On Hilaire Belloc and a Great Wind

Author’s Note, 5 May 2021 (Feast of Pope Pius V (d. 1572)): This reflection on Hilaire Belloc’s 1911 essay about sailing and the wind, and about how they become a special symbol for his life, and for the life of others, was first written some 8 years ago, in 2013. This Belloc essay captures so much of his abiding spirit and his hopes, and this not long before he would have the shock of suddenly losing both his wife Elodie (on 2 February, 1914) and his eldest son Louis, who was an aviator and who died in World War I with his body never to have been found.

Dr. Robert Hickson

11 February 2013

Our Lady of Lourdes

When Hilaire Belloc was a vigorous forty years of age, and three years before his life was shaken and shattered by the death of his wife Elodie on Candlemas 1914, he wrote an intimately evocative essay, entitled “On a Great Wind.” This brief and vivid piece—characteristically combining concrete intimacy and sacred mystery in his inimitably poetic “sacramental prose”—leads us also to the contemplation of God’s Natural Creation and to man’s resourceful uses and appreciations of the wind, especially with his manifest sense of beauty in the use of the sail upon the seas.

“On a Great Wind” was first published in 1911 in his collection of essays entitled, First and Last.1 For those who have read Belloc’s comparably beautiful essays, “The Missioner” and “The Mowing of a Field,”2 will also respond with grateful wonder at his resonant versatility in the presentation of fundamental components of human life, and the things of moment to man.

Belloc makes us at once receptive and attentive by how he begins his reflection on the Wind:

It is an old dispute among men, or rather a dispute as old as mankind, whether Will be a cause of things or no….The intelligent process whereby I know that Will not seems but is, and can alone be truly and ultimately a cause, is fed with stuff and strengthens sacramentally as it were, whenever I meet, and am made a companion, of a great wind. (285)

Belloc’s companion and beloved friend, G.K. Chesterton, also touches upon this profound matter, and shows his uniquely “reverential memory” and pietas when he later wrote: “Will made the world; Will wounded the world; the same divine Will gave to the world for the second time its chance; the same human Will can for the last time make its choice.”3

Cheerfully guarding himself against the imputation of Pantheism, Belloc goes on to say:

It is not that this lively creature of God [namely, the Wind] is indeed perfected with a soul; this it would be superstition to believe….but in its vagary of way, in the largeness of its apparent freedom, in its rush of purpose, it seems to mirror the action of a mighty spirit. (285)

Then our Belloc gets more specific and illustrative, as he did later in his great book, The Cruise of the Nona (1925). (We also see him sailing as a boy in his little sailboat!)

When a great wind comes roaring over the eastern flats towards the North Sea, driving over the Fens and the Wringland, it is like something of this island that must go out and wrestle with the water, or play with it in a game or battle; and when upon the western shores [e.g., of Cornwall], the clouds come bowling up from the horizon, messengers, outriders, or comrades of a gale, it is something of the sea determined to possess the land. The rising and falling of such power, such hesitations, its renewed violence, its fatigue and final repose—all these are symbols of a mind; but more than all the rest, its exultation! It is the shouting and hurrahing of the wind that suits a man. (285-286)

Then with a poignant note about friendship as well as companionship, Belloc takes us to consider deeper analogies and proportions:

Note you, we have not many friends. The older we grow and the better we can sift mankind, the fewer friends we count, though man lives by friendship. But a great wind is every man’s friend, and its strength is the strength of good-fellowship; and even doing battle with it is something worthy and well chosen. (286)

With some conditional sentences and sharp contrasts, Belloc leads us to the threshold of enlargement and maybe also of fear:

If there is cruelty in the sea, and terror in high places, and malice lurking in profound darkness, there is no one of these qualities in the wind, but only power. Here is strength too full for such negations as cruelty, as malice, or as fear; and that strength in a solemn manner proves and tests health in our souls. (286—my emphasis added)

Then, he will try to explain himself a little:

For with terror (of the sort I mean—terror of the abyss or panic at remembered pain, and in general, a losing grip of the succours of the mind), and with malice, and with cruelty, and with all the forms of that Evil which lies in wait for men, there is the savour of disease…..We were not made for them, but rather for influences large and soundly poised; we are not subject to them but to other powers that can always enliven and relieve. It is health in us, I say, to be full of heartiness and of the joy of the world, and of whether we have such health our comfort in a great wind is a good test indeed. (286-287—my emphasis added)

As is to be expected, he supports his contention with vivid specificities:

No man spends his days upon the mountains when the wind is out, riding against it [on horseback] or pushing forward on foot through the gale, but at the end of his day feels that he has had a great host about him. It is as though he had experienced armies. The days of high winds are days of innumerable sounds, innumerable in variation of tone and intensity, playing upon and awakening innumerable powers in man. And the days of high wind are days in which a physical compulsion has been about us and we have met pressures and blows, resisted and turned them; it enlivens us with the simulacrum of war by which [in manly self-defense] nations live, and in the just pursuit of which men in companionship are at their noblest. (287—my emphasis added)

In his consideration of traditional and rooted things, Belloc considers the objections and pretensions of progressive innovators, especially in the new technologies:

It is pretended…that certain pursuits congenial to man will be lost to him under the new necessities; thus men sometimes talk foolishly of horses being no longer ridden, houses no longer built of wholesome wood and stone, but of metal; meat no longer roasted, but only baked; and even stomachs grown too weak for wine. There is a fashion [as of 1911] of saying these things, and much other nastiness. Such talk is (thank God!) mere folly. For man will always at last tend to his end, which is happiness [or “beatitude,” as he also often added], and he will remember to do all those things which serve that end, and especially the using of the wind with sails. (287-288—my emphasis added)

For the remainder of his essay, he will take us to the sea and to the sails in the wind, and his words are instinct and resonant with reality, as all of those who have sailed will immediately and gratefully recognize. Here is the salt of reality with the savor of goodness:

No man has known the wind by any of its names who has not sailed his own boat and felt life in the tiller. Then it is that a man has most to do with the wind, plays with it, coaxes or refuses it, is wary of it all along; yields when he must yield, but comes up and pits himself against its violence, trains it, harnesses it, calls it if it fails him, denounces it if it tries to be too strong, and in every manner conceivable handles this glorious playmate. (288)

Can we not see young Hilaire Belloc sailing his little “cranky” dinghy off the Sussex coast, and hear him singing, too, his festive sea chanties? Then he becomes more sternly protective of the true art and plenitude of sailing:

As for those who say men did but use the wind as an instrument for crossing the sea, and that sails were mere machines to them, either they have never sailed or they were quite unworthy of sailing. It is not an accident that the tall ships [like the Eagle, the U.S. Coast Guard barque and current training vessel for the cadets] of every age of varying fashions so arrested human sight and seemed so splendid. The whole of man went into their creation, and they expressed him very well; his cunning, and his mastery, and his adventurous heart. For the wind is in nothing more capitally our friend than in this, that it has been, since men were men, their ally in the seeking of the unknown and in their divine thirst for travel which, in its several aspects—pilgrimage, conquest, discovery, and, in general, enlargement—is one prime way whereby man fills himself with being. (288-289—my emphasis added)

Once again, our beloved Belloc takes us back in history, and imagines what it was like in the early Spring for those whom he has often, less affectionately, called “the Scandinavian pirates”:

I love to think of those Norwegian men who set out eagerly before the north-east wind when it came down from their mountains in the month of March like a god of great stature to impel them to the West.4 They pushed their Long Keels out upon the rollers [i.e., rolling logs], grinding the shingle of the beach at the fjord-head. They ran down the calm shallows, they breasted and they met the open sea. Then for days they drove under this master of theirs and high friend [“the wind called Eager”], having the wind for a sort of captain, and looking always out to the sea line to find what they could find. It was the springtime; and men feel the spring upon the sea even more surely than they feel it upon the land. They were men whose eyes, pale with the foam, watched for a landfall, and that unmistakable good sight which the wind brings us to, the cloud that does not change and that comes after the long emptiness of sea days like a vision after the sameness of our common lives. To them the land they discovered was wholly new. (289-290—my emphasis added)

We can feel the empathetic Belloc indentifying with these Nordic sailors, and with their quickening and their enlargement. Then he surprises us with a concluding reflection and an evocation of his own childhood, as he invites us to an enticing and accessible adventure still:

We have no cause to regret the youth of the world, if indeed the world were ever young. When we imagine in our cities that the wind no longer calls us to such things, it is only our reading that blinds us, and the picture of satiety [or comfortable complacency] which our reading breeds is wholly false. Any man today may go out and take his pleasure with the wind upon the high seas. He also will make his [enlarging] landfalls to-day, or in a thousand years; and the sight is always the same, and the appetite for such discoveries is wholly satisfied even though he be only sailing, as I have sailed, over seas that he has known from childhood, and come upon an island far away, mapped and well known, and visited for the hundredth time. (290—my emphasis added).

Once, during a deep theological discussion with Father John A. Hardon, S.J. about “the Analogy of Being” and “Analogical Predication,” he memorably and succinctly suddenly said to me: “The highest function of Nature is to provide Analogies for the Supernatural Mysteries,” so as to lead us to “the Beatific Vision” where “Beatitude” means that “we shall be made happy by God.” Similarly, but now in Josef Pieper’s own earlier-related words, Hilaire Belloc’s vividly presented sense of refreshment and adventure and enlargement will thus help us en route in “learning how to see again.” And perhaps recognizing what we then see, as if for the first time, and yet more deeply.

O how much, even in this brief essay, the great-souled Belloc can teach us, and especially the young. To include those who, like Belloc himself, aspire, sub Gratia, to Spiritual Childhood.

CODA

Near the end of his deeply meditative and very great maritime narrative of adventure, The Cruise of the Nona (1925), Hilaire Belloc will modestly reveal to us even a little more of his heart:

We slept under such benedictions, and in the morning woke to find a little air coming up from the south like a gift, an introduction to the last harbour. We gave the flood [flood tide] full time (for they do not open the gates, and cannot, until high water); then, setting only mainsail and jib, we heaved our anchor up for the last time, and moved at our pleasure majestically between the piers, and turned the loyal and wearied Nona toward the place of her repose. ‘And now good-by to thee, /Thou well-beloved sea,’ as John Phillimore [his friend, a Classics Professor] very excellently translates the Greek of other landed sailors dead.

The sea is the consolation of this our day, as it has been the consolation of the centuries. It is the companion and the receiver of men. It has moods for them to fill the storehouse of the mind, perils for trial, or even for an ending, and calms for the good emblem of death [a “bona mors”]. There, on the sea, is a man nearest to his own making, and in communion with that from which he came, and to which he will return. For the wise men of very long ago have said, and it is true, that out of the salt water all things came. The sea is the matrix of creation, and we have the memory of it in our blood. But far more than this is there in the sea. It presents, uponthe greatest scale we mortals can bear, those not mortal powers which brought us into being. It is not only the symbol or the mirror, but especially is the messenger of the Divine.

There, sailing the sea, we play every part of life: control, direction, effort, fate; and there we can test ourselves and know our state. All that which concerns the sea is profound and final. The sea provides visions, darknesses, revelations. The sea puts ever before us the twin faces of reality: greatness and certitude; greatness stretched almost to the edge of infinity (greatness in extent, greatness in changes not to be numbered), and the certitude of a level remaining forever and standing upon the deeps. The sea has taken me to herself whenever I sought it and has given me relief from men. It has rendered remote the cares and wastes of the land; for [as Homer once also said in The Iliad, and cherished by Belloc] of all the creatures that move and breathe upon the earth, we of mankind are the fullest of sorrow. But the sea shall comfort us, and perpetually show us new things and assure us. It is the common sacrament of this world. [And its consoling, restorative waters, as with the waters of Our Lady of Lourdes, also make Sacramental Baptism in Grace now even more accessible for the receptive and the resolute.] May it [this Sacramental Mystery, a vivid Mysterium] be to others what it has been to me.5

May Hilaire Belloc also be for others—especially for the young—what, for so many years, he has been to me.

–Finis–

© 2013 Robert D. Hickson

© 2021 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, First and Last (London: Methuen & Co. LTD., 1912—the second edition; first published in 1911), pp. 285-290.

2These essays are to be found, respectively, in On Everything (1909) and in Hills and the Sea (1906), “The Missioner” in the former collection, and “The Mowing of a Field” in the latter collection of Belloc’s varied essays.

3G.K. Chesterton, The Common Man (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1950), p. 236—in his essay, entitled “The Outline of Liberty,” pp. 233-237. The ironic “apologetic” sentence immediately following the above quotation is also characteristic of our Chesterton: “That [i.e., that world-view or conviction] is the real outstanding peculiarity, or eccentricity, of the peculiar sect called Roman Catholicism.” (p. 236)

4In his essay, “The Missioner,” Belloc even gives the Norse name for the wind, which was actually called “Eager”! About that gifted Christian missioner to Norway who is also called “the Flute Player,” Belloc wrote: “In this way the oath was done [i.e., the promise to return the Missioner to his Homeland unmolested]. So they took the Flute Player for three days over the sea before the wind called Eager, which is the north-east wind, and blows from the beginning of the open season; they took him at the beginning of his fourth year since his coming among them, and they landed him in a little boat in a seaport of the Franks [and, once again,“in the vineyard lands”], on Roman land [in Normandy]….The Faith went over the world as a very light seed goes upon the wind, and no one knows the drift on which it blew; it came to one place and to another, and to each in a different way. It came, not to many men, but always to one heart, till all men had hold of it.” See the last page of “The Missioner, pp. 261-269, in Hilaire Belloc, On Everything (London: Methuen & Company, 1909), p. 269—my emphasis added.

5Hilaire Belloc, The Cruise of the Nona (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1925), pp. 328-329—the last two pages of the book, which was dedicated to his beloved friend, Maurice Baring—my emphasis added. Belloc also shows again his deep-hearted friendship and “reverential memory” when he composes an additional inscription to his long-time sailing companion, and places it at the very beginning of his adventurous narrative: “To the Memory of Philip Kershaw My Brave and Constant Companion upon the Sea: But Now He Will Sail No More.”

Historic Privatizations of Warfare, Covert Finance, and the Security-Services

Author’s Note, 26 April 2021: This essay of 20 pages was originally written three years after the open invasion of Iraq in March of 2003. Various privatizations of warfare and security-services were already showing themselves, under new conditions of technology and finance. This essay is a sequel to an earlier essay by the author, entitled: “Setting Just Limits to New Forms of Warfare.”

Dr. Robert Hickson

29 October 2006

Festum Christi Regis

The Crescent Phenomenon of the Privatization of Warfare and Security-Services:

New Oligarchic Feudalities, Special-Operations Networks, and Ambiguous Mercenaries in a Time of Borderless Economies and Finance

This essay on the arguably grand-strategic – but unmistakably permeating – privatization of “military and security services” constitutes a short sequel to an earlier strategic essay, entitled “Setting Just Limits to New Methods of Warfare.”1 This aggressive sequel might also be entitled “Setting Just Limits to Old Methods of Warfare under New Conditions of Technology and Mammon.”

