Friday, 31 July 2015
This month I've had more visitors from Russia than from the United States and United Kingdom combined, and they keep coming. I mean, since I dismantled "Sitemeter," which became useless and intrusive, I don't follow my site statistics as rigorously as was my wont aforetime, but I think that's a first for Liturgiae Causa. So I thought for my new Russian audience I'd put this poignant photograph up. Putin is a great man, of course, something any cynic can glean from the fact that he's so despised in the West, but you can never cease praying for the return of legitimate government.
"The night-sentinels saw him, but they were filled with dread, so that they did not dare to move or cry out; for they thought that they saw a ghost out of some old battle-mound that walked with darkness about it. And for many days after men feared to be near the Crossings at night, save in great company and with fire kindled."
'"Grief darkens your eyes, lord, dare I say it. But lest this should prove true, let us take counsel together. For I see peril of evil ahead, both to thee and to my folk, though maybe wisdom may avert it. Of one thing I must warn thee, though it may not please thee. Hardang is a lesser man than his fathers, but I saw no evil in him till he heard of thy coming. Thou bringest a shadow with thee, Húrin Thalion, in which lesser shadows grow darker.'
"'Dark words from a friend!' said Húrin. 'Long I lived in the Shadow, but I endured it and did not yield. If there is any darkness upon me, it is only that grief beyond grief that has robbed me of light. But in the Shadow I have no part.'
'"Nevertheless, I say to thee,' said Manthor, 'that it follows behind thee. I know not how thou hast won freedom; but the thought of Morgoth has not forgotten thee. Beware.'"
These quotes are from "The Wanderings of Húrin," which forms part three of volume XI of The History of Middle-earth. They illustrate something of Morgoth's dispersion, I think. It is true that Húrin had no part in "the Shadow," as he says; nevertheless, as with all thralls in Angband, Morgoth's power was upon him and his life was in ruin. Indeed Morgoth had cursed Húrin "with dread curses of the Valar," as the Lost Tales say. And it's interesting what Manthor says about the influence of the Shadow that stalked Húrin; that it could enter men's minds and insidiously affect their moral choices. But alas! These writings do not form part of the Quenta Silmarillion.
Thursday, 30 July 2015
There are a number of references in Tolkien to evil being, as it were, a centre which draws all evil things to it. There's this:
'"Yes, to Mordor,' said Gandalf. 'Alas! Mordor draws all wicked things, and the Dark Power was bending all its will to gather them there. The Ring of the Enemy would leave its mark, too, leave him open to the summons.'" The Lord of the Rings, Book I, Chapter II.
"Now Morgoth, having achieved his malice against Valinor, and escaped from bondage, gathered again all his servants that he could find; and through all the North ran the news that he had returned. From near and far, from the ruins of Utumno, and from deep dales and shadows under the mountains and from all dark and hidden places they crept back to him." The Later Quenta Silmarillion (II), chapter VII.
There is another, one that goes into far more detail, but I cannot find it for the life of me. It says something like evil is a wave or that Melkor, standing in the North, sends out some sort of signal, or sends out his influence, and then draws it back to himself, drawing not necessarily things evil but lesser wills that he can manipulate. I'm afraid I am at a loss. So I am appealing to my readers. Anyone familiar with The History of Middle-earth, please comment below your suggestions.
Art: Ted Nasmith. No prizes for guessing who wins!
Wednesday, 29 July 2015
The other day Fr Hunwicke put me in mind of dark lords and the dead with a quote, half-heeded most of the time, from Gandalf:
"Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again." The Lord of the Rings, Book I, Chapter II.To this quote was attached a Scripture, which had hitherto not occurred to me in the context (attend ye!):
"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation." Matthew 12:43-45.What an ingenious exegesis! It put me in mind of the "Necromancer," that menacing, shadowy figure in Mirkwood, so named because "he casts a fleeting shadow and presage on the pages of The Hobbit," (Letters no.131). When Tolkien wrote The Hobbit in the early 1930's the Necromancer served merely as a literary "machine" or excuse for Gandalf's disappearance on the borders of Mirkwood. There was then no substantial connexion between Bilbo's magic ring and malevolent forces, still less a significance in the epithet beyond sorcery - see the explanation given by the Catholic Encyclopaedia of the blurred distinction between necromancy and other forms of pagan magic and superstition. But with the evolution of The Lord of the Rings the eponymous Necromancer became much more sinister, and the Ring, which was the channel of Sauron's power over things visible and invisible, the instrument of necromancy.
