For the interim, I reiterate
On Wisdom and Hierarchy:
The process of learning involves interpretation, and the fewer particulars we require in order to arrive at our generalization, the more apt pupils we are in the school of wisdom.
– Richard Weaver.
I find it all too easy to get bogged down and distracted in the minutiae of factoids and trivial pursuits. More so when such knowledge is tied to my sense of pride and self-worth. Sheer quantity can never be a substitute for quality; a dung heap is still a dung heap no matter how large.
Since subversive activity is the taking away of degree, it is logical that conservatives should treat as enemies all those who wish to abolish the sacred and secular grounds for distinctions among men. The proposal of the subverters is, however, impossible in practice, and the quarrel turns out to be over principles of selection. History thus far indicates that when the reformers get their turn, they merely substitute a bureaucratic hierarchy—and this because they discover that they do not wish society to collapse at all, but to continue under their conception of man’s good.
– Richard Weaver.
It appears, when all rhetorical flourish is swept aside, that men cannot bear being equal. One may also note that neither pride nor humility presuppose equality: to esteem oneself as being either better or worse then another is to instantiate difference. As Weaver has written, the battle lines are drawn over the principles of selection: the value-judgements and principles from which we make our distinctions. All things not been equal.
To reflect further on the above notion concerning hierarchy and equality, I believe it is prudent to quote here at length our Unknown Friend from his Meditations on the Tarot. Taken from the first letter concerning the Arcanum the Magician:
…all are fellow pupils and each is master of each in some respect – just as each is a pupil of each in some other respect. We cannot do better than to follow the example of St. Anthony the Great, who… subjected himself in all sincerity to the pious men whom he visited and made it his endeavour to learn for his own benefit just how each was superior to him in zeal and ascetic practice. He observed the graciousness of one, the earnestness at prayer in another; studied the even temper of one and the kindheartedness of another; fixed his attention on the vigils kept by one and on the studies pursued by another; admired one for his patient endurance, another for his fasting and sleeping on the ground; watched closely this man’s meekness and the forebearance shown by another; and in one and all alike he marked especially devotion to Christ and the love they had for one another. Having thus taken his fill, he would return to his own place of asceticism. Then he assimilated in himself what he had obtained from each and devoted all his energies to realizing in himself the virtues of all. (St. Athanasius, The Life of Saint Anthony, ch. 4; trsl. R. T. Meyer, Westminster, 1950, p.21)
On Love and Friendship:
I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation . . . .
– Rainer Maria Rilke.
Deep silence between friends, we are told, is the mark of true friendship. More so between lovers. To respect the dignity of an other, it seems, lies in ones ability to let others be as they are. To resist the urge, born of loneliness or worse, to impose oneself upon an other. The incessant flatterer in their seductive quest betrays, firstly, their own solitude, and consequently the dignity of the other. Grasping the low-hanging fruit is their perennial temptation and sin. In friendship and in love patient deliberation, not cunning, is key.
…and here below one meets only fellow pupils; and they recognise each other by the fact that they “love one another”.
– Unknown Friend
For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.
– Mathew xviii, 20.
Aelred of Rievaulx begins his reflections on friendship with an exclamation and succinct expression of the essence of spiritual friendship: “Here we are, you and I, and I hope a third, Christ, is in our midst”. For Aelred no true nor profitable friendship can exist which does not have its begining, continuation, and perfection in Christ.
Following Cicero’s De Amicitia – a work which had a profound influence upon the young Aelred – He continues by examining the foundations of what is typically called friendship: noting that friendships tend to flourish between those who share opinions, and aspirations, within a climate of mutual charity and benevolence. A harmony between individuals of affect and deed.
It is here that Aelred now draws our attention to the etymology of the latin word amicus (friend), which has its root in the word amor (love), and their relation to the word amicitia (friendship). For friends, we are told, are the guardians of love and of spirit. They are those who endure our defects, rejoice in our joys, and weep with our sorrows. The sweetness of true friendship having the duration of eternity.
For “effort in great things, is great itself”, we are reminded. And if true friendship has the duration of eternity the constant reorientation of our efforts and desires is necessary: “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find”. This constancy of charity and benevolence, of affect and deed, in imitating Christ is loyal even unto death, as “greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.
Now Aelred brings us down from the lofty heights so as to offer counsel upon some of the more attenuated forms of friendship that bind man to one another. This is done so as to contrast them against spiritual friendship, bringing the latter into relief, thus rendering it more desirable.
The first of these attenuated forms is what Aelred has deemed carnal friendship. Where the bonds of men are established through the fetters of iniquity: “… a worldly existence… acting as partners in some form of vice”. The falsity of such a bond being all too apparent for Aelred, “for he that loves iniquity does not love, but hates his own soul”, and one who hates his own soul can never truly love the soul of another.
The second less noble form of friendship, as Aelred continues, is deemed worldly friendship, “which is born of a desire for temporal advantage or possessions”. The child of deceit and deception, it seeks only fortune and profit, lacking constancy and benevolence. Hence, we are told: “for there is a friend for his own occasion, and will not abide in the day of thy trouble”.
When compared to spiritual friendship, these bonds seem like the shifting winds of the sea, filling the sails of a ship homeward bound. Now blowing east, then west, they have little care for its course, direction, or the welfare of its crew. For true friendship, we are reminded, is born of mutual opinions and aspirations in a spirit of harmony, having its beginning, continuation, and perfection in Christ.
As any frequent reader of this blog may note, this current entry is a rehash of one past. Due to some personal circumstances reoccurring posts will be infrequent. I humbly ask for your prayers at this time.
August 16, 2015