It proposes to be especially attentive to the Corporate Governing Class and their “Managerial Elites” (in the discerning wise words of the late James Burnham). Indeed, these new luring conditions of technology and wealth are to be found, as it is herein tenaciously affirmed, conducing especially to the monetary advantage and added perquisites of the Corporate, often Trans-National, Nomenklatura and their mobile, often unaccountable, Managerial Elites. This lure of new advantages and influence (with little accountability) will also likely attract the closer inextricable involvement of the tax-exempt, strategic-cultural Foundations and their own Governing Elites, not only in the United States, but also in other areas of “Mandarin” or “Democratic Centralism.” To what extent, we may well ask, are we witnessing the formation of New Feudalities with their own special Patronage System – and with new possibilities of collaboration between the “Overworld” (or the “Overlords”) and the “Underworld”?

Surprisingly, even a cautious professor from Duke University, Peter Feaver, who now serves on the staff of the National Security Council in Washington D.C., candidly admitted at an October 2004 Conference on “The Privatization of American National Security”:

In fact what we’re seing is a return to neo-feudalism. If you think about how the [British] East India Company played a role in the rise of the British Empire, there are similar parallels to the rise of the American Quasi-Empire.2

This grand-strategic (not just “military-strategic”) matter of the “military-merchant banker” apparatus of the East India Company was not only important historically. It will also likely be very important strategically in the near future, especially in its new embodiments under the current conditions of finance and technology. Scientific and technological elites – also the Managerial and Higher Elites in the financial world – are prepared to help “the Military-Industrial Complex” in new ways, and maybe also for the sake of our seemingly advancing American-Anglo-Israeli Empire, proposing, as well, the advance of a “New Mercantile Order” (in the approving words of Jacques Attali, the French Socialist, in his admiring biography of the “super-capitalist,” Sigmund G. Warburg).

In President Eisenhower’s once-famous Farewell Address (January 1961), he warned his audience of two special and growing dangers: not only what he called “the Military-Industrial Complex,” but also what he designated as “the Scientific and Technological Elite.” Although the former formulation, known also as “the M.I.C.,” became more widely used and better understood in later years (and not just in Left-Wing Circles), President Eisenhower himself never elaborated upon what he really had in mind concerning this more specific danger of the Scientific and Technological Elite. Given the modern propensity for “social (and psychological) engineering,” it certainly included the then-growing fields of Mass-Media Studies, Cybernetics and the Information Sciences; and their applications in human psychology, commercial-political advertisements, semiotics, and finance, to include the growth of encryption systems and the consequent scope they gave for secrecy, deceptive manipulation, and “money-laundering.”

The phenomenon of Mercenaries or Soldiers of Fortune is an immemorial practice to be seen in various cultures down the course of history, whether as individual soldiers “for hire” or as larger “free companies” and even as “secret armies.” Carthaginian mercenaries from Spain and Sardinia, or Greek mercenaries in Persia, for example – and as they were also later used by the conquering Philip of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great – are well known to students of Greco-Roman history.

Mindful of the recent book, America’s Inadvertent Empire (2004),3 we may comparably recall the Carthaginians and their inattentive (and inordinately complacent) resort to mercenary forces:

Meanwhile Carthage grew pre-eminent, and as she grew, manifested to the full the spirit which had made her …. And everywhere they [i.e., these questing Carthaginians under sail] sought eagerly and obtained the two objects of their desire: metals and negotiation. In this quest, in spite of themselves, these merchants, who could see nothing glorious in either the plough or the sword, stumbled upon an empire. Their constitution and their religion are enough to explain the fate which befell it. They were governed, as all such states have been, by the wealthiest of their citizens. It was an oligarchy which its enemies might have thought a mere plutocracy …. To such a people the furious valour of the Roman and Greek disturbance must have seemed a vulgar anarchy …. It was characteristic of the Carthaginians that they depended upon a profound sense of security and that they based it upon a complete command of the sea …. The whole Maghreb, and, later, Spain as well; the islands, notably the Balearics and Sardinia, were for them mere sources of wealth and of those mercenary troops which, in the moment of her fall, betrayed the town …. The army which Hannibal [i.e., “Baal’s Grace”] led recognised the voice of a Carthaginian genius, but it was not Carthaginian …. The policy which directed the whole from the centre in Africa [i.e., from Carthage] was a trading policy. Rome “interfered with business” …. The very Gauls in Hannibal’s army, for all their barbaric anger against Rome, were [justly] suspected by their Carthaginian employers.4

This Mammonite Maritime-Merchant Empire truly paid for its mercenaries – who were contumaciously troublous and finally perfidious, multicultural mercenaries, indeed.

But, we may also recall the famous Swiss mercenaries, at least until the 1513 Battle of Marignano; the Irish “Wild Geese” in seventeenth-century Spain and elsewhere; the English and American “privateers” and Italian “maritime mercenaries” (or “mercenaries of the sea”); the “condottieri” of Italy; the Hessians; the French Foreign Legion; the British use of the Gurkhas from Nepal; various military secret societies of China and Japan (to include the Chinese “Triads” – or “Tongs,” like the 1900-era “Boxers” – and the current Japanese and Korean “Yakusa”); all the way up to Private Military Companies of more recent times, like Executive Outcomes, Sandline International, Blackwater, Triple Canopy, Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), and Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton.5

To quote the summary, introductory words of Michael Lee Lanning’s recent book on the concept and reality of “mercenaries”:

They go by many names – mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, wild geese, hired guns, legionnaires, contract killers, hirelings, condottieri, contractors, and corporate warriors – these men who have fought for money and plunder [or other perquisites] rather than for cause or patriotism. Soldiers of fortune have always played significant roles in warfare, they are present on the battlefields of today, and they certainly will be a part of whatever combat occurs in the future.6

The sophisticated incorporation of mercenaries into what has been called “the Military-Industrial Complex” is – and morally should be for us – a troubling development, especially with their new access to and elusive application of “Special Technical Operations” (“STO”), which often involve the unique and sometimes unrepeatable use of a particular nation’s “Technological Crown Jewels”. However, in the rather cynical, but thoroughly “progressivist,” view of Michael Lee Lanning:

From huge, publicly owned firms to small independent companies [i.e., “military companies”], the corporate world has learned that war is indeed good business, and business is good and getting better.7

Nonetheless, this is a phenomenon which often must be strongly, but yet discerningly, resisted – and not fatalistically or lethargically accepted as irresistible and as already overwhelming and “beyond control.” Moreover, it is often the case that “organized crime is protected crime,” that is, protected by certain political and financial elites.

Furthermore, to what extent does a well-paid “all-voluntary force” itself represent and promote (or at least conduce to) the broader “mercenary phenomenon” of which we speak?

For, the concept of the “all-volunteer” military – which was first re-established in the U.S. during the final years of the Vietnam War, in 1973, and just after the United States had itself ended the military draft – inherently promotes, it would seem, a structure of incentives which often enough suggests an elite “mercenary force” to be used “on call,” in readiness for many rapid “expeditionary missions” or other worldwide “special operations.” Such a volunteer force easily becomes more separated from the common citizenry and their own proper sense of duties and those selflessly sacrificial commitments which are so necessary for the true common defense of the nation: i.e., an integrated strategic “defense-in-depth” of the Homeland – i.e., of the home “base” and of its manifold essential “communications,” to include our “sea lines of communication” and important “undersea cables and nodes.”

Moreover, it is all too easy to employ an all-volunteer force without the deeper moral engagement of the whole nation. Thus, the citizens – given the propensities of our human selfishness – may all to easily say: “Well, they volunteered for these hazardous duties; it’s not really our special concern.” Such an insouciant attitude certainly does not appear to be an adequate, or even a responsibly attentive, orientation to meet the Constitution’s specific requirement: “to provide for the common defense,” and unto the greater common good. Such an indifferent orientation tends towards a fragmentation or segmentation of the larger society, and even into the tripartite “Neo-Gnostic” division (in the “Information Age” words of Michael Vlahos), a division between “the Brain Lords,” “the Upper Servers” (or the new Praetorians), and “the Lost” (or “the Masses”). What, for example, is the concept of citizenship in such an “over-specialized” and “compartmented” society? What is the likely sacrifice for and common participation in the common good, and not just in defense of the Elites or of the elusive “public interest,” which is already vague enough?

Lanning himself makes a pertinent observation in this context of an all-voluntary military, and considers further its long-range implications, especially in the matter of the financial bonuses currently given to both citizens and non-citizens, both men and women, who are now active members of the U.S. Armed Forces and serve “in units rotating in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq”:

It would be unfair to the many brave men and women [who were, already in early 2002, 15% of the overall Army!], both citizen and noncitizen, who accept the [larger military] bonuses [for “volunteering to extend their tours” overseas] to question their patriotism or their commitment to their country. However, it would not be unfair to note that increased pay, citizenship [granted to non-citizens in the military, after a certain period of “service”], and other benefits in exchange for enlistment [or voluntary extensions of duty] are not all that different from the reasons [the motives, the incentives for which] soldiers of fortune have fought since the beginnings of time.”8

The all-volunteer military was itself, it would seem, also an effective psychological and cultural preparation – “a psychological preparation of the battlefield” – for the further strategic and tactical recourse to military privatization and to those commercial and financial incentives which this now more organized, new, corporate phenomenon has so generously and profitably provided! And which seems especially remunerative and risk-free for the corporate elites themselves, and not so much for the short-term, high-paid “young adventurers abroad.”

When most people recall the discussion over the last ten or fifteen years about “privatization” in the military, they probably think of the phenomenon of “outsourcing,” sometimes called “farming out.” This proposed and soon expanding “outsourcing” first meant the “contracting out” to civilian contractors of certain traditional military functions such as “recruiting,” “food preparation,” “clean up,” “personnel services,” and certain kinds of logistical functions of “supply, maintenance, and transport.” It was thought (or euphemistically “propagandized”) to be an enhancement of “cost effectiveness” and “efficiency,” so that the military could purportedly concentrate on its more essential missions of “training, readiness, operations, and combat.”

Initially these new “managerial” proposals seemed plausible and even attractive, though some people, more historically informed and far-sighted, wisely saw that the long-standing and much-tested tradition of a “self-policing military” capable of operating as an independent and self-reliant and coherent entity abroad, especially in “denied areas,” was being subtly undermined. And, from the outset, certain perspicacious questions were raised.

For example, would such civilian contractors, after “releasing a soldier for combat,” also still deploy with the military into combat zones? Would they also easily and willingly go to various remote and dangerous areas overseas, and then persevere, even after combat and in the graver times of instability and uncertainty and insufficiency? And then, what would be their status, according to the laws and conventions of land warfare, especially if they were to be captured? Would the U.S. Military also, for reasons of purported “expedience,” come to hire “foreign nationals” to help their military operations and support missions overseas? Moreover, would our covert (“black” or “gray”) Special Operations Forces, for example, have foreign “food providers” even in their Forward Operating Bases – such as (hypothetically) cooks at a covert base in Qatar? And what about the consequent security problems, to include the matters of both Operational Security and Communications Security? Or would we preferably ship American civilian-contractors to these overseas locations – such as “vehicle mechanics,” “construction engineers,” “mess hall” cooks and stewards, and even female barbers and nurses, especially from our domestic U.S. military bases, who were, as is commonly known, already being sent overseas in 2002 to Uzbekistan and other nearby areas?

However, these discerning questions constitute only a beginning to a fittingly deeper examination; for, these initial concerns were even still somewhat “on the surface,” especially when we consider, in the longer light of history, the special dangers and “lessons that are to be learned” from those earlier “strategic, para-military, merchant-banker joint stock companies,” such as the British East India Company, as well as their Dutch and French counterparts.

For, when we even briefly examine how some earlier Empires all too promiscuously (but quite seductively) resorted to such military-commercial-naval instrumentalities to enhance their wealth and power – namely, their overseas colonization, their access to raw materials (including gold), and their prosperous trade in special commodities, and even their inherently corrupt and nation-destroying criminal involvement in the “drug trade” (as in the corrupting British Opium shipments from India into China, which caused the protracted “Opium Wars,” which the Chinese have never forgotten, nor seemingly forgiven) – we should have great pause, indeed, at our own incipiently analogous developments.

By such an historical-strategic inquiry we may thereby come to understand how and why these earlier and also current “Arcana Imperii” worked (i.e., their more secret doctrines and methods of imperium or exploitative hegemonic rule), so that we may then intelligently and persistently resist them today and all of their metastasizing corruptions and treacheries. The military has always been an instrumental subsidiary of these larger schemes of dominance, and they are still so utilized today, though now under newer forms of “privatization” and aided by some new kinds of special weapons that are rooted in very advanced, new technologies, thereby enabling them to conduct “special technical operations” with great subtlety and secrecy and “plausible deniability” – and even with long-range environmental and genetic effects.

The newer forms of military “privatization” imply much more than just the traditional phenomenon of “soldiers of fortune,” “mercenaries,” or “privateers” with “letters of marque” – something also more pejoratively and bluntly known as “pirates” or “buccaneers”! The scientific and technological elite may now more easily make and sustain “strategic combinations” with the sophisticated corporations of “the Military-Industrial Complex,” in order more deftly to employ “private military companies” over a wide spectrum of overt – and also covert – operations.

By way of further preparation for our deeper grasp of these new “combinations,” some considerations of that earlier military history will first help us better to understand – especially in order to differentiate and then to resist – these troubling developments: not only what is still continuous from these well-established historical origins, but also what is new in the current analogous privatization of warfare and its related “security services.” For, police and military realms are now increasingly intermingled, and there is also a growing “seam” between war and criminality – part of the growth of unlimited irregular warfare, or what the Chinese have called “unrestricted warfare.” It is also part of the competition and strategic initiative “to set the rules” – to set and control the new and operative “conceptual terms and legal rules of engagement” in the wider spectrum of “future forms of warfare.”

The “Emerging American Imperium” seems more and more prone, it would appear, under current conditions of technology and encrypted information, to resort to methods and organizations which were once analogously used by the Emerging British Imperium, such as the British East India Company, especially under the eighteenth-century colonial military leadership of Robert Clive, and as aided by its long-standing, resourceful association with the Bank of England itself (which was founded only in 1694).

Two finely connected sets of insights from General J.F.C. Fuller will, in this important context, help illuminate the current developments in military privatization and its likely formation of new loyalties, new feudalities, and a new ethos and culture: namely a “monetary” and “mercantile ethos” of “the cash connection,” in increasing subordination to the new Lords of Mammon, the New Grand-Strategic Overlords. The public good of a particular historical nation, for example, may come thereby to be subordinated more and more to the service of new Masters of Trade, or to the Global and Quasi-Feudal Lords of High Finance. This new Mercantile Order, which includes the influential continuity of certain well-connected families and financial Dynasties, will themselves likely require more and more military protection, both in defense and for the offense; as well as variously versatile, investigative and secret “security services.”