As you know necromancy is an abomination condemned in God's holy word (Leviticus 20:6, Galatians 5:20). Its English form is of Greek derivation, νεκρομαντεία, via mediaeval Latin necromantia, with the comparative negromantia ("the black arts"), and signifies divination of the dead, or "pythones" as in the Vulgate, from the Greek πυθώ ("to decay"). (On this point, Tolkien connoisseurs will undoubtedly remember the description of Melko's court in the Tale of Tinúviel; see The Book of Lost Tales Part II, Chapter I, p.32). To what purpose do men seek contact with the spirits of the dead? The most famous example we have, of course, is the story of the conjuring of the soul of Samuel by the witch at Endor (1 Samuel 28). God had abandoned Saul for his disobedience and as such Saul had recourse to the soul of the prophet Samuel for prophecy and wisdom in the Israelite war against the Philistines. He himself saw nothing, howbeit you can decide whether he was deceived by the witch or by a demon. I believe it was the latter because necromancy necessarily entails contact with demons and the desire to contact the dead is unnatural and proceeds from grief, despair or malice, and so we are justly warned: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour," (1 Peter 5:8). The Gospel is full of stories of demonic possession, and the demon imparts neither wisdom nor truth but invariably seeks the destruction of the body in fire and water (Mark 9:22). And so in conjuring the dead we are in peril not only of lies and deceit, for to God alone do we make recourse for wisdom (James 1:5), but of destruction.
"For as he grew in malice, and sent forth from himself the evil that he conceived in lies and creatures of wickedness, his power passed into them and was dispersed, and he himself became ever more earth-bound, unwilling to issue from his dark strongholds."But in so doing, even at Morgoth's expulsion at the end of the Elder Days, the greater part of his native influence remained dispersed throughout the world, to guide his servants whensoever they might do evil. And this influence was not solely limited to Orcs and dragons, and so on. All things that were born on earth, and lived on it and by it, were liable to be "stained" and have a tendency, however slight, toward evil. The shadow that fell upon Númenor, for example, was at first undoubtedly the influence of Morgoth in the world, who began and devised, and not Sauron, who, as high priest of the satanic cult, carried out and completed the destruction of the Númenóreans.
Sauron, as dark lord, therefore inherited the corruption of Arda and his own machinations with the Rings of Power were not merely an emulation, "a child's model or slave's flattery," as it were, of Morgoth's vast demiurgic labours but something altogether wiser and surpassingly cunning. Whereas Morgoth's sole ultimate object was the destruction and reduction to nil of all things except himself, even his own servants; Sauron desired complete mastery over the minds and wills of others and was content with the physical world, which he had foolishly supposed was abandoned by the Valar, so long as it served him, hence the Great Rings. As Gandalf told Frodo: "And hobbits as miserable slaves would please him far more than hobbits happy and free," (The Lord of the Rings, Book I, Chapter II). (Tangentially, we could also say that of our political class). And herein lies the connexion between Sauron and necromancy. It is told in the Valaquenta, "in all the deeds of Melkor the Morgoth upon Arda, in his vast works and in the deceits of his cunning, Sauron had a part." As Morgoth eventually degenerated into a state of nihilistic madness much of the more subtle evils conceived by him in the beginning were achieved by Sauron. It was Sauron who completed the breeding of the Orcs, a vile labour that would have entailed not just the slow torment of the years but necromancy, the expulsion by foul arts of the fëa (the spirit) from the bodies of those in the dungeons of Utumno and the imprisonment of other fëar who, as the Gospel says, would fain destroy the body (hereafter hröa). Under the domination of Morgoth "Sauron was become now a sorcerer of dreadful power, master of shadows and of phantoms," (The Silmarillion p.181), and with the coming of Death into the world this "dreadful power" was clearly in rivalry to the divinely appointed masters of spirits, namely Námo, who kept the houses of the dead, and Irmo, master of visions.
