Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reno on the prospects for the university as we've known it

"the vanguard institution of this new therapeutic culture [of self-realization]—the university—is in crisis, not churches and synagogues.  I have confidence that religious institutions, however constrained or impaired in the future, will be living, vital institutions for my grandchildren.  I don't believe the university will survive."

     R. R. Reno, "Benedict option," First things no. 273 (May 2017):  64 (63-65).  On. p. 67, under "The lordless powers" (66-67):  "Were someone innocent of political correctness to witness the desperate machinations of university administrators as they try to respond to the proliferating and often invisible 'identities' that demand accommodation, he might well conclude that our society is possessed by demons, and not unreasonably so."

Friday, April 21, 2017

Proletarier aller Lander vereinigt Euch!

"Charles Marx, Squire of London"

     The words with which Karl Marx "checked in" whenever he "took the cure at Carlsbad".  R. J. W. Evans, quoting David Clay Lodge, The grand spas of Central Europe:  a history of intrigue, politics, art, and healing (Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), in "A liberal empire?  Ruled from the spas?," The New York review of books 64, no. 5 (March 23, 2017):  36 (36-38).  In the header are, of course, the closing words of the Manifesto of the Communist Party of 1848.  My assumption is that a "Squire" (whatever the original; perhaps Landjunker?) would not have been considered a member of the proletariat, but then surely Marx never considered himself a member of the proletariat anyway.  Lodge says only "checked in quaintly as", so perhaps the incongruity was relative to Marx's financial circumstances (or landlessness) alone?  The whole comment may be of some relevance:  "The first of these [rivals of liberal imperialism] was socialism.  Yet socialism, on this reading, did not seriously jeopardize the imperial enterprise in Hapsburg Central Europe.  Karl Marx, after all, repeatedly took the cure at Carlsbad (were--Large tells us--he checked in quaintly as 'Charles Marx, Squire of London')."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"every time that I think of the crucifixion of Christ, I commit the sin of envy."

"One cannot fail more seriously in the second of the two essential commandments.  And as to the first, I fail to observe that in a still more horrible manner, for every time that I think of the crucifixion of Christ, I commit the sin of envy."

     Simone Weil, Letter IV to Fr. Perrin (Spiritual autobiography), Marseilles, c. 15 May 1942.  Waiting on God (London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd, 1951), 33.  French:
On ne peut manquer plus gravement au second des deux commandements essentiels.  Et quant au premier, j’y manqué d’une manière encore bien plus horrible, car toutes les fois que je pense à le crucifixion du Christ, je commets le péché d’envie.