In the strategic conclusion of his chapter on the Battle of Blenheim (1704) and its momentous consequences, General Fuller says the following, concerning the War of the Spanish Succession, and from his own Military History of the Western World:

It decided the fate of Europe, and as Mr. Churchill writes, “it changed the political axis of the world….” For England, Blenheim was the greatest battle won on foreign soil since Agincourt [1415]. It broke the prestige of the French armies and plunged them into disgrace and ridicule …. and at Utrecht a series of peace treaties was signed on April 11, 1713…. Further, he [Louis XIV] recognized the Protestant succession in England [against the political legitimacy of the Catholic Stuart kings] …. Of all the booty hunters, England obtained what was the lion’s share: … and [hence] from Spain, Gibraltar and Minorca, which guaranteed her naval power in the Western Mediterranean. Further, an advantageous commercial treaty was signed between England and Spain, in which the most profitable clause was the grant to the former [i.e., England] of the sole right to import negro-slaves into Spanish America for 30 years.9

General Fuller, before moving on to even more consequential matters, adds an important footnote about this corrupt network of manifold smuggling, which included the inhuman slave trade:

The Asiento or “Contract” for supplying Spanish America with African slaves, … permitted the slave traders to carry on the smuggling of other goods. “This Asiento contract was one of the most coveted things that England won for herself and pocketed at the Peace of Utrecht.” (Blenheim, G.M. Trevelyan, p. 139)10

Moreover, says General Fuller:

With the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, England was left supreme at sea and in the markets of the world, and as Admiral Mahan says, “not only in fact, but also in her own consciousness [an unmistakably prideful imperial consciousness!].” “This great but noiseless revolution in sea-power,” writes Professor Trevelyan, “was accomplished by the victories of Marlborough’s arms and diplomacy on land [i.e., by John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), victor at Blenheim] … it was because Marlborough regarded the naval war as an integral part of the whole allied effort against Louis [King Louis XIV of France], that English sea power was fixed between 1702 and 1712 on a basis whence [as of 1955] no enemy has since been able to dislodge it.”11

Later, he adds: “Sea power was, therefore, the key to the colonial problem.”12 For example, “in the struggle for trade supremacy in India,” the “command of the sea” was decisive, for, under the geographical and technological conditions of that age, “whoever commanded the sea could in time control the land.”13

Concluding his important strategic analysis, not only of British sea-power’s “noiseless revolution,” but of something of even greater moment, Fuller says:

But the revolution went deeper still; for it was the machinery of the Bank of England [founded on 27 July 1694] and the National Debt [which significantly began only in January 1693] which enabled England to fight wars with gold as well as iron. William’s war [King William of Orange’s War] had lasted for nine years and had cost over £ 30,000,000, and the War of the Spanish Succession [concluded by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht] dragged on for 12 years and cost about £ 50,000,000. Only half this vast sum of £ 80,000,000 was met out of taxation, the remainder was borrowed [from the High Financiers who had leverage over the Bank of England and thus held the Sovereign at risk] and added to the National Debt. Thus a system was devised [sometimes called “Sovereign Risk” and its accompanying “Fractional-Reserve Banking”] whereby the prosperity of the future was underwritten [or mortgaged!] in order to ease the poverty of the present, and war was henceforth founded on unrepayable debt. The banker merchants of London steadily gained in political power [“le pouvoir sur le pouvoir” – Jacques Attali] over the landed interests, and, therefore, increasingly [as is still the case today] into their hands went the destinies of the nation and the Empire, whose frontiers had become the oceans of the seas.14

Naval power and the power of High Finance and the Manipulation of National and Foreign Debt was a very powerful combination indeed! Military and naval leaders allied themselves with “the Banker Merchants” – perhaps also as it is the case today, more and more.

After 1713 – and especially after Clive’s decisive Battle of Plassey in 1757 – Britain expanded the use of its other strategic instrumentalities, such as the earler-founded “private” military-merchant joint-stock company in India, which was also known as the British East India Company.

General Fuller will again help us consider the long-range implications of the East India Company’s quite momentously decisive battle in 1757, the Battle of Plassey, conducted in northeast India on the “shifting banks” of the Bhagirathi River – only some forty-four years after the Treaty of Utrecht:

What did this small battle, little more than a skirmish accomplish [a battle which was led by Robert Clive (1725-1774)]? A world change in a way unparalleled since on October 31, 331 B.C., Alexander the Great overthrew Darius [the Persian] on the field of Arbela. Colonel Malleson, a sober writer, says: “There never was a battle in which the consequences were so vast, so immediate, and so permanent.” And in his Lord Clive he writes: “The work of Clive [who later took his own life in England at only 50 years of age] was, all things considered, as great as that of Alexander.” This is true; for Clive realized that the path of dominion lay open. “It is scarcely hyperbole to say,” he wrote, “that tomorrow the whole Moghul empire is in our power.”15

Recalling what General Fuller has already said about the Bank of England and the manipulation of the National Debt, we may now further appreciate what he says about the growing claims of Mammon and the progress of a Mammonite Colonial Empire:

Yet this victory [at the 1757 Battle of Plassey], on the shifting banks of the Bhagirathi, produced deeper changes still. From the opening of the eighteenth century, the western world had been big with ideas, and the most world-changing was the use of steam as power [also to enhance British sea-power]. Savery, Papin and Newcomen all struggled with the embryo of this monster, which one day was to breathe power over the entire world [which now has also other advanced technologies to deal with]. All that was lacking was gold to fertilize it [like the old alchemist’s dream and delusion of the “maturing of metals”!], and it was Clive who undammed the yellow stream.16

“Howso?”, we may ask.

Quoting the Liberal-Whig historian, Lord Macaulay, General Fuller says:

“As to Clive,” writes Macaulay, “there was no limit to his acquisition but his own moderation. The treasury of Bengal was thrown open to him…. Clive walked between heaps of gold and silver, crowned with rubies and diamonds, and was at liberty to help himself.” India, that great reservoir and sink of precious metals, was thus opened, and from 1757 enormous fortunes were made in the East, to be brought home to England to finance the rising industrial age [and Whig Aristocracy-Oligarchy], and through it to create a new and Titanic world.17

Such was the swollen and swelling “Globalism” or Cosmopolitanism of the Eighteenth Century.

As was the case with earlier plunderers – Alexander, Roman Proconsuls, and Spanish Conquistadores – the candid Fuller then adds:

So now did the English nabobs, merchant princes and adventurers [and their own “Feudalities” of the time] … unthaw the frozen treasure of Hindustan and pour it into England. “It is not too much to say,” writes Brooks Adams, “that the destiny of Europe [sic] hinged upon the conquest of Bengal.” The effect was immediate and miraculous [sic] …. Suddenly all changed [with the rapid development of “machines”] …. “In themselves inventions are passive … waiting for a sufficient store of force to have accumulated to set them working. That store must always take the shape of money, not hoarded, but, in motion.” Further, after 1760, “a complex system of credit sprang up, based on a metallic treasure [which was largely now “pouring” in from India].”18

As another example how a seeming prosperity, as well as a war, was “henceforth founded on unrepayable debt,” General Fuller goes on to say:

So the story lengthens out, profit heaped upon profit. “Possibly since the world began,” writes Brooks Adams, “no investment has ever yielded the profit reaped from the Indian plunder [as the New Reformation English Oligarchy in the Sixteenth Century and afterwards was based on “the Great Pillage” of the Monasteries, and of the Church in general], because for nearly fifty years [until the Early Nineteenth Century] Great Britain stood without competitor.” Thus it came about that out of the field of Plassey [1757] and the victors’ 18 dead there sprouted forth the power of the nineteenth century. Mammon now strode into supremacy to become the unchallenged god of the western world.19

Such was the idol of the increasingly de-Christianized West. Today the apostasy from historic Christianity has gone, unmistakably, even further.

With a portion of bitter cynicism – or at least hard, cold realism – General Fuller concludes with the following words, which should also provoke our further reflectiveness:

Once in the lands of the rising sun western man had sought the Holy Sepulchre. That sun had long set, and now in those spiritually arid regions he found the almighty sovereign. What the Cross had failed to achieve, in a few blood-red years, the trinity of piston, sword, and coin accomplished: the subjection of the East and for a span of nearly 200 years [as of 1955] the economic serfdom of the Oriental world.20

Will such institutions as Halliburton and its own military subsidiary, Kellog, Brown, and Root, also be able to do such things today in Iraq or Afghanistan? And should this be permitted? Ought they be allowed – with their own private military or security forces – to expand their networks into a comparable system of corruption?

To what extent will they have, and maybe even continue to have, “influence without accountability”? And, if not, where are the effective sanctions: clear and enforceable sanctions?

It is now widely known that, down the years, the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States has had its own “contractors,” to include various “front companies” at home and abroad, which are sometimes called “proprietaries” or “asteroids.” Even in their “covert” or “clandestine” activities, however, they had gradually developed a system of regulation and control and accountability. “Black operations” – which deceptively purport to be someone or something other than who or what they truly are – always require even greater supervision and accountability – perhaps, most especially in “black” financial operations! Multiple, insufficiently controlled and disciplined “black” or “false flag” operations can very easily get out of control, and can often be self-sabotaging or mutually destructive.

Standards of moral responsibility and accountability in such matters must therefore remain high, given the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of human nature, and C.I.A. has itself various levels of oversight, to include Congressional Oversight. No one should expect that these forms of moral supervision and control are sufficient, but the culture and traditions of the civilian intelligence community do have ways of honorably “policing” themselves. The self-policing of professionals is one of their distinguishing marks.

However, there is today even less oversight of the “special activities” of the Department of Defense, and, therefore, C.I.A. has been tempted at times to “fold itself under” the more spacious and protecting wings of the Military. And the Military has had its own special temptations to evade certain kinds of accountability concerning the nature and scope of its own “special activities.” But, once again, there is still a traditional military culture of “duty, honor, country” that continues (without romantic sentimentalism) to set just moral limits to warfare.

With the growth of special technologies and “space assets,” however, to include “cyberspace,” and especially so in the undefined and growing “Global War on Terrorism” (“the GWOT”), and in the newly added “War against Tyranny,” the temptation to use “irregular” methods and more “unrestricted warfare” is greater. (And a temptation wouldn’t be a temptation if it weren’t attractive.) Likewise greater is an ingrained inattentiveness and ignorance of consequence – especially the decisive and long-range consequences.

A fortiori is this the case with the even less accountable networks of Private Military Companies, which also create a “command-and-control” nightmare for a uniformed Military Commander in his own assigned Area of Responsibility (AOR), especially in a Combat Zone, where he already has, in addition to “the enemy,” the difficulty of dealing with many dubious Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) – to include groups of Journalists and Lawyers (and other “self-nominating targets”)!

When the United States as a purported and increasingly multicultural nation essentially wants to have – and to sustain – a Global Hegemony and thus a new kind of Imperium, or Quasi-Empire, then these already existing dangers will increase, not only for resistent foreigners, but for U.S. Citizens themselves and their already weakened Constitutional Order. In order to be prudent about the nature and consequences of increasingly incommensurate, cultural waves of non-Western and other kinds of immigration, the United States must not inadvertently – much less deliberately – create a “Surveillance, Counter-Intelligence Police State” in its anxious, sometimes delusive, pursuit of “sufficient security.”

In areas of “ambiguity” – in the “interstices” of law and conflicting jurisdictions – great discipline and self-limitation are required – hence a high standard and an intimate moral culture of honorable accountability. The greater the ambiguity and “gray areas,” the greater the virtue needed!

Such an ethos is against a deceitful “system” of anonymity and impersonality and unaccountability. (And morality is not reducible to legality.)

But, when war and comprehensive “security” are made much more “profitable” and when more and more people develop “vested interests” and “lusts” for such “profits” and for “influence without accountability,” then war and “security services” will become – in the words of Marine General Smedley Butler – even more of a “Racket”! And this must be persistently resisted. Otherwise, there will not just be a growing “seam” between war and criminality; there will grow an increasing “overlap” – indeed, a very ugly “convergence” or “congruence” of war, security, and criminality. And unrestricted war will become unrestricted criminality.

Unable now to deal more extensively, or intensively, with such a large and growing phenomenon of “private military and security services” in this limited essay, I propose, therefore, to conclude with only two further sets of suggestions for our deeper inquiry; and then to consider one revealing example of the manifold missions of one U.S. “private military company,” in the Balkans. This final example is also intended to be a parable, of sorts, for our deeper reflections upon this whole matter of Mercenaries and Finance and the Empire – or Quasi-Empire. These matters must be stripped of all obscuring and deceitful euphemisms and be seen “whole and entire,” as they truly are! No Bullshitsky!

The two suggestions:

1. Look more deeply at the growing “militarization” of both “police forces” and “secret societies,” both at home and abroad – in light of various nations’ own historical practices and cultural traditions of Statecraft and Strategic Intelligence. (China, Great Britain, and Israel are particularly good examples.) Adda Bozeman’s Strategic Intelligence and Statecraft: Selected Essays contains several historical-strategic cultural studies of great worth.21

More specifically, look at NORDEX, the former “KGB Trans-National Corporation” and its current “re-structuring” and evasive mutations and “deployments” in Europe and elsewhere. Look at how the British made strategic use of “Military Masonic Lodges” in their earlier revolution-fomenting penetration of Latin America, especially in and through Brazil (given its strategic location), soon after the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Look at the Triad Operations and the Yakusa Apparatus in the longer light of Oriental Secret Societies, especially military secret societies.

2. Look at various modern examples of “private military companies” or “networks of multicultural mercenaries” – like Executive Outcomes or Sandline International – and whom they serve (e.g. the oligarchs – or “overlords” – of strategic minerals and key strategic resources); and how they are related to and funded by – even indirectly – various foreign governments, financiers, and intelligence agencies, as well as being involved in the widening covert institutionalization of “Special Operations Forces” (SOF), also in Israel. Look at how official SOF organizations, in Britain and the U.S., for example, allow (without penalty) their “active duty” members to serve for some years with contractors or “mercenaries,” and then return to their former official positions in uniform, along with a fund of “wider experience” and “adventure.”

The case of Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) in Bosnia is, as follows – and we must remember that MPRI itself helped to write the two main Army Field Manuals concerning “Contractors” and “Contracting Support on the Battlefield”:

In 1997 [after MPRI “successes” in Croatia and Bosnia] the Army determined that it needed guidance on the conduct and regulation of private military companies and directed its Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) to prepare the regulations. So what did TRADOC do? It hired MPRI to develop and write the regulations, of course. The results, approved by TRADOC and the Department of the Army, produced Field Manual (FM) 100-10-2, Contracting Support on the Battlefield, released in April 1999, and FM 100-121, Contractors on the Battlefield, the following September [1999].22

In the further words of Lanning,

Whereas it was said in the nineteenth century that the sun never set on the British Empire, it may be stated that in the twenty-first, the sun never sets on employers of MPRI [established in 1987, in Alexandria, Virginia]. Today, MPRI contractors [also less politely known as “mercenaries”] can be found in every continent of the world with the exception of Antarctica, and that frozen land may very well be a future source of contracts.23

After training “the Croatian National Army” (starting in September 1994), they moved from being “a moderately successful private military firm into a worldwide influence on modern soldiers of fortune.”24

In May 1996, the government of Bosnia hired MPRI “to reorganize, arm, and train its armed forces” and “the contract differed from that with Croatia in that this one [of 1996] specifically contained provisions for MPRI to provide combat training.”25

Now, we shall see how a “private” U.S.-based Military Company helped establish and fortify an Islamic Republic in the heart of Europe:

MPRI and Bosnian officials agreed to a contract amounting to $50 million for the first year with provisions for annual renewals. Another $100 to $300 million was authorized [by whom?] for the purchase of arms and equipment. Although the U.S. State Department had to approve the MPRI portions of the contract and maintain some oversight of the entire operation, the U.S. government did not finance the program. Instead, the money came from a coalition of moderate [sic] Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Brunei, and Malaysia, which hoped that the improved Bosnian army could protect the country’s Muslim majority from its non-Mulsim neighbors …. To introduce the weapons into the Bosnian Army and to train the force, MPRI sent retired U.S. Army Major General William Boice, recently commander of the U.S. 1st Armored Division, and a team of 163 veteran U.S. military personnel.26

U.S. Government-approved, retired U.S. military-mercenaries help establish a better-armed and better-trained, militarized Islamic Republic in the heart of Europe – a Muslim Republic funded by a Coalition of Muslim Countries from afar. What’s wrong with this picture?