The inevitability of Death is at the foundation of Tolkien's legendarium. The respective "Fall" of the two kindreds Elves and Men is inextricably linked up with Death. Míriel Þerindë, the mother of Fëanor, died, which was against Nature and about her Death was woven all the tales of the Elder Days. In the beginning of their days Men came under the domination of the dark power and turned westward. Those who turned from the Shadow, the Edain who fought heroically against it, were richly rewarded for their sorrow and travail with the isle of Númenor which became their kingdom and the zenith of their art, beauty and wisdom. But Men could not escape Death, and the dread thereof, in which can be discerned the will of Morgoth, and thereunto they were filled with fear and wrath because it seemed that they were beset them round with a great darkness which they could not penetrate and from which they could not escape (c.f Akallabêth p.317). And given the nature of Men they turned to the Dark once more, some were ensnared by Sauron and became his servants; three high lords of Númenórean race were given Rings of Power.
The prophecy of Isaiah has this to say of Jerusalem (let us attend):
"Cower down thou must, and offer parley from the earth where thou liest; from the ruins thy voice will make itself heard, no better than a muttering from the ground, as it were some ghost that moaned there under the earth." Isaiah 29:4.That the dead might have indistinct voices is not to be marvelled at. The human voice is derived from the living God who, by the λόγος, created all things. Tolkien gives many descriptions of the voices of the dead, from the Shadow Host who followed Aragorn to Pelargir "like the echo of some forgotten battle in the Dark Years long ago," to the languid moan of the Barrow-wight "far away and immeasurably dreary." Or the menace of the Nazgûl stalking the hobbits through the Shire and the "long-drawn wail" that "came down the wind, like the cry of some evil and lonely creature. It rose and fell and ended on a high-piercing note." We don't know much about the realm of the unseen as hinted at by Gandalf but I expect that the reason their voices come, as it were, from a great depth is because they exist simultaneously in both worlds. Their possession of the Rings even in life made them so.
And so Sauron's epithet in The Hobbit, the Necromancer, meant much more than just crude power. It was wicked, and his Ring would have made him master of both the living and the dead.
I haven't said anything yet about the Dead Marshes, or Deadmen's Dike or the Watchers of Cirith Ungol but I have run out of time. If you're interested in pursuing this subject further then I recommend volume ten of The History of Middle-earth (it's the volume I consult most of all actually), pp217-225 and pp390-398; Unfinished Tales part IV and you can never go wrong with The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien.
Thursday, 16 July 2015
As you know I didn't really go to Dol Amroth but, except, perhaps, Balar, I could think of no Tolkienism for Kefalonia and Homer's Ithaca. And we know almost nothing about Balar than that it is no more. And as for "Homer's Ithaca," whether in fact Odysseus lived there is debatable. I choose to believe that he did but it's impossible to say where. I went to the Ionian Islands last week armed with my Novum Testamentum Graecae, my copy of the Odyssey (an OWC translation), and Brideshead Revisited, which I hadn't read for many years, for the hotel. I didn't care to bring any Byron but I did notice some tourists taking photos of his statue in Lassi, or was it in Kioni? I forget.
Kefalonia is surprisingly unspoiled but I understand that with the Nicholas Cage film "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," its fate might eventually go the way of Ibiza and the other popular tourist destinations for young (and old) layabouts that just confirm my sincere belief that the working class should not be allowed overseas (more on that some other day). Ithaca is a paradise. There is no airport, no schools, no hospital and a population of something like 500. Going up about five hundred feet into the mountains there I saw (and smelt!) rosemary, thyme and lavender in abundance, olive groves, cypress and fennel; the unclouded sky and the sapphire sea. From the belfry at Kathara monastery, the residence of one elderly monk, I reckon I could see forty miles on a clear day. It was more than my desire. I stayed two nights in Ithaca with Homer and went to Vespers in Stavros, at which I prayed before the beautiful reliquary of St Joachim the Ithakan. I broke my fast on the last day on the shores of the sea in Kioni and indulged myself on the most delicious pistachio ice cream in Stavros. Early on Sunday morning I went down to the quayside in Argostoli and saw loggerhead sea turtles feeding (and fighting!) by the fishing boats. I went thence to the (slightly abridged) liturgy in St Gerasimos. I can't think why but an elderly lady shook my hand afterward. I had a brief chat with one of the archpriests and I found out that he used to serve in Moscow Road, albeit before I was born. Small world, eh!
