between the Orange Man and highbrow conservatives of the Claremont Review ilk. This will give you an idea of his background, including the essay than made him famous:

Michael Anton (born 1969) is an American conservative essayist, speechwriter and former private-equity executive who was a senior national security official in the Trump administration. Under a pseudonym he wrote "The Flight 93 Election", an influential essay in support of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Anton was Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications on the National Security Council under Trump. He is a former speechwriter for Rupert Murdoch, Rudy Giuliani, and Condoleezza Rice, and worked as director of communications at the investment bank Citigroup and as managing director of investing firm BlackRock.

I found this essay somewhat short on specific recommendations. However, there was one passage that appealed to me, because he identified specific movements usually considered "allies" of conservatism, but which in fact have been very much part of America's problems. FWIW, here is that passage:

Necessarily, Machiavelli formulated and disseminated a new doctrine. We’ve touched on this above. Whatever one’s final judgement of Machiavelli’s thought, it is not sufficient for us for two important reasons. First, our circumstances and adversary being different (however similar), we can’t port 1:1 a doctrine from the sixteenth century to 2021. Second, Strauss appears to be right about the long-term deleteriousness of cutting off man from the High. Access to God and the Good must be restored via serious intellectual effort, with serious intellectual underpinnings, and not merely as an exoteric fig-leaf concealing the alleged “truth” of nihilism.

The good news is that formulating a better doctrine is relatively easy. We may say that it’s already been (or is being) done, as serious study of the classics was revived in the 20th century and interest in them continues to mount in the young—at least those dissatisfied with the present regime. What’s needed is something both life-affirming and grounded, that can serve as a real support to real life in the real world. Machiavelli provided that for his followers. We will have to do the same.

The doctrine in essence has three parts: one philosophic, another “catechistic” and the third practical. The “catechism” is in effect a simplified version of the real inner doctrine, which few can grasp, dressed up to look like philosophy but which is really “ideology” (a concept, though not a term, that Machiavelli invents). The ideology gives “order” to the “French,” Machiavelli’s feisty but unreliable allies (D III 36). He needs their ardor but also needs to find a way to ground and sustain it.

Also, many of Machiavelli’s (potential) supporters—the humanists above all—have imprudently “served as philosophical allies” (Mansfield) of the enemy (D II 24, P 3). One need only think, in our time, of Conservatism, Inc., the fusionists and the libertarians. The philosopher must to a degree hide the distance between his true inner teaching and the ideology. For Machiavelli (as opposed to the classics) this is less because of a fundamental gulf between the differing types of men than so as not to insult the spirit (animo) of his allies. For there are three kinds of brains, “one that understands by itself, another that discerns what others understand,” and a third that does not understand (P 22). The philosopher needs the intellectual or popularizer to reach the masses, but intellectuals flatter themselves that they’re philosophers and so must be flattered by philosophers to be cajoled into performing their proper role.

There's more where that came from--just follow the link. It's a useful reminder that ideological purity--much less philosophical or theological purity--is unlikely to garner sufficient support to carry the day.


  1. Mark,you mentioned the lack of brain power in your previous post...and I happened to see this

    we know there are really smart people out there, we need to get them on PBS like in the days of Milton Fredman and Buckley

    1. speaking of not-so-bright, that 5y343 should not be there. Don't know where it came from

  2. We are experiencing the results of the German Frankfurt School on Critical Theory. One aspect, marginalizes religion, a tenet of Marxism.