How should the Europeans, not only the Americans, respond to such a strategically subversive travesty: a penetration and permeation not only of the strategic threshold of Europe (like the Maghreb), but a further Islamic penetration of the historical heartland of Christendom?

The answer to this question – and our active response – will have great consequence upon the larger flow of migrations – whether from the Maghreb or from Mexico – and also upon the larger cultural and religious struggles we are unmistakably in!

Moreover, with reference to Private Military Companies and their expanding missions:

During the Gulf War in 1991 there was only one contract employee for every hundred uniformed military personnel supporting the conflict. In Operation Iraqi Freedom [which began in March of 2003], the number of contractors has increased to one per every ten soldiers. By mid-2004 the best estimate on the number of private military companies providing direct combat services [sic] to various governments and causes is more than two hundred. There are a dozen or more PMCs [Private Military Companies] in Africa that filled the vacancy left by Executive Outcomes. Several more are based in western European countries. Many more, and some of the most secretive, are based in Russia and other countries once part of the Soviet Union [as well as in Israel and China?]. The vast majority of the private military companies, however, are in the United Kingdom and the United States.27

In the longer light of history, especially the strategic history of the military-merchant-financier British East India Company – with its oligarchic “banker merchants” and “merchant princes and adventurers” and their exercise of increasing “political power” – we may now better understand the likely effects upon the conduct of war of the modern “Private Military Companies,” as a new institution of Mercenaries with a “global reach” and “special technologies” and other “covert assets.” American private military contractors may have even more “reach” (but at what long-range cost?), if they are permitted to have “sub-contractors” from foreign countries like Israel. For, unlike the United States, the Israelis have at their disposal deep knowledge of numerous foreign languages and cultures, and many “linguistic skills,” as well as “interrogation skills.” But, if Israelis are even suspected of being the interrogators of Iraqi Muslims, as at Abu Ghraib prison, for example, the consequences or “blowback” would be very grave for the United States. We must be very attentive to the “farming out” of such matters. We must not be supine or fatalistic, and thus surrender to the view that “the process is irreversible.”

The conduct of war will be greatly affected by the combination of “Special Operations Forces” (SOF) and “Special Technical Operations” (STO) under a variety of new forms of “privatization” or “non-official cover.” These well-financed and “globalized” Private Military Companies will likely have access to advanced and “breakthrough” technologies, and will be more readily disposed than our conventional forces “to exercise them in innovative ways.”

Given the earlier precedents in England – because of the established institutions of the National Debt and the Bank of England and “a complex system of credit” – “war [has been] henceforth founded on unrepayable debt.” The “destinies of nations” and “the frontiers of Empire” are still gravely affected – especially the destinies of dependent “little nations” – by the strategic manipulation of National Debt and of the Debt Bondage of those economically weaker nations or arguably “failing states.”

The combination of modern “banker merchants” and “military adventurer-hucksters” is “a terrible thing to think upon” (in the cheerful words of François Rabelais).

What will be the ultimate loyalties and guiding ethos of such Private Military-Merchant Companies and their foreign “Sub-Contractors” – whether in Iraq or Indonesia or in the restive Southern Hemisphere of Latin America?

In a time of “borderless economies and finance,” how are these new martial-mercantile Feudalities likely to affect the common good of vulnerable societies, who are especially in need of a well-rooted, humane scale of life – not a restless and roaming uprootedness? Whom will these new Overlords serve, and to what extent will these Trans-National Corporate Elites serve the true common good of the United States and provide for the common defense?

And, as always, how does a humane political order regulate and control “the Money Power” and disallow it from being “le pouvoir sur le pouvoir” (“the power above the power”), i.e., from being only superordinate, instead of always subordinate?

The financial and credit question is additionally complicated today by the reality of electronics (“Virtual Money”) and the reality of drugs. Drugs themselves indeed often constitute, not only a currency, but also an access to liquidity – and hence a source of strategic manipulation and “money-laundering,” especially for covert intelligence and military operations.

The spreading phenomenon of the privatization of warfare and “security services” must be understood – and often, not only strictly regulated, but altogether and persistently resisted – especially in light of the lessons that should be learned from earlier Imperial Histories and Economic Colonizations; and also in light of current strategic realities, to include the seemingly reckless, diplomatic and military conduct of the United States. Its foreign “Nation-Breaking” is much more evident than its foreign “Nation-Building,” and not only in Iraq! As distinct from an “Emerging American Imperium,” we may be witnessing, instead, a Submerging American Imperium now making further, even frantic, use of “Private Military Companies” and their “New Feudalities,” both as an imperial “weapon of weakness” and in an act of provocative desperation. For the United States, now often perceived as a “Rogue Superpower,” does increasingly seem to be out of control.

CODA

The Dangerous Moral Aftermath of Promiscuously Applied Irregular Warfare

Almost forty years ago B.H. Liddell Hart, General J.F.C. Fuller’s British colleague, published a second revised edition of his book, Strategy, wherein he had added an entirely new chapter, entitled “Guerrilla War” (Chapter XXIII).28 He sought to understand “particularly the guerrilla and subversive forms of war” and thereby to enhance our “deterrence of subtle forms of aggression,” or “camouflaged war,” which he also called “forms of aggression by erosion.”29

Alluding to Winston Churchill’s short-sighted and promiscuous promotion of irregular warfare behind enemy lines in War War II, and also to “the material damage that the guerrillas produced directly, and indirectly in the course of [enemy] reprisals,” Liddell Hart speaks of how all of this often-provoked (yet always consequential) suffering became, indeed, “a handicap to recovery after liberation.”30 Then, even more profoundly, he adds:

But the heaviest handicap of all, and the most lasting one, was of a moral kind. The armed resistance movement attracted many “bad hats” [i.e., rogues, knaves, dupes, and criminals]. It gave them license to indulge their vices and work off [i.e., avenge] their grudges under the cloak of patriotism…. Worse still was its wider effect on the younger generation as a whole. It taught them to defy authority and break the rules [in their “black operations” or “unrestricted warfare”] of civic morality in the fight against the occupying forces [whether German, Japanese, or, today, Israeli occupation forces]. This left a disrespect for “law and order” that inevitably continued after the invaders had gone. Violence [to include vandalism and terrorism] takes much deeper root in irregular warfare than it does in regular warfare. In the latter it is counteracted by obedience to constituted authority, whereas the former [more lawless, irregular warfare] makes a virtue of defying authority and violating rules [hence “limits”]. It becomes very difficult to rebuild a country, and a stable state, on a foundation undermined by such experience.31

Even moreso is this the case today when “new feudalisms,” mercenary warfare and strategically-organized “private military companies” are promiscuously set loose to fight an increasingly undefined “global war on terrorism.” For, it unmistakably fosters “the privatization of lawlessness” and soon gets further out of control.

Moreover, these new indirect forms of warfare – and the asymmetrical (irregular) cultural and strategic resistance against them – often have, despite the secular appearances, very deep and very tenacious religious roots, to include Hebraic-Islamic roots.

FINIS

© 2006 Robert Hickson

1Robert Hickson, “Setting Just Limits to New Methods of Warfare” in Neo-Conned! – Just War Principles (Vienna, Virginia: IHS Press – Light in the Darkness Publications, 2005), pp. 331-343 (Chapter 18).

2See the transcript of the 9-10 October Conference at Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont (http://www.wws.princeton.edu/ppns/conferences/reports/privtranscript.pdf); the Conference, entitled “The Privatization of American National Security” was held at the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs. Immediately after his above-quoted words, Feaver said: “A number of folks have expressed the concern that this makes military force [as in the case of the East India Company] too usable a tool [of Empire]. That was precisely the issue raised by the rescinding of the draft [in 1973]” (my emphasis added). Correlative with this “rescinding of the draft” was the creation of the “all-volunteer force” in the United States.

3William E. Odom and Robert Dujarric, America’s Inadvertent Empire (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2004). These thoughtful and manifoldly discerning authors also give much weight to the importance of a Constitutional Order – for them a Liberal Order – which always requires a preceding agreement and what the authors call a “Great Compromise” among the given polity’s component Elites, which would otherwise be able to break with relative impunity the prevailing rules of society.

4Hilaire Belloc, Esto Perpetua: Algerian Studies and Impressions (New York: AMS Press, 1969 – first published in London, in 1906), pp. 25-28, and 36-37 – my emphasis added.

5See Michael Lee Lanning, Mercenaries: Soldiers of Fortune, from Ancient Greece to Today’s Private Military Companies (New York: Ballantine Books, 2005). Lanning’s book is a very useful survey of the phenomenon, despite some important gaps in its treatment, especially with respect to foreign strategic cultures (e.g., Russia, Israel, China, Ancient Persia and the Islamic World). He also has a useful Bibliography, pp. 26-272, and some valuable Appendixes.

6Ibid., p. 1.

7Ibid., p. 214 – my emphasis added.

8Ibid., p. 222 – my emphasis added.

9J.F.C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World – Volume II (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1955), p. 153-154 – my emphasis added.

10Ibid., p. 154 – my emphasis added.

11Ibid., pp. 154-155 – my emphasis added.

12Ibid., p. 217.

13Ibid., p. 218.

14Ibid., p. 155 – my emphasis added.

15Ibid., p. 240 – my emphasis added.

16Ibid. – my emphasis added.

17Ibid., p. 241 – my emphasis added.

18Ibid. – my emphasis added. – Between 1756 and 1815, the National Debt increased from 74.58 Million Pounds to 861 Million Pounds!

19Ibid., p. 242 – my emphasis added.

20Ibid. – my emphasis added.

21(Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, Inc., 1992). See, especially, her essay on “Statecraft and Intelligence in the Non-Western World” (pages 180-212).

22Michael Lee Lanning, Mercenaries, p. 203 – my emphasis added.

23Ibid., p. 198.

24Ibid., pp. 199-200.

25Ibid., p. 200 – my emphasis added.

26Ibid. – my emphasis added.

27Ibid., p. 206 – my emphasis added.

28B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy (New York: Penguin – A Meridian Book, 1967), “Guerrilla War,” pp. 361-370.

29Ibid., pp. 361, 370, 363.

30Ibid., pp. 368-369.

31Ibid., p. 369 – my emphasis added.

Historic Chinese Secret Societies and Some Strategic Implications

Author’s Note: Some twenty-three years ago, the author was asked to write about certain aspects of historic Chinese culture, especially the history of Secret Societies. This study is presented below with the very important footnote no. 1 to be found in the first paragraph about historical culture and Chinese secret societies. The author believes that the current situation with China abroad might convince us of some deeper matters of strategy and policy. The author emphasizes the high value of Dennis Bloodworth’s 1980 revised text The Chinese Looking Glass, first published in 1966 and now alluded to in footnote no. 1.

25 August 1997

Feast of King St. Louis of France

Dr.Robert D. Hickson

Professor of Strategic and Cultural Studies

United States Air Force Academy

Colorado Springs, Colorado

THE CHINESE-TRIAD PHENOMENON IN EUROPE, IN LIGHT OF THE HISTORY AND STRATEGIC CULTURE OF CHINA

Some strategic-minded, highly intelligent and courageous men whom I know in the America Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have told me that they are most gravely troubled by the actual and potential national-security threats presented to the United States by the Chinese Triads (or Tongs). These FBI agents are tough and unsentimental men; deeply honorable and aware of the subversive “solvents” of our culture and our cultural security. And, they know that the Triads are historic and strategic Chinese secret societies, which are also trans-national criminal syndicatesi, and strategic assets of Chinese national power and of international oligarchical power.

These men say that, compared to the Triads, the “Narco-Trafficantes” from Latin America and the Nigerian syndicates from Africa are mere “pifflers” and “poofery.” For, the Chinese Triads are acutely intelligent, very well organized, and, when necessary, unspeakably brutal. Moreover, they are strategic operations with a long and deep history in Chinese culture, and in China’s often troubled relations with other nations and oligarchies, such as the British. The Triads, furthermore, usually speak dialects of Chinese which are unintelligible to those who know only Mandarin, and this sober fact constitutes an additional difficulty. For, how many people in Europe or in the US, even in the intelligence or crime-prevention organizations, understand the Chao Chou, Fukien, Hakka, Hokkien, or Cantonese dialects used by many of the overseas Chinese and their Triad networks? I think that the Chinese themselves already know about the linguistic incapacities of the Americans, although I am probably not allowed to tell you the statistics I reliably know.

Therefore, in light of the recent, new public status of Hong Kong, with its whole Triad apparatus, another important question arises. To what extent have the Triads themselves been strategic assets of Chinese power, both of Chinese Communists and of the old Kuomintang and current Taiwanese, especially as long-range assets of Chinese strategic intelligence and strategic intelligence operations? Given the larger cultural and strategic phenomenon of the Chinese Triads–to include their ideology and occult organization–what should Europeans themselves essentially know and eventually do about the Chinese Triads?

In Chinese culture, if one is not tied to various supportive kin groups, the secret society has always been a special way of mobility, affiliation, prosperity, and security, especially overseas. Chinese secret societies overseas are not unlike a “trans-national corporation” or a Chinese Freemasonry (Freimaurertum). The KGB (whatever “label” it now displays) still has its own trans-national corporations, like NORDEX, which is unmistakably connected to criminal syndicates and mafias, not only in the Baltics, but elsewhere. It would be very illuminating for you also to consider the Triads as a kind of Chinese “NORDEX,” and as a form of Chinese “Special Operations Forces” (SOF), both of which are strategic assets.

Look especially at the Chinese activity now in Austria, to include the use of Chinese restaurants, even in the remotest villages of Austria, perhaps (and at least) for “money-laundering.” They are all over the place, and never filled or crowded. And, yet, they seem to flourish. Is this only a trivial fact?

Likewise, there are indications that the Chinese Triad apparatus has more than accidental contact with the expanding and diversifying NORDEX apparatus in Western Europe, increasingly now in Switzerland, as well as in the Low Countries. It is also to be considered that, increasingly so, national intelligence agencies themselves use “non official” covers of variously euphemistic sorts. How should we look at NORDEX, as well as the Triads? Where does the head of NORDEX, Gregori Luchansky, now reside, and to what extent does he know Markus Wolf, even now, and very intimately? Might not some appropriate agencies fruitfully pursue this line of inquiry, as well as the contacts of George Soros with NORDEX, and in Asia?

But, the Chinese Triads are perhaps the biggest test–on many fronts–just as the strategic culture of China may be the biggest test of the West and of Western democratic culture: not just what we are finally against, but what are we finally for. What do we finally affirm, to live by and to live for? Is it only or predominately for the spread of “democratic capitalism” and its “spirit”? China and the Chinese Triads, by contrast, will be seen to provide an even greater challenge to the older non-materialistic traditions of the West, if we now, perhaps dangerously, consider the extent to which certain Western Oligarchies–or the cosmopolitan mafias–make use of (or are used by) the Triads and their higher strategic leadership or manipulators. To what extent is there a mutual duplicity and complicity with “criminal capitalism”?