It surprised me that just down the road from St Gerasimos is a Latin rite Roman Catholic church dedicated to St Nicholas. What did not surprise me was that it is the ugliest church on the island. I spoke about this odd little chapel, in halting modern Greek, to a young waitress in the town square and she said that in her view Roman Catholic worship is a bit of a "cop out" (that's verbatim) because it's so brief and that the people who worship at St Nicholas' aren't really Greek anyway. Cynics might point out elements of phyletism there but it seems a fair assessment to me.
I spent most of Sunday dosing on the terrace at the hotel. I figured, perhaps rightly, that nothing would be open in the town, and I have misgivings about the propriety of certain undertakings on the LORD's Day so I ate peaches and read Brideshead when I returned to the hotel after breakfast. In the evening I went swimming in the sea. I found a quiet taverna at the top of a hill at which I would eat supper and drink ice tea.
There is so much else to say but I don't wish to bore you. There were significant problems in getting home. It took about 27 hours, notwithstanding the time difference, and I ended up in Rome, of all places, specifically at the Hotel Divino Amore, a place for impoverished pilgrims. I had a lovely view of the motorway from my room with the bed, soft as the slab, upon which I got cramp in the small hours. The place wasn't the best way to end a miserable day. The reception area had an huge portrait of pope Francis and there were other tawdry tokens of popery littered about the place. I felt hemmed in. The contrast with Orthodox Greece, just a few hundred miles away, was astounding. Needless to say, I saw nothing of Rome herself and would not have spoiled the pleasure with haste, even if I did have any clean clothes and money left to spend. The best thing about my time in Rome were the men and boys at the airport.
Why did I go (to the islands, not Rome!)? I expect you're thinking. Well, I've been so terribly listless and idle for so long. Since my sacking, yea more since I gave up work altogether, I have been wasting time and money. I have become a wastrel and good for nothing. I have put on weight, so much that even shirts I bought two years ago no longer fit. I feel gross, stupid and unattractive and I don't like feeling that way anymore. So I have decided to do something about it. My money is now gone. I have exhausted my overdraft and the bank won't let me extend it because I have no income but I am not worried about that right now, just about my physical health and appearance, and my religion. If I learned anything in Greece from observing and partaking in Orthodox worship there, it's that it is for me. As an Englishman I resent ethnic chapels in London; naturally. But there is something profoundly natural, innate, essential about Orthodox worship in situ. I don't mean that Orthodox worship should be just Russian or Greek but it does go against the grain in converted Anglican churches, half in English (with competing translations), half in Slavonic or Koine Greek, with all the other problems that go with multiculturalism. I think we should all become Orthodox, to be honest.
On a tangential subject, Greece has been in the news recently over its money troubles. I experienced little of that on the islands. Most of the banks I saw were open. Nevertheless, do keep the Greeks in your prayers.
Art: Wikipedia. I saw the Byzantine double-headed eagle in many places. It represents two of the things I most believe in, namely Church and State.
Monday, 6 July 2015
Sunday, 5 July 2015
It's unfortunate, isn't it? I mean this hasn't the least pretence of impartiality and the interviewer often tries to trap the children with words and bogus, cynical analogies, and they're too stupid to argue back. The children all know the vocabulary; "gender" for "sex;" "LGBTQ+" for what used to be called simply "the gay community," or just "queers;" and so on. Also, the only one interviewed who expresses any real doubts about the transgender problem is a black youth who comes across as a bit thick. This is the future! A generation of well-meaning, but misguided, young people who are slowly losing the grasp between right and wrong; between truth and falsehood; between man and woman; between classes; between races; between religions; between all distinctions. Everyone is everyone, and everyone is nobody. You're "assigned" a "gender" at birth, and your actual biological sex is a personal choice like any other, like what you choose to believe about God, or your breakfast cereal. I can say that I believe in religion; you can say that you believe in science. The fact that that is completely hollow is beside the point. But this is just the beginning. Soon you'll only be allowed to think what the governing elite of Bourgeois Bohemians tell you to think. These days that state of things is supreme only in most public services and the media. But soon, no doubt, there'll be a government employee listening at the back of churches to inform the government about the content of Fr Smith's sermon, and whether he did in fact say "male and female created he them." Then maybe something unfortunate will happen to Fr Smith. And the next generation of young people, having this generation of ill-educated, largely amoral young people as their parents, is going to be even worse. What will they be like? What new moral evil or mental illness will be brought from the netherworld of taboo into the common light of day by some pioneer? We can only dread.