     Georges Charot, "Simone Weil:  la croix et le péché d'envie," Cahiers Simone Weil 14, no. 2 (1991):  97-106, beginning with Weil's own words:
     'It is necessary [for] a just man to engage in imitation in order that the imitation of God be not a simple word, but it is necessary, in order that we be borne beyond the will, that we be not able to will to imitate him.  One cannot will [for oneself] the Cross.
     'One could will it matters not what degree of asceticism or heroism, but not the Cross, which is penal suffering.
     'The mystery of the Cross of Christ resides in a contradiction, for it is at once an offering consented to and a chastisement that he suffered quite in spite of himself.  If one saw in it only the offering, one could will it all the more for oneself.  But one cannot will a chastisement suffered in spite of oneself.
     'Those who conceive of the crucifixion only under the aspect of the offering obscure its saving mystery and saving bitterness.  To desire martyrdom is to desire far too little.  The Cross is infinitely more than martyrdom' [(Cahiers, nouvelle ed., III, 28-29, only partially quoted at Charot, 106)].
     Do you not think that this is the response [to the question, Why would it be a sin against the First [Great] Commandment for her to prefer her vocation to that of most others (102; not to mention the sin against the Second, which would consist in her denying a similar vocation to qualified others)]?  And it is she who gives it [(this response)] to us.
     If the mystery of the Cross resides in a contradiction, the person who lives it, as Simone Weil did, can only be torn asunder, [1] knowing that it is forbidden to will the Cross and [yet] [2] finding that she cannot keep herself from desiring it for herself[, considered as an intensely particular vocation authenticated solely by the fact that it proceeds from neither feeling [(sensibilité)] nor reason].  Would not the tearing asunder of Simone Weil reside in the fact that she could not live [out] her desire except as a sin of envy?
     This is the explanation that I propose.  [I'll leave it] to you to find another if you can. 
     That said, it would be a grave misunderstanding to believe that, to have uttered this sentence, Simone Weil must have been guilty of [(est suspecte de)] masochism, and that she must have been struck by [(était atteinte d')] a neurotic psychosis.  The Cross [was] not, for her, a good in itself.  It [was] only the privileged way that seems to [have] be[en] reserved for her [(qui semble lui être réservé)] to enter into the kingdom of the Truth.
     Her desire can be only a mystical desire and in one sense a folly, a folly of love, but [a folly] that certainly did not betray a perverse taste for suffering and unhappiness.  Her life (as if this [really] needed to be said) ought to remove all ambiguity on this subject.  Simone Weil loved to live in joy (106).
More from Charot on the larger context:
  • We should keep in mind (and respect the fact) that this was originally an intensely private confession to a trusted confessor, made on what Weil saw as the eve of her imminent death in the service of the Free French (who, as it turned out, were to reject her offers), and that there was also much wry humor in it (99), a kind of "malice" directed at herself, knowing, as she did, that Fr. Perrin would recognize in it "something like an aptitude for laughing at herself and at her extravagant need to engage in impossible combats" (105).
  • That said, it is "in any case impossible not to take seriously this declaration that the cross is a good that one ought to be capable of wishing on one's neighbor and even one's friends, and that to reserve to oneself the privilege of [suffering] it constitutes a breach of the Second [Great] Commandment" (99).
  • For Weil, the Cross involved the Son of God in complete and utter abandonment by both man and his Father.  "For there was, at that instant, an infinite distance between God and God."  With this no martyrdom for the sake of Christ can even hope to compare (99-100).
  • The cross would appear to be, as we've already said, "a good" of which a few (i.e. not Weil alone) are indeed capable (whereas for the rest there is the way of "uninterrupted joy, purity and sweetness" (Letter IV to Fr. Perrin, Waiting on God, 33)).  And this is why Weil's refusal to wish it on anyone else is a sin against the Second [Great] Commandment (100-101).  Her failure with respect to the Second [Great] Commandment was "to believe herself alone capable of being called ([i.e. having a] vocation) to suffer the Cross of Christ."  "To judge one's neighbor too mediocre or too precious to merit [this] misery [(malheur, misfortune)], and to judge oneself alone capable of receiving the supreme good [of crucifixion], is this not to sin through pride, is it not to love oneself more than one's neighbor in every case?" (101).
  • The supreme good of the way of crucifixion (i.e. that complete and utter abandonment to the silence of not just man but God himself available to the religious genius) is "th[at] instant when, for an infinitesimal fraction of time, pure truth, naked, certain and eternal enters the soul", and by comparison with which the eternal happiness of the beatific vision (the "future state" of the Christian tradition) would seem to be as nothing (Letter IV to Fr. Perrin, Waiting on God, 16).  This vision of "pure truth" would facilitate a "'thinking together in the truth [of] the misery [(malheur, misfortune)] of men, the perfection of God and the bond between the two'" (103, citing a letter to M. Schumann).
  • As for the sin against the First [Great] Commandment, "To wish to take her desires for crucifixion [(même crucifiants)] for a [personal] vocation and to risk thus disobeying God in order to obey an impulsion, for the sole reason that it [(the said impulsion)] procedes from neither feeling [(sensibilité)] nor reason, would this not be to wish to be God?  Would it not be, in any case, to wish to enter by force into the forbidden mystery of the perfection of God, the sin par excellence in her eyes?  For it is God who seeks us and not the reverse.  If such was the case, her legitimate desire [(envie)] to follow Christ to the Cross would betray in the end only a sin of envy [(envie)].  Humility and her commitment to the truth, would they not have obliged her to confess this with a [wry] smile?  It can be only a sin to desire what must not be desired" (105).