When a man I know, who speaks with a “Bronx” New York City accent, recently saw how the Triads were not only moving into Brooklyn, next to where the old KGB apparatus used to reside more exclusively and predominately, but also meeting with the Cali and Medellin and FARC cartels in the offshore Caribbean islands, as well as in Cuba, he said: “Who are deese guys?” Who are “these guys” and “the host of squalid oligarchs” with whom they collaborate, also in Europe? An important strategic question, no?

Therefore, to the extent that we, and our strategic intelligence agencies, can take the true measure of the generic (and specific) Chinese Triads (San-Tien Hui) as “versatile and deftly strategic, deeply historical secret societies that have strategic ‘interior lines’ on the ‘inner front’ of many ‘host nations’,” we shall better come to discern their actual or potential national-security (or cultural-security) threat, and threat of strategic subversion. Every word counts in that long sentence which I have just made. Moreover, by more deeply understanding the Triads, we would then especially come to grasp how and why “organized crime is protected crime.” That is to say, protected by political and financial oligarchies, especially the imperial “cosmopolitan mafias,” and not just recently. Remember the sordid and murky Opium Wars in 19th century China, and consider the strategic “re-export” of those drug wars to the West, especially after the 1949 Communist takeover in China. Mao Tse-Tung was himself associated with the Triads and their traditions of revolt against the “usurping barbarians”; and he cherished Shih Nai-An’s 17th century Ming dynasty, Chinese novel about honorable Sung dynasty bandits, Men of the Marshes (Shui Hu Chuan), “a stronghold village surrounded by a lake of reeds and called Liang Shan Po.”

Indeed, there has often been “a murky alliance” (as Marshall Pétain, among many others, once called it) between financial oligarchies (usually unaccountable to any electorate of “democracy”) and revolutionary movements themselves (to include their own “occult organizations of Revolution” with strategically subversive, and highly useful Secret Societies). The illuminating phrase, “the occult organization of Revolution,” comes from the words of James Billington in his brilliant 1980 book of analysis, Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith. (Fideism, however, instead of Faith, may have been a more fitting word in his subtitle, especially because he emphasizes, against the conventional “rationalist” interpretation of Revolution, the irrational and hermetic and feverish mentation of resentful and destructive revolutionaries).

Although the Chinese Triads (The Heaven and Earth Society) may have even had their proximate historical origins in the 17th century White Lotus Society, which was itself militantly determined to restore the Ming Dynasty after its 1644 AD conquest by the usurping Manchu barbarians out of the north (similar to the earlier Jurchen and Mongol invasions and conquests of the Han Chinese by Kublai Khan), it was only after the British-instigated Opium Wars in the 19th century (starting in 1839-1842) that the Triads became more prominent and powerful, especially in South and South-Central China. Often working with the British oligarchs, especially in and through Hong Kong and other port cities, the Triads could more efficiently help target the somewhat decadent Mandarin elite that was seen as supporting the rule of the hated Manchu (Ch’ing) Dynasty, which fell finally in 1912. One of their long-standing rally cries was: “Overthrow the Ch’ing! Restore the Ming!”

This initially patriotic, nationalist secret society, and the later, variously “diversifying,” rival Triads, became deeply involved in the prominent opium trade and other criminal activities, to include the smuggling of labor and prostitutes overseas.

With respect to the Triads, their organized crime was often protected crime, protected especially by the British and others interested in the drug trade, to include the Japanese Yakusa themselves (after the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, which humiliated the Chinese further, after their military loss to Japan in the Sino-Japanese War, as when later the German colonies in China were given to the Japanese after the Treaty of Versailles!). If such organized crime were not protected, it would not be so sustainably “organized.” Do we agree?

Therefore, with this brief history and the long and vivid memories of the Chinese, what might the Triads be doing now in Europe, with even further protection after the reversion of Hong Kong to the Communist Leninists? (And we must not forget, as in the case of the Shanghai Green Gang, the historic Triad involvement in, and with, Formosa and the Kuomintang, and their current analogous activities in Taiwan and Southeast Asia!)

To what extent do the Chinese still want to export the Opium War back to the West, with all of its attendant corruptions and specious profits? According to several independent sources, including the secret papers of Gamal Abdel Nasser himself, Chou En-lai in the early 1950s, even before the Bandung Conference of 1955, spoke of the strategic plan to weaken and deeply demoralize the West by means of expanded drug trade. In 1974, Gerd Hamburger, an Austrian, wrote a book on this topic, which includes a discussion of the Triads. The book was entitled Die Peking-Bombe: Chinas geheime Superwaffe (The Peking Bomb: China’s Secret Superweapon) (Stuttgart, Germany: Seewald Verlag). The US troops in Vietnam later were also especially to be targeted with the drugs. We should return to this matter, but we shall first need more and very-difficult-to-gather knowledge and even more difficult, real courage–Mut zur Ethik and Mut “to come out from under the rubble” of disinformation and strategic distractions.

Vladimir Bukovsky has written a recent, trenchant book, Abrechnung mit Moskau, as yet unpublished in English, because (says the author himself) of its unflinching and uncomfortable truthfulness–and truth. It is especially uncomfortable to Western elites–or oligarchies–who themselves do not want to see the whole truth about the long-standing, continuous collusion between Western political and financial oligarchies and the “democratic centralist” elites of Communism (or Revolutionary Socialism).

In the inspiring manner of Vladimir Bukovsky’s long-standing courageous ethos, we also need–do we not?–an Abrechnung mit Peking, to include and ongoing reckoning with the human cost of Communism in China: hence, with its own still-standing Gulag System (The “Lao Gai” System) and its own strategic collaboration with Western financial oligarchies (British and others); and its use of the Chinese Triads as multi-faceted strategic assets–in drug-trafficking, money-laundering, blackmail and intimidation, and various intelligence operations. To what extent are the Triads strategic assets of Chinese power and mediating structures to Western oligarchies, as well as close-bonded secret societies with a long-history in Chinese culture? The question deserves repetition, with nuanced incremental variations, until we awaken to its sobering implications.

Before looking at the Triads and some of their current implications for Europe, in the longer light of history and of China’s profoundly sophisticated (and often deceptive) strategic culture, let us re-consider, for a moment, the courageous ethos of Bukovsky, and especially the Mut zur Ethik of a fellow Russian who is also a man of truth and who has also learned, like the Greek tragedian Æschylus, the importance of truth by suffering (pathé mathos): Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. Bukovsky, even earlier in his 1978 book, as well as in others later, has stressed the “overwhelming force” of courageous resistance to falsehood. And as, Arnaud de Lassus has said: “What is true for falsehood in general is equally true for the particular form called ‘disinformation’”–as Vladimir Volkoff has also analyzed it in his 1986 book in French, called Disinformation: A Weapon of War (La désinformation, arme de guerre); and as R. Mucchielli had analyzed it also in his book ten years earlier, called Subversion (1976)–a profound study, which will also illuminate our current understanding of Triad operations.

But, two years before Mucchielli’s own book on the strategic and subtle power of subversion, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn himself wrote his “Open Letter to the Rulers of the Soviet Union” (Moscow, 12 February 1974), about an analogously subversive power, but, this time, against evil; namely the subversive power of the “rejection of the lie.” Solzhenitsyn said:

And that refusal [of the lie] makes a breach in the imaginary circle of our inaction…. For when men turn their backs on the lie, the lie ceases to exist, purely and simply. Such a contagious disease can only exist when men co-operate with it [and are in complicity with it]. Our way must be a refusal knowingly to give support to the lie in any way whatsoever. And it is there precisely…that the key to our liberation is to be found: the refusal to participate personally in the lie! What does it matter if the lie overshadows everything, if it becomes master of everything; on one point at least let us reject all compromises; may it [the lie] not owe its victory to any help of mine!

Desiring to give a true memory to his people, Solzhenitsyn urged them–and implicitly also us–not to live the lie; and to take, if necessary, but one step at a time and “come out from under the rubble,” but not to participate in the lie and hence in our own self-deception and consequent inner self-destruction. These are fortifying words, especially for those who are wounded, or full of fear, and cannot yet face or live the fuller truth. Let us, at least, not live the lie–or imbibe the pervasive disinformation–which, for example, denies (or deflects us from) the long-standing collaboration of various national and cosmopolitan oligarchies with “organized crime” and its many resources and “controlled” (or blackmailed) assets. Despite disinformation to the contrary, the “financial capitalists” are not so stupidly greedy as to “sell or give them the rope to hang themselves.” These oligarchs have long calculated their profitable, publicly unaccountable, and power-enhancing complicities with brutal and bloody revolutionaries, as in South Africa today, and as was certainly the case with the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1991 continuously. Arnaud de Lassus makes an important and deeper point in his own 1990 Study of Disinformation, which analogously applies, I think, to the Triad Secret societies today, in Europe and elsewhere.

May I interest you in this matter, and in this eminently testable hypothesis?

What did Arnaud de Lassus lucidly and courageously say, already in 1990, that may still be of value to us, especially as an illuminating criterion of judgment? Quoting the then-recent book by his fellow Frenchman, Jacques Attali, on Sir Siegmund G. Warburg (1902-1982): A Man of Influence (1985), de Lassus says:

Speaking of the influence wielded over men in power by financiers, Attali shows that this can extend to the point of being a ‘power over power’ (p. 13–Payard edition, Paris 1985). We are thus presented with the setting up on a global scale of a ‘Mercantile Order,’ founded by an ‘austere order’ of financiers discreetly exercising their ‘power over the holders of power’ (p. 3).

(See Attali’s book, especially pages 4, 14, 15, and 86, concerning the political role of financiers, especially over the mass media of communications, understood as an “uncontrolled fief”–uncontrolled at least by the State, who must often still finance the State radio and television service in France even when it opposes and subverts State policies.)

In the light of Jacques Attali’s very well-informed and admiring book, says de Lassus,

It would be possible to draw up an organizational chart for French society, showing: (a) at the top, ‘power over power’ of the financial dynasties [hence, the dynastically intermarried families] (and, it may well be, of other hidden forces operating just as discreetly as those); and (b) lower down, the powers of the political establishment and those of the media. [It is, moreover, of great confirmatory (or corroborative) values to note], says de Lassus, that Attali’s 1985 book tells the life of one of the greatest Jewish financiers of our time (he lived from 1902 to 1982), together with the history of his family, and amounts to a vindication of a Jewish super-capitalist by a Jewish socialist.

Furthermore, in Figaro Magazine (13 January 1990), Louis Pawels gives the following summary of Jacques Attali’s “vision of the world that is about to be born,” as expressed in Attali’s 1990 book, Lignes d’horizon (Lines on the Horizon):

Since de-colonization we have seen the end of the great Western empires. We are now witnessing the death through exhaustion of the Soviet empire. We are at the same time witnessing the triumph of democratic capitalism [and its new oligarchic forms of “criminal capitalism” and “democratic centralism”?] Its advantages are obvious; its attractiveness worldwide cannot be denied. What we are seeing is the establishment of a Mercantile Order on a global scale.

How do the Chinese Triads and the Chinese financial oligarchies–to include the Bank of China–and their dynastic families in China and overseas fit into this vision, if at all? To what extent do they constitute a “power over the power of the Chinese State,” as well? And how might they help the formation of a new strategic and cultural Chinese imperium, with the help of trans-national Western elites and other globalists or “cosmopolitan mafias” (to include “trans-national criminal syndicates” who use and despise the nation-state)?

What deals were made between the old rulers of Hong Kong–British, Chinese, and others–and the new political regime? Since drugs are a kind of financial currency, and provide, as it were, an easy access to “liquidity,” under tight (or uncertain) conditions of credit, who is still protecting and using the Triad network, even as they also traffic in the removal and destructive dumping of toxic wastes from nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and also perform economic and financial espionage?

In this context, consider the long-standing and pervasive disinformation over the mutually profitable relations between certain financial oligarchies and the Communists. The massive support of the 1917 Soviet Regime in Russia by American and European financial oligarchies is now, for rational thinkers, an uncontested historic fact, but still dangerous to talk about in detail. These same oligarchies sustained that support continuously from 1917 to 1991, supplying the Soviet regime, says de Lassus:

With practically limitless credit, Western technology, ready-to-use factories, wheat and raw materials. Hence, the “military-industrial complex” of the USSR may be seen as a Western creation.

There has been much disinformation about the facts and about the explanation of the facts–and about the explanation of explanations. What is the analogous situation, now, as well as historically, in relation to Communist China (Leninist, Maoist, Gramscian, or Machiavellian)?

Now, with respect to the rising power of China, what will be the relation of these same oligarchies with the “modernizing” Chinese Communists and their overseas assets, especially the Triads?

Given that Swiss political and financial oligarchies are now under pressure from more cosmopolitan or “Maastrichtean” oligarchies, what will be the pressure on the Swiss to “compromise” or to partake of a larger “duplicity” or “complicity”? How will the Chinese assets themselves exploit this vulnerable situation, given their subtle strategic sense of timeliness and timelessness? How might the Chinese play this in an effort to divide further Europe from America, and thereby certainly to weaken the American presence in the Pacific or on the Pacific Rim? Will the “Euro” be pushed as a necessary and desirable rival currency to the US dollar, as an international reserve currency? Will the Chinese Triads–like NORDEX–be used as fronts for many strategic policies and strategic intelligence operations? I believe this to be the case even now, but it will grow in pervasiveness and importance, in my judgment.

Our intelligence and internal-security communities should become deeply attentive to the Triad phenomenon in the longer light of Chinese history and strategic culture, and should follow the specific Triads closely. But, this will indispensably require knowledge of Chinese (and its key dialects) as an important strategic language. And, it will likewise require a greatly enhanced capacity “to read the culture”: to read the highly sophisticated and subtle Chinese culture, to include the culture of their historic and strategic secret societies, like the Triads. Building this capacity itself constitutes an easily intimidating strategic challenge, let alone where the lines of enquiry more deeply lead. And what will thereby be demanded of us for the protection and sustenance of a rooted, just, and civilized democratic order? For, if such a democratic order is not to be a deception, it must be attentive and dedicated to enhancing the common good (bonum commune), not to enhance the leverage and unaccountable privileges and immunities of selfish oligarchies.

How might all of this be deeply illuminated if we follow up on this concluding question: “To what extent are the Chinese Triads a form of Chinese Special Operations Forces (SOF), which are always elite strategic assets of national power and, maybe also, of international oligarchical power?”

We shall learn many things of strategic importance, if we more attentively and knowingly track the Chinese presence in Europe (hence the Triads’ “SOF” networks), in clarifying contradistinction to the Japanese presence (along with their own Yakusa networks) in Europe, as well as their strategic presence in Peru and Brazil and other parts of Latin America, the Southern strategic front of the United States. The Chinese are also strategically situated in Canada, especially on the northern front in Vancouver, in British Columbia. They are also, of course, on the strategic inner front of the United States and maybe also Europe. Are we now, after these many considerations, in a better position or to discern the nature and implications and “strategic interior lines” of the Triads in the West, and to develop a strategic intelligence agenda and an effective counter-strategy? Or, as James Burnham said in his 1964 book, Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism, will our increasingly deracinated “liberal democracies” “hand over the weapons to its own assassins”? Will our courage and informing faith derive from “the spirit of democratic capitalism” or be able to resist “the spirit of criminal capitalism”? Let us rather form and lead a new and higher chivalry, propter parvulos ad Christum trahendos.