Saturday, 4 July 2015
Since the beginning I have controlled the publication of comments on this blog. That won't change. I am quite liberal about that which is published. I am not interested in comments that are personally critical; it's water off a duck's back when it is not constructive, but so long as standards of decency are maintained I have no qualms about publishing them. But I will not publish abuse, sarcasm or long-winded tangents, especially from people who are utterly and invincibly convinced of Rome’s claim to be the true church, let alone a church. One such contributor is "AnthonyMunday." You will follow the link to his profile in vain, since it is not available on Blogger, but we can expect as much from such a one. Since vowing to give up his persona and move onto better things in a hissy fit a few months ago, I have refused to publish his comments. Now, you'd expect most trolls to just give up after repeated attempts to impose their unwanted, feeble points of view in a forum in which they aren't welcome, but not he (assuming it is a man)! At first, like any other reader, I let through his comments. I disagreed with them, and made plain my disgust with any person who tried to drag me back into the Papal communion, but it transpired that his long-winded tangents degenerated into insults and personal abuse when it was made aware that I would not tread the Romeward path. I'll give readers a sample of his wit this once, so that they can shun him (shake the dust off your feet, &c), and my advice to other Bloggers would be to delete any comments he leaves on your blogs without reading them; they are clearly left to cause a nuisance.
"I feel your pain, Kallistos! You’re having a bit of a crisis at the moment. Be assured, I have prayed for you, as requested.
"It’s such a shame (I’m being selfish now) that you’re not Catholic anymore. Otherwise, we could have met up at Westminster Cathedral one Saturday for the 10.30am Mass. I could have given you a hug (no funny business, please – I’m unacquainted with the works of Dorothy), then we could have got in line for confession with the Caribbeans and Asians, lit a votive candle at St John Southworth, raided the Catholic bookshops, and then I could have treated you to a boozy pub lunch in Pimlico, you on the Margaritas and me on the real ale.
"Oh well….. such is life. “Farewell, Tadzio....it was all too brief”."
What a prat!
Art: Ted Nasmith. Bilbo's trolls. Not his best painting but given the subject...as my father would say in his assiduous way, "you can't polish a turd."
This is an iconic scene from Scent of a Woman, which I'm sure most of you have seen at some point. Shortly after I told my mother about my "predicament" this film was screened on the television. I remember my mother said something like: "the young lady is beautiful and it astounds me that you don't feel anything." I don't think I said anything in response, being quite used to the many barbed comments on that subject and general condescension. But I thought then, and think now, that it is tragic or unfortunate, or any one of those words, that the young lady, Miss Gabrielle Anwar, is indeed beautiful and lofty, but that I truthfully feel nothing about her beyond some reminiscent or faint sense of maternity or companionship; similar feelings I felt about dancers at the Irish dance academy I attended as a boy (specifically Sinead and Taylor). What stirs me more than anything about this film is the young Mr O'Donnell.
This post is for the benefit and remonstrance of those of you who stupidly think that there is no such thing as homosexuality. It is true that you can only speak significantly of actions as being homosexual, and repeated actions lead to a homosexual lifestyle, but the dream remains. And I suppose the dream is an extension of some underlying problem. Do I bear the brunt of the idolatry of this post-Christian society? Who knows.
Friday, 3 July 2015
This article by Dr Michael Scheuer is a brilliant and succinct analysis of the last week's events. A sample:
"...Cameron, Obama, and most Western leaders will publicly speak as if their nations, populations, and military capabilities currently equate to the united and powerful nation-states they were during the Cold War. They will speak in this manner because they are willing to lie to hold onto political office. In reality, most Western nations are bankrupt; each has knowingly eroded its national unity, internal security, and societal cohesion by allowing nearly unlimited immigration by people who refuse to assimilate and who are often anti-Western; and most have degraded their militaries by starving them of much-needed cash in order to pay for social services and fanatically pursue the nation-killing policies of diversity and multiculturalism."
No wonder Dr Scheuer's enemies think he's a stupid nuissance. He sees more clearly than them!
The photo is of Broadstairs beach. I was there on Wednesday and spent much of the time bemoaning the lack of public indecency laws in this country.