Footnote:

1) Secret societies are very important in Chinese Culture, and with a long history, but scholars have long tended to ignore them. In his 1980 revised and expanded edition of his The Chinese Looking Glass (1966-1st edition), Dennis Bloodworth has some excellent chapters on the history and importance of secret societies in China: from the philosopher Mo Tze (5th century BC); to the “Red Headbands” of the proto-Triad “Red Eyebrows” (30AD); to the 7th century AD “Yellow Turbans”; to the 17th century “White Lotus Society” in North China and the “Hung Society” (Hung Men) in South, West, and Central China, and more. The Triad–implying a restored threefold harmony between Heaven, Earth, and Man–this “Heaven and Earth Society (T’ien- Ti Hui) or “Triple Harmony Society” (San-Tien Hui) has a rich and often obscure history as the “Triad Society” (San-Tien Hui) or, in the USA, the “Chih Kung Tong” (Society to Bring About Justice). Bloodworth says, for example: “Esoteric history that no one dared to put in writing at the time has it that the Triad was founded in the seventeenth century by an abbot of Shao-Lin [Buddhist] monastery [in Fukien Province] who had raised an invincible company of 128 warrior-monks [cf. The Western Templars]… and the [Manchu] Emperor agreed that the monastery should be set on fire and blown up. This was achieved with the help of an unfrocked traitor who was number seven in the Shao-Lin hierarchy, so that even today these secret-society gangsters never use this number in their ritual.” (Bloodworth, The Chinese Looking Glass, p. 146). Bloodworth and others have eloquently described how these historic societies of Triads “secretly organized for Revolution.” The Triads were also involved in the 19th century Taiping Rebellion, as well as in the earlier uprising of 1774. They supported this 1911 revolution under Sun Yat Sen, combated Yuan Shih-K’ai in the 1915 attempt to become a new emperor (after the Manchus fell in 1912), and the Triads fought the Japanese (especially from 1937-1945). Other famous secret societies had such names as: “the Double Sword Society,” “the Dagger Society,” “the Clear Winter Society,” “the Elders Society” (Ko-Lao Hui)–and “the Harmonious Fists Society” (the famous “Boxers” of the North China Rebellion of 1899-1900).

Finis

© 1997 Robert Hickson

i

Young Hilaire Belloc’s 1906 Open Letter on the Decay of Faith: His Polite Reply to Some Eloquent Discouragements

Dr. Robert Hickson

5 April 2021

Saint Vincent Ferrer, O.P. (d. 1419)

Blessed Juliana of Mount Cornillon (d. 1258)

Epigraphs

“The enormous evils from which we are suffering, the degradation of our fellow-citizens, the accursed domination of our plutocracy is in the act of [a complacent? or temporarily acquiescent?] settlement. But after that? Will there not remain the chief problem of the human soul? Shall we not still smell what Chesterton so admirably calls ‘the unmistakable smell of the pit,’ shall we not still need salvation with a greater need than the need for water upon a parched day? And will there not remain among us—since we are a civilized people, possessed of printing and careful of our monuments—the record of the faith? Will it not be there to return to?” (Hilaire Belloc, M.P., Open Letter on the Decay of Faith, page 13—my emphasis added)

***

“You [dear C. F. G. Masterman, a fellow M.P.] are acquainted as I am with the Gospels; you have perhaps wondered, as I have, at their astounding power of diction; there is not a book in the world that loses so little by translation.” (Hilaire Belloc, M.P., Open Letter on the Decay of Faith, page 13—my emphasis added)

***

Do not, I beg of you [dear Masterman], be oppressed by forces already dissolved. You have mistaken the hour of the night. It is already morning.” (Hilaire Belloc, M.P., An Open Letter on the Alleged Decay of Faith (March 29, 1906), page 14—my emphasis added)

***

In 1906 when Hilaire Belloc was still thirty-five years of age, he became a British Member of Parliament for almost five years. Early in his membership he wrote his Open Letter on the Decay of Faith (14 pages) which was at first addressed specifically to C.F.G. Masterman, M.P., on 29 March 1906, but it was soon also reprinted and opened to a broader audience, being then published as a compact pamphlet.1 This reprinted pamphlet also has a variant title, by its inserting the word “Alleged”: “An Open Letter on the Alleged Decay of Faith.” In either case, both titles will get us thinking—especially today over a hundred years later, and given the cumulative history of Europe and now also of the alleged United States of America.

Hilaire Belloc begins his Letter with fitting politeness and capturing benevolent simplicity:

My dear Masterman, I have just been reading some words of yours in the Speaker. They have set me thinking. And I am sorry to say they have set me writing, too. I could not but write, and when I had written I desired to make what I had written public. It is on this account that you may see, if you do see, the sentences which I print here. (3)

Belloc then goes straight to the presentation of an articulate perception of Masterman’s candid (but discouraging) claim about the abiding decay of the Christian faith. Moreover, in his initial reply, Belloc also adds some memorable vividness when he evocatively alludes to the Mediaeval Old French Epic, The Song of Roland, which depicts the strategic retreat of Charlemagne’s army from the Pyrenees Mountains of northern Spain and the treacherously effected and tragic loss of the rearguard and loyal knight, Roland:

You say there [in the 1906 issue of Speaker] that (as you conceive it) the Christian religion is in peril: nay, that the immemorial battle is now decided; that the quiet enemy has conquered and that no army will return to oust him; that we shall not hear again the horn of Roland.

Your words are clear. You speak of “the passing of a whole civilization from a Faith in which it was founded.” You speak again of “a Faith that is slipping from the horizon of mankind.” Let me detain you upon these things. (3-4—my emphasis added)

Belloc then presents a series of searching questions to Mr. Masterman, to include his use of certain metaphors or analogies:

Do you, then, really believe that this movement [of de-Christianization] of which you speak is a tide? Do you, then, really think that the things of the mind are subject to such easy, such rhythmical and such servile laws as are the things of the world around us? And do you believe that the Faith is ebbing away? (4—my emphasis added)

After some personal notes about the poetry of Matthew Arnold (“Dover Beach”) and some adventures of his maritime life in 1895 or so, Belloc returns to his earlier set of larger questions and earnestly says:

Well, then, I want to examine this question for myself. I feel, with an extraordinary vividness, the power of what you [Masterman] say: as who does not who has known or even visited this evil modern world [as of 1906]? You are right; all around us there is a sort of air, as though the fundamentals of the mind were changing, and as if the Faith, from a postulate [presupposition, axiom], were tending to be an opinion, and were in danger of becoming from an opinion a fad, from a fad to a memory. I will not deny that what you wrote struck me with a shock of recognition, and that I was disturbed by the recollection of certain mortal phrases….which are the luxury and perhaps the price of our entry into manhood. (5—my emphasis added)

After Belloc’s own honest and humble recall of some “just and rational negations which boys indulge in” (5) and “which you [Masterman] revived in me” by your “careful and significant sentences,” he especially remembers “youth’s divine hope and divine cousinship with the hills and with the morning.” (6) And he poignantly adds:

I do not mean that your mournfulness or your dread revived in me the simple and childlike denials which meant in our generation no more than this—that youth was doing what youth always does, that is, taking gaily the tragic human spirit of its time. No, your prose did much more in me that this. It re-awoke those visions of nothingness which I have suffered in the last five years, even in my own shrines [as a Roman Catholic], and which must undoubtedly haunt the soul of every man to-day who has known other things.

Well, in spite of those visions, and in spite of their poignancy, which you have recalled, I propose to examine the matter with you. (6—my emphasis added)

Belloc then begins to consider some historical analogies and their limits—as well as their capacities to mislead a later scholar inattentive to proper proportion:

As it seems to me…we exaggerate the analogy of history. Our historical knowledge is a small thing, though our tradition is a great one….since little is known by scholars… of the Dark Ages, since the Middle Ages were but a short and unfruitful [sic] dream… since the last four [post-Mediaeval] centuries have crescendoed up to an anarchy and to a tumult, all men of culture necessarily refer to the example of Rome. And surely there must have been in your mind…that parallel of the old Paganism dying, of the deserted temples, of the whining priests of Apollo,…and assaulting its own fables; of the oracles growing dumb—no prophesies, no miracles; of the sophists in the second and third centuries (who so exactly correspond to our famous Germans of to-day—the Hegels and the rest…!)…as Rome had passed through all the stages of decay; its free citizens fallen to be a proletariat; its rich men governing the world; its vices blatant; seeing these things, perhaps you thought that our religion also, the Faith, that is, was bound to fail and to go the determined course as does every limited and human thing. Now I desire to recall to you that the Faith is not of this world. (6-8—my emphasis added)

He speaks then of a certain “mood of the mind” (8)—“it is a good mood and a true [mood], it is that in which the mind [of Faith?] most nearly apprehends the ultimate realities….one can perceive at one glance Matter and Will. In such a mood no man despairs of the Faith.” (8—my emphasis added)

In this context, Belloc introduces the exemplary and heroic case of the Irish (at home and in the diasporas) under the historical conditions of protracted adversity—as of 1906, but in sharp contrast to the all-too-apostate Ireland of today, in 2021, with its growing and alluring (but often specious) prosperity.

After considering the larger case of Ireland and the Faith, Belloc anonymously mentions the current Pope (Pius X), who was still in office in 1906 (having ruled since August of 1903, and then he did continue until August of 1914):

It is said that the Pope keeps laid open before him upon a desk perpetually a page from the writings of De Maistre [Joseph de Maistre, 1753-1821]. They say he keeps this page for a short and repeated daily reading. Here is the passage.

The temples are empty or profaned; the altars are deserted. Mere reason, that powerful governor, not to be despised, which is not only the weapon of the intelligence, but is also our human power of integration, our judgement, and almost our sanity—mere reason has every temporal chance in its favour, that it will sweep the field; and if it wins it will make a carpenter’s bench of the Cross, and Jesus Christ will be partially forgotten and wholly lost, as are mere literary figures. But what if the Faith should rise and lift this Antean thing [such as the weight of mere reason], this human judgement from the earth, the common soil which is its only strength? What if the Faith, like Hercules, should lift humanity up in one of those spasmodic wrestling strains which its own history proves native to it, and should so keep it on the plane of this, that [what if] at last the Faith, and not reason, should conquer? For the Faith is a demigod. Patuit Deus[God has so revealed it].(10-11—my emphasis added)

After this first and likely true story, Belloc, in his own words, has a second and certainly true story about his own experience in the mountains of Spain:

And here is the the second story: Once in the Pyrenees I sat wakeful at night beside a companion who slept. The night was absolutely still; we were on the summits, and its was extremely cold. The pine trees were so motionless that they might have been trees of metal carved in bronze. The fire was dying, and I sat crouched close beside it with my blanket round my knees, believing that some ultimate silence had come upon the hills and me. Then there arose a little wind: the branches barely moved, but that movement was more different from the silence than I had thought one thing could be from another; the wind rose and grew with an awful rapidity; the tall trunks shook before I had heard the moaning grow strong; the sky awoke, clouds drove across the stars, and in the midst of all this noise it dawned. It is in this way that the vast changes come upon the unbounded and incalculable empyrean of the [alert and receptive] human mind. (11-12—my emphasis added)

Having prepared the way, Belloc now bears witness to the reality and uniqueness of Europe, at least as it was once, but may soon no longer be the case, Deo Volente, not even as a missionary initiative of the loyal Catholic Faith:

I desire you [Masterman] to remember that we are Europe; we are a great people. The faith is not an accident among us, nor an imposition, nor a garment: it is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh: it is a philosophy made by, and making, ourselves. We have adorned, explained, enlarged it; we have given it visible form. This is the service we Europeans have done to God. He has made us Christians. [And we adorn what we love!]….Will you [Masterman et al.] not believe that this modern phase of ours [and, perhaps, our disordered modern civilization?] is passing? I do. (12—my emphasis added)

Such are Belloc’s affirmations and encouragements, sub Gratia Divina, in the Catholic Faith.

As a Franciscan Scholar once deftly said to me: “The truth about trouble is a twofold truth. It is as Christ Himself effectively told us, as well. In the world you will have trouble, He said, but I have overcome the World.”

As magnanimous Hilaire Belloc finally said to Masterman—likely recalling not only the tragic Roland and his Horn, but especially the later Dawn in the Pyrenees that surprised and stirred our Hilary so—and we may fittingly apply it still today: “Do not, I beg of you, be oppressed by forces already dissolved. You have mistaken the hour of the night. It is already morning. H. Belloc.” (14—my emphasis added)

–FINIS–

© 2021 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, M.P., An Open Letter on the Decay of Faith (London: Burns & Oates, LTD.,1906), 14 pages. It contains this note at the outset: “This Letter is reprinted with the Author’s permission from the Tribune of March 29, 1906.” Further references to the fourteen-page Letter and Pamphlet will be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this short essay.

A 1903 French Novel’s Unexpected Insights Concerning the Sorrows of Mary

Dr. Robert Hickson

25 March 2021

Feast of the Annunciation: the Incarnation

A 1903 French Novel’s Unexpected Insights Concerning the Sorrows of Mary: J.K. Huysmans’ The Oblate of St. Benedict

Epigraphs

“What a strange part, great and yet limited, did Sorrow play in the life of the Virgin!” (J. K. Huysmans, The Oblate of St. Benedict (1903, 1996), page 241—my emphasis added)

***

“She [Sorrow] now ruled supreme and, from the fury of he onslaught, it might have been thought that Our Lady had drained the cup to the last dreg. But it was not so.” (J.K. Huysmans, The Oblate of St. Benedict (1903), page 243—my emphasis added)

***

J.K. Huysmans’ 1903 novel The Oblate of St. Benedict begins his Chapter VIII with the following words:

The Feast of the Assumption [15 August] was over….The church, now empty, exhaled the soothing perfume….the scent symbolized the sepulchre whence the Virgin rose to take her place beside Her Son….

All day the heat had been overwhelming. Benediction had been preceded by the solemn Procession which [King] Louis XIII instituted in memory of the consecration of his kingdom to Our Lady, and Durtal [the novel’s protagonist and himself a gradual convert to the Catholic Faith], on reaching home, sat down in the shade of the great cedar tree.

There he [Durtal] meditated upon the Festival which was for him a Festival of Liberation from pain and the chief Festival of Our Blessed Lady. The day prompted him to contemplate the Madonna from a special point of view, for it brought him face to face with with the dreadful problem of Pain and Sorrow.1 (241—my emphasis added)

Huysmans admits his yearning “attempt to understand the reason for the existence of sorrow” (241), and himself going all the way “back to man’s beginning, to Eden, where Sorrow was born, the moment Adam became conscious of sin.” (241)

But for those who remain loyal to irreformable Catholic doctrine, the mystery of the original and abiding Purity (and Sinlessness) of the Blessed Virgin Mary always presents itself, often amidst Sorrow, and then almost always knowingly evokes our special love. Huysmans’ words also come to touch upon this mysterious matter:

Sorrow had held the Son [Jesus] in her grip for some hours. Over the Mother [Virgin Mary], her hold was longer, and in this longer possession lies the strange element.

The Virgin was the one human creature whom, logically, she [Sorrow] had no right to touch. The Immaculate Conception should have put Mary beyond her [Sorrow’s] reach, and [Virgin Mary,] having never sinned during her earthly life, she [Mary] should should have been unassailable, and exempt from the evil onslaughts of Sorrow.

To dare to approach her [Mary], Sorrow required a special leave from God and the consent of the Mother herself, who, to be the more like unto her Son and to co-operate as far as she [Mary] could in our Redemption, agreed to suffer at the foot of the Cross the terrors of the final catastrophe. (243—my emphasis added)

Now we shall go with the Narrator—and with the fresh perceptions of Durtal—into some other deeper matters of moment:

But in dealing with the Mother [Mary], Sorrow at the outset does not have full scope.

She [Sorrow] indeed set her mark on Mary from the moment of the Annunciation when Our Lady in a Divine light perceived the Tree of Golgotha. But after that, Sorrow had to retire into the background. She [Sorrow] saw the Nativity from afar, but could not make her way into the cave of Bethlehem. Only at the Presentation in the Temple, at Simeon’s prophecy, did she [Sorrow] leap from her ambush and planted herself in the Virgin’s [Mother Mary’s] breast. From that moment she took up her abode there, yet she [Sorrow] was not an unchallenged mistress, for another lodger, Joy, also dwelt there, the presence of Jesus bringing cheerfulness to His Mother’s soul. But after the treachery of Judas Iscariot, Sorrow had her revenge. She now ruled supreme and, from the fury of her onset, it might have been thought that Our Lady had drained the cup [chalice!] to the last dreg. But it was not so.

Mary’s excruciating grief at the Crucifixion had been preceded by the long-drawn anguish of the Trial; it again was followed by another period of suspense, [a period] of sorrowful longing for the day when she should rejoin Her Son in Heaven, far removed from a world that had covered them with shame. (243-244—my emphasis added)

In such words, we may see and cherish another heartful presentation of how the Blessed Mother uniquely co-operated with—and mediated for—the Humility of God in the Hypostatic Union: i.e., for Her own beloved and nourished Son, Christ Jesus. (But there are still those who say that, despite her perfections, Mary is No Co-Redemptrix, Nor a Mediatrix of All Graces.)

CODA

Because it came only from a small, incomplete fragment of a footnote, it may be of some interest to the reader to know how I recently, and so unexpectedly, discovered (and but partly read) the writings of Joris-Karl Huysmans (1847-1907), especially his novel, The Oblate of St. Benedict (1903).

Reading the Epilogue of D.B. Wyndham Lewis’ 1959 book, A Florentine Portrait: Saint Philip Benizi (1233-1285), I came in contact (at the bottom of page 133) with an abbreviated and rather arcane footnote: “L’Oblat, 1903.” Deciding then to locate, if I could, who it was who wrote these stirring words (and where), I went on an adventure and search. Here, without any original French pagination, are the later English words on the Blessed Mother that I found—as translated by D.B. Wyndham Lewis, himself a Catholic scholar, and written from his heart on page 133 in his own 1959 Epilogue about the Servites of Our Lady’s Sorrows:

It needed God’s special permission and the consent of the Mother, who, to make herself more like her Son and to co-operate, according to her capacity, in our redemption, accepted at length, under the Cross itself, the frightful agonies of the Consummation.

FINIS

© 2021 Robert D. Hickson

1J. K. Huysmans, The Oblate of St. Benedict (Cambridge, UK: Dedalus European Classics, 1996—first published in in French in 1903; first English edition was in 1924.) The current edition, moreover, contains XVI chapters, ending on page 303. All further references will be to this Dedalus edition. For convenience, the page references will be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this short essay and commentary.

St. Philip Benizi (1233-1285) and the Servite Order of the Sorrows of Mary

Dr. Robert Hickson

7 March 2021

Saint Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274)

Epigraphs

Chewing in exile his bitter cud of memories, Dante had plenty to say in The Divine Comedy about his native city of Florence. Even amid the splendours and alleluias of Paradise, he [Dante] permits the ex-troubadour Falco to flame suddenly into denunciation [from Heaven!] of the City of the Flower [Florence, Italy], the devil’s own weed, ‘planted by him [Satan] who first turned his back upon his Creator‘….

“Fined and banished [from Florence] under the pain of death in 1302,….the sombre poet [Dante, d.1321] neither forgave his city nor forgot. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that he never deigns to mention, in the Commedia or elsewhere, a very noble and saintly contemporary with whom he probably brushed shoulders in the streets [of Florence] more than once. Born [in 1265] thirty-two years after Fra Filippo Benizi, who became the fifth General of the Servite Order and was canonised at length in 1671, Dante must, like any other Florentine of his day, have known the eminent friar [Philip Benizi] at least by sight and repute for some time [d. 1285].” (D. B. Wyndham Lewis, A Florentine Portrait: Saint Philip Benizi (1233-1285) (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1959), page 1—my bold emphasis added.)

***

There are saints in the calendar of many kinds, some born in sanctity in every century and some achieving it, in some cases after half a lifetime of storm and stress. The huge, rough, tough, violent-tempered soldier who became St. Camillus de Lellis, and has been called the father of the Red Cross and the field-ambulance, is an outstanding example at one end of the scale; examples of the ‘cradle-saint’ at the other end [of the scale] are plentiful enough. Saint Philip Benizi is one of these latter, clad through life in that invisible armour which the Enemy is powerless to penetrate. Prayer came naturally to him from the beginning. Hold Writ was his normal reading, and a special devotion to the Mater Dolorosa drew him inevitably into a new order inspired by it [i.e., the religious order of the Servites].” (D. B. Wyndham Lewis, A Florentine Portrait: Saint Philip Benizi (1233-1285) (1959), page 24—my emphasis added.)

***

“Many of them [these psychological and cultural theories] omit the point that Servite devotion to the Sorrows of Mary—which are the Prophecy of Simeon, the Flight into Egypt, the Loss of the Child Jesus in Jerusalem, the Meeting on the Way to Calvary, the Witnessing of the Crucifixion, the Taking-Down of Christ from the Cross, and the Burial [i.e., with the Feast of the Seven Dolours, now celebrated on 15 September]—is neither morbid nor morose. There will be few men of his age [the 13th Century] radiating a serener joy all his life than Fra Filippo Benizi.” (D. B. Wyndham Lewis, A Florentine Portrait: Saint Philip Benizi (1233-1285), page 25—my emphasis added.)

***

In 1959 a book was published in English on the Thirteenth Century in Europe, and especially on a lesser known saint in the Marian Servite Order—which is also called the Servants of the Sorrows of Mary. That modest saint was Saint Philip Benizi (1233-1285).1

My brief essay now proposes to accentuate Saint Philip’s good influence upon a wide variety of men and women, despite the abiding inattentiveness of one often bitter exile, namely his famous fellow Florentine: the poet Dante (1265-1321).

By way of contrast, our learned and sympathetic author, D. B. Wyndham Lewis, recurrently presents for us “that pre-eminently [Philip] Benizian blend of serene simplicity and holy obstinacy which foils the world.” (134-135—my emphasis added) We, too, shall now try to be more attentive and grateful, as well.

It is now fitting for me to select and present a few representative passages from the book which vivify the principles and character of Saint Philip Benizi, often with his older mendicant companions:

It is not difficult to picture them trudging very slowly along the dusty highroad in their black woollen habits shouldering their sacks. An hour or so after leaving Bologna they reached the site of a considerable portent, to which there is sufficient testimony.

At a point of the road near Castroleone, about five miles out of Bologna, a large solitary tree standing in the baking fields [in August of 1269] a little distance off the highroad offered the only shade for miles. A knot of figures could be seen already under its branches. In compassion for his two elders [of his Servite Order], now lagging and weary, Fra Filippo [the elected General of the Marian Order, as of 1267] turned of the road for a rest. As they approached the tree they were welcomed by raucous laughter and rude japes, and perceived that the group was composed of soldiers and women of the lowest type, possibly drunk. The roughest company was unlikely to daunt a medieval friar, who was well used to it, but this collection proved even worse than the tavern-company which waylays Glutton in Piers Plowman [William Langland’s fine and rhythmical 14th-Century long-line poem] on his way to confession….

Under a fusillade of obscenities and blasphemous raillery Fra Filippo spoke up, rebuking the offenders, firmly but without heat, in the name of Christ and His mother, and bidding them amend their language for their souls’ sake. They received the reproof with viler insults and louder and uglier blasphemies, the women doubtless being far more fluent than the men. As they bellowed and screamed and laughed a premonition came to St. Philip. “My dear brethren,” he said, facing them during a pause with tears in his eyes, “there are some of you here who, unless they repent, are due to die this very day. Almighty God is very kind and pitiful. Turn you to Him and He will have mercy on you—He has sent me even now to call on you for this. Be certain that if you turn to Him He will forgive, but if you refuse you may well tremble. His bow is bent, His arrows are sharp, the weapons of death are ready. Give up this vicious life and trust in His mercy who does not desire the death of a sinner, but that he may turn from his wickedness and live.

The words in their quiet earnestness had some effect. The majority sobered down in shame, as the typical medieval ruffian was always liable to do when so addressed; but a blackguard minority turned angry, belching horrid blasphemy and menacing the friar with consequences if he did not shut his mouth and go. Fra Filippo continued unmoved to plead with them. (63-65—my emphasis added)

The reader may now better appreciate further the provocations and responsive warnings that took place before “the Judgment of Castroleone” (65) condignly and fearfully soon took place (65-66).

Another set of revealing incidents occurred in Florence, and then in Pistoia, while Philip was still the revered General of the Servite Order, and it all started after the death of the Bishop of Florence and the resultant acclamations on behalf of Philip spontaneously:

Since the death of…[the] Bishop of Florence, in December 1274, the see had been vacant [and it would remain so “till 1286, the year after St. Philip’s death” (83)], and violent-faction quarrels even over the question of a successor were frequent. Preaching daily at the Annunziata Fra Flippo harangued his fellow-citizens, noble, bourgeois, and proletarian, with eloquence and point. If they were incapable of making peace for themselves, he cried one evening, they might at least unite in praying the Holy See to give Florence a bishop capable of settling their foolish and murderous quarrels.

This seems to have penetrated. As the preacher [Philip] continued, a buzz went around the crowd. The Annals preserve the gist of it. Vivacious Tuscan gestures and flashing dark eyes may be easily supplied in imagination. (82—my emphasis added)

As Philip Benizi heard the gathering acclamations to have him as their bishop, he slipped hastily out “and quitted Florence then and there for some refuge unknown, and probably Monte Senario, to emerge a week or two later at Pistoia.” (83)

He was to encounter further disorders at Pistoia too:

In Pistoia the citizens were brawling politically and socially as elsewhere—Guelf against Ghibelline….In Pistoia likewise the generosity of the municipality and private citizens towards religious orders, and the mendicants [such as the Servites] in particular, in the matter of alms for building and endowment, demonstrates that typically medieval blend of ungovernable passions and unstinted charity which is so baffling to the modern world. Guelf and Ghibelline, having listened to the same Mass and sermon and given alms in the same dish, would whip our their swords again outside the church door and resume the fight. In his exhortations from the pulpit Fra Filippo minced no words….The city [of Pistoia], like Florence and others, is an accursed and wretched Babylon and its citizens are men of blood, creatures with neither sense nor reason, sacrificing human lives and souls to the Evil One their idol; calling on the Lord only in blasphemy, inviting His terrible judgment. Yet if they will but seek peace, the God of Peace will forgive and be with them all. ‘Meanwhile we, servants of the Most Blessed Virgin, implore her to obtain for you from Almighty God the blessings of peace, unity, and concord….’ (83-84—my emphasis added; and Philip’s own words are, at the end, partly quoted.)

Once again we may see how Saint Philip’s own words have also touched the sincere hearts of some men, even bravos and ruffians:

His [Philip’s] words had considerable effect. Many conversions are spoken of by the early chronicles; many scenes of reconciliation between enemies, many returns to religion, not a few recruits to the Servants of Mary. Among these in Pistoia was a leading Ghibelline bravo named Vanni Buonaccurso, noted for impiety, ferocity, and bloodlust. Having heard a sermon by St. Philip, he followed him afterwards into the priory and fell on his knees, saying that God’s word had pierced his heart and begging to be heard in confession. Soon afterwards he was admitted into the novitiate of the Servants of Mary. He turned out as passionate in good work as he had been [passionate] in evil doing. The cultus [public veneration] of Blessed Bonaventure of Pistoia was approved in 1828.(84—my emphasis added.)

Now we may consider Saint Philip’s influence on a prominent Guelf in Florence:

A more gratifying reward than anything the Republic could offer had come to Fra Filippo. Among the chief disturbers of Florentine peace was a member of the leading Guelf clan of the Adimari, a huge, quarrelsome swashbuckler of immense strength named Ubaldo, now in his late thirties. Brought up from childhood in an atmosphere of flaming pride and vengeance, twice exiled with his fellow-Guelfs, he had long since become a formidable duellist and a portent in Florentine affrays. Equipping him instinctively with an eagle beak and fierce hawk-like eyes, one may very well see Messer Uboldo degli Adimari stepping with his lackeys across a piazza in his steel hauberk and bassinet and particoloured hose, had on sword-hilt, ready to spring as a tiger. He too was powerless against the arrow of grace. Accidental (as the world would say) contact with Fra Filippo Benizi during the late peace-negotiations changed Ubaldo’s life. Not long afterwards, having made all possible reparation to his enemies, Ghibelline and other, he took the Servite habit and, after many penances and vigils, Holy Orders. A few months after his elevation to the priesthood Fra Filippo took Fra Ubaldo for his confessor, which speaks sufficiently for his new character, and he remained one of the best beloved of disciples until the General’s [Philip Benizi’s own] death [in the Autumn of 1285]. After thirty-five years of religious life Fra Ubaldo died in the odor of sanctity. His impressive remains rest in the [Servite] chapel on Monte Senario, not far from the [seven holy] founders’ shrine. (88-89—my emphasis added)

All of the seven original 1233 Holy Servite Founders—Servants of the Seven Sorrows of Mary—were canonized together by Pope Leo XIII, in 1888.

The last portion of A Florentine Portrait memorably presents Saint Philip’s preparation for death, as well as his gradual farewell to his Servite brothers. One representative aspect of this depiction is worthy of our consideration now, with the hope that the reader might slowly read and savor the last thirty pages or so of the book.

Here begins, as follows, that one aspect of his life and farewell, as above proposed:

So Fra Filippo returned to Florence [after seeing, in May 1285, the Pope in Rome], to work and wait in prayer and patience as before…. It was while he was thus engaged that Fra Filippo was informed by an interior voice, one day or night during prayer, that he had not very much longer to live.

Thanksgivings for this good news offered, Fra Filippo [as the Superior General] at once set about winding up affairs in hand with the assistance of Fra Lottaringo, whom he had long since designated as his successor. This concluded, he retired for a space to the Monte Senario cave of former years [8 miles north of Florence] to equip his soul for the final journey….

Fra Filippo [then] had no other ties with Florence outside the Annunziata. He had, moreover, decided already where to live his last days. The smallest and poorest of all the Servite houses of Italy was the priory of San Marco at Todi of Umbria. Where could a General of the Servants of Mary, after a lifetime of evangelical poverty and humility, more fitly die? ….

Fra Filippo, with his two friars in attendance, took the road to Umbria, sighting the red-tiled roofs of Todi in the late afternoon of August 9, 1285. (109-112—my emphasis added)

Now we go with Philip in approach to Todi and San Marco:

There was a great bustle towards sunset in the streets of Todi. An exuberant populace was streaming down to the southern gate, carrying flowers and flourishing leafy branches…. Some horsemen passing St. Philip and his brethren on the road had announced their approach, and a spontaneous mass-reception was afoot….Having perceived, to his dismay and horror, that the crowd ahead was already strewing the road with leaves and flowers, as if he had been some person worthy of honour, Fra Filippo hoped to escape round the walls and take refuge in San Marco undetected. As he and his companion-friars made their way round to the Orvieto gate two women stepped out of the shadows at a lonely part of the way and accosted them. These were prostitutes, it appeared; but, they sobbed as St. Philip questioned them with compassion, unwilling ones, driven to this shame by hunger and despair. One of the friars carried a little unexpended alms in the common purse, just enough for three days’ bare subsistence. Handing it to the women, Fra Filippo implored them to leave off their trade for the next three days at least, and meanwhile to pray hard and commit themselves to God’s pity and providence. On their own accord they promised, weeping, to go to confession, and turned away. “What punishment, do you think, my brothers,” asked Fra Filippo indignantly as the friars went on, “has Almighty God in store for those of the heartless and hypocritical rich who drive the poor into slavery like this?”

As he spoke they reached the Orvieto gate, to be met by a considerable crowd surging out with cries of “Ecco Flilippo! Evviva il santo!” ….

The two penitent prostitutes encountered by Fra Filippo and his companions near the Orvieto gate [came again]. According to…an eye witness, these women came to San Marco next day to make their confession to St. Philip in person. At their second visit Fra Filippo recommended total withdrawal from the world…. and the women, destined to figure on the Servite rolls as Blessed Helena and Blessed Flora, took him at his word. (115-117—my emphasis added)

Such is another abiding presentation of the character and manner and sanctity of Saint Philip Benizi. Moreover, “the essence of St. Philip’s message for the Atomic Age [as of 1959], as for any other, [is expressed by]: love, humility, patience, compassion, self-sacrifice, self-effacement, the sharing of the sufferings of the Mother of Sorrows with the seven swords in her heart.” (133—my emphasis added)

FINIS

© 2021 Robert D. Hickson

1 D. B. Wyndham Lewis, A Florentine Portrait (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1959), 137 pages. All further references to this brief essay will be to this 1959 text, and placed above in parentheses in the main body of our comments for convenience.

Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton on Membership in the Catholic Church: Questions and Discernments De Ecclesia

Dr. Robert Hickson

10 February 2021

Saint Scholastica (d. 543)

Muriel Agnes Hickson (d. 2009)

Epigraphs

“The ecclesiastical magisterium, in teaching and guarding this dogma [as of 1958], insists that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church and at the same time likewise insists that people who die without ever becoming members of the Catholic Church can obtain the Beatific Vision.” (Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation, page x—my bold emphasis added)

***

“Ultimately the process [of obtaining salvation in eternal life] is achieved and perfected when the person saved comes to possess the life of grace eternally and inamissibly [i.e., incapable of being lost], in the everlasting glory of the Beatific Vision. There is genuine salvation, however, when the man who has hitherto been in the state of original or mortal sin is brought into the life of sanctifying grace, even in this world, when that life of grace can be lost through the man’s own fault.” (Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation, page 134—my bold emphasis added)

***

In 1958, there was, in lucid prose, a timely and timeless, historical and theological book published just before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) by Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton. Its main title is The Catholic Church and Salvation and its partly explanatory subtitle is In the Light of Recent Pronouncements by the Holy See.1 From the outset, Fenton makes us aware of one developing accent in modern theology as it would soon again show itself more fully and mercifully—if not vaguely and laxly and even equivocally–at the Second Vatican Council:

Any person who is at all familiar with what the great mass of religious and theological writings of our times [up to 1958] have had to say about this dogma is quite well aware of the fact that, in an overwhelming majority of cases, these writings have been mainly, almost exclusively, concerned with proving and explaining how this dogma [“irreversible doctrine”] does not mean that only members of the Catholic Church can be saved. (ix-x—my emphasis added)

Throughout his searching book, Fenton even discusses the challenging matter of an “implicit desire” as well as the comparable matter of a person’s somehow being “in”—or “within”—the Church, but not “a member of the Catholic Church.”

Therefore, we now specifically ask, even at the outset of our commentary, just how one may be in the Catholic Church, but not be a member of the Church? (We must certainly, and always fittingly, acknowledge that we must never set limits to the Omnipotent Mercy of God!) We must, moreover, always consider how, as professed Catholics, we are practically and prudently to conduct ourselves amidst non-Catholics—especially as a Catholic missionary today. And we should thus be well grounded, but on what kinds of fundamental doctrines and on what theoretical premises, lest we be too superficial and have an incomplete presentation of the proportionate truth?

At one point of his final chapter on “Some Sources of Misunderstanding” (165-189), Fenton says:

The teaching that man could be in the Church only in intention or desire and not as a member and still attain eternal salvation “within” this society is, of course, tremendously important. It is a part of Catholic doctrine about the nature of God’s ecclesia. (170)

In his earlier chapter entitled “Salvation and the Basic Concept of the Church” (145-164), Fenton makes another important note in passing:

If a man really fights for truth and virtue, if he really works to serve and to glorify the Triune God, then he is fighting on the side of, and in a very real sense “within,” the true Church itself. (163)

Shortly afterwards, Fenton clarifies his own deeper opinion, by way of contrast:

If, on the other hand, a man is not working to please God, to glorify and serve Him, this man does not really love with the love of charity.

The situation of the person who is not a member of the Church, but who is “within” it by intention, desire or prayer can be understood best in comparison with the condition of a Catholic in the state of mortal sin. Despite the fact that he is a member of the society which “steadfastly contends for truth and virtue,” this individual’s will is turned away from God and strives for objectives opposed to those sought by the Church. He is one of those “who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also against God.” In other words, in spite of his membership in the supernatural kingdom of God on earth, he is actually working and fighting for the things the kingdom of Satan seeks.

The ultimate orientation of a man’s activity comes from the supreme intention of his will. For the man in the state of grace, this supreme intention is the love of charity. It is the desire to please God in all things. The man in the state of mortal sin has some other supreme objective. There is some end he seeks in contempt of God. Even though some of his acts are good in themselves, ultimately his life is directed to the attainment of that end, which is the purpose of the kingdom of Satan.

If a member of the Church should die in the state of mortal sin, he will be condemned forever to hell, the homeland of Satan’s kingdom. He will, in other words, be assigned forever to the social unit in which and with which he was fighting at the moment of his passage from this life. In exactly the same way, the non-member of the Church who dies believing God’s message with the assent of faith, loving God with the affection of charity, and sincerely willing and praying to enter God’s ecclesia, will live forever in the social unit within which he willed and prayed to live and for which he was fighting at the moment of his death. (163-164—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)

Msgr. Fenton had also earlier made two other formulations:

If a man really fights for truth and virtue, if he really works to serve and to glorify the Triune God, then he is fighting on the side of, and in a very real sense “within,” the true Church itself. And, if a man really has divine charity, he is actually fighting this battle for the Church. (163—my emphasis added)

When a man desires or prays for entrance into the true Church of Jesus Christ, even when this objective is apprehended only in an implicit way by the person praying, the first two of these conditions are necessarily fulfilled….In order that this prayer for entrance into the Church may be effective for salvation, the prayer and the intention behind it must be enlightened by faith and motivated or animated by charity. And it must also be a persevering prayer. (162—my emphasis added)

CODA

As exemplified by this short introduction and its serene citations, one would fittingly and very fruitfully read—and read again and closely—and always with a deeply savor—Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton’s thorough and well-written 194 pages on The Catholic Church and Salvation (1958). Then contrast the comparable words of the Second Vatican Council. The contrast will clarify the mind.

–FINIS–

© 2021 Robert D. Hickson

1Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation: In the Light of Recent Pronouncements by the Holy See (Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1958—some 194 pages in the hardback edition). All further references will be to this edition, and placed above in parentheses of the main body of this essay.

Conversations with Father John A. Hardon About the Incarnation of Christ

Dr. Robert Hickson

30 December 2020

Saint Sabinus (d. 303)

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. (d. 2000)

Epigraphs

“How many of the three infused theological virtues—faith, hope, and charity—did Christ’s Sacred Humanity possess?” (Father John A. Hardon, S.J. in a conversation with R. Hickson in the late 1980s.)

***

“Christ as well as His Blessed Mother were both morally free, we trust, but were they thus free to sin? In Heaven we too are to be free, but will we in Beatitude thereby be free to sin? These exceptional capacities, limits, and gifts of liberty appear to be higher forms of freedom which are now especially to be aspired to by us, and striven after—with persevering virtue and under Divine Grace.” (Father John A. Hardon, S.J. in a conversation with R. Hickson in the early 1990s.)

***

In the recent public discourse concerning our federal U.S. presidential elections and their ongoing turbulent aftermath, there has been much mention of our seeking after and attaining “more liberty” and “more freedom.” When I first heard these often used but undefined conceptual words, I asked myself a couple of questions: “what do you mean and how do you know?”; secondly, do you also say or imply a “freedom from something”? or, rather, is it especially a “freedom for something”? Is it a liberation from, or a liberation for? Or are we to understand that both forms of freedom are intended to have a purposive accent and resolute orientation, even if they are not always abidingly virtuous? As in a desperate escape from a palpable tyranny.

These posed questions have also caused me to recall some things Father John Hardon, S.J. first told me, and then asked of me, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It involves some sacred Catholic matters and illuminates for us still some differentiated aspects of freedom and liberty. For example, the traditional words “Libertas Ecclesiae” have not the same meaning as “Libertas Religiosa”—calling for the Liberty of the Church, as distinct from calling for the vaguer modernist and ecumenical sense of “Religious Liberty” which became prominent, but often conveniently equivocal or even intentionally undefined in the discussions and official documents of Vaticanum II (1962-1965) and in the later years.

In the late 1980s, the Jesuit Father John A. Hardon told me about an earlier incident with his Catholic seminary students in New York at Saint John’s College. During one exchange of ideas with his theological students about the Humility of God in the Incarnation, he had surprisingly asked them: how many of the theological gifts did Jesus possess in his Sacred Humanity? Almost all of the seminarians then promptly answered: “All three of these infused gifts!”

To these unexpected words of a more or less common opinion (as lucidly expressed by his seminarians in their theology class), Father Hardon himself promptly made a terse summary critique and began a further commentary about those who had surprisingly thought that Christ’s humanity possessed all three of the Theological Virtues. Father Hardon said: “You do not thus seem to understand the fuller meaning of Christ’s Hypostatic Union.”

Father Hardon then proceeded to say of the Incarnation of Christ that “Christ is a Divine Person Who has assumed a passible Human Nature. That is to say: His Sacred Humanity showed forth that His assumed nature was both passible (able to suffer) and abidingly capable of genuine moral freedom, which thereby also enabled Him to accept and to choose freely His own sacred Passion. Christ was not a Monothelite, one who claimed that Christ had no truly free human will, but only a divine will. If that were so, it would mean emptying out the meaning of His freely chosen Passion, to include His Agony in the Garden, Lacerations, Crucifixion and Death.” (Monothelitism was gradually observed to be the subtlest of all the Christological Heresies. We should still consider this fact.)

Moreover, it was in Virginia a few days later that Father Hardon—himself a Dogmatic Theologian by formation—very slowly and quite sadly said to me in person that he was quite surprised by his mature seminary students: their unexpected and abiding doctrinal errors as they were openly expressed by his advanced seminarians in New York. Father Hardon then even began to examine me, a laymen, before we went together into Father Hardon’s local catechetical class on the Church’s traditional Doctrine of Grace: Divine Grace. That is to say, he also first proposed to me me several pertinent questions on Christology; and he then asked me for my own specific answers, to include my explanation and dogmatic rationale for the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union along with some of its indispensable unfolding implications. (It is so that I shall not likely forget those solemn tests and answers under Father Hardon’s candid and close scrutiny. They indeed taught me trenchantly how to understand many other doctrinal matters of permanent moment.)

One of those implications Father Hardon also discussed with me presented to me another formidable mystery: “the temptations of Christ” Who suffered acutely and greatly, especially because Our Lord did not have a Fallen Human Nature. That is to say, unlike us with our perduring Fallen Nature, most of us. That is to say, it is so but for a few exceptions, such as with Mary His Mother herself who was, like her Son, also sinless from her Immaculate Conception on, and throughout her lived actions and ponderings of her heart and mortal life.

Father Hardon also asked me another truly searching and challenging theological question: “What do strict Calvinists and faithful Lutherans have in common with Pelagianism – specifically concerning the special Gifts that our Proto-Parents were given and received in their Creation before the Fall?”

Father’s brief answers to my ignorance first spoke of three kinds of gifts received from God before the Fall—as informed and faithful Catholics still affirm—and they were: natural gifts, praeternatural gifts, and supernatural gifts. After the Fall, man lost both the supernatural gifts of Divine Grace and the unique but limited preternatural gifts (e.g., bodily immortality and ordered control of his various passions, and the like), although this latter category of praeternatural gifts, very mysteriously, would never be fully restored, not even after Christ’s Redemptive Passion, Resurrection, and elevating Restoration of the generous life of Virtue and Divine Grace, especially of Sacramental and Sanctifying Graces.

After the Fall, and having been deprived of Grace, man with his natural gifts and his still gifted nature would be nonetheless wounded by ignorance and by our obscuring and disordered passions.

However, as Father Hardon himself accented it, strict Protestants and strict Pelagians both deny the very existence of supernatural and praeternatural gifts generously granted to our Proto-Parents before their Fall. Thus for Protestants, as a consequence, our fallen nature was not just deprived of grace and other prelapsarian gifts, but became even depraved. Man—under these dark premises—was thus thought to be deeply corrupted, not only wounded and deprived; but also depraved. For, it was claimed, that man had now fallen darkly beneath Nature. It was now a matter, not just of a “Natura deprivata,” but also of a “Natura depravata.” A dark view it was of man and his resultant nature, for sure! In contrast to Luther, Catholic theological anthropology shows itself to be more generous and forgiving, I think, but it is not Semi-Pelagian. Therefore, the Catholic way is potentially more joyful, and with supportive good reasons and with hope for a sincere Gaudium et Laetitia.

Father Hardon and I also discussed a note on presumption in relation to hope, as it was first deftly presented by the German Catholic philosopher, Josef Pieper; for it is so that presumption, as a form of pride, is also—at least in the Traditional Catholic Catechisms—one of the two sins against hope, the second one being despair (and its preparatory spiritual sloth). Among his other fresh insights, Josef Pieper says that “presumption is the premature anticipation of final fulfillment [Vita Eternal and its Beatitude]”; “despair is the premature anticipation of a final non-fulfillment.”

On another occasion, when discussing with Father Hardon some non-Catholic ideas (especially 1647 Calvinist ones) about freedom, redemption, grace, perseverance, and salvation, the Jesuit priest also deeply and memorably appreciated another wise and succinct Catholic insight spoken to me by Josef Pieper personally in his home in Germany: “Given the riskful and formidable dowry of our individual freedom—and until the very moment of our death—we retain the permanent possibility of our voluntary defection.”

Lest we fall from humility and lest we then fall into sinful presumption, our own hope of salvation—our own Spes Salutis—must recurrently pray for a certain fear: the Donum Timoris, the Gift of Fear. That special fear is that we ultimately could be finally separated from the Good and the Beloved.

The Gift of Final Perseverance, the Catholic Council of Trent has written, is a “Magnum Bonum”—it is indeed, sub Gratia, a very Great Gift. It certainly allows us to live our morally free and manly lives amidst the challenges of a Great Adventure full of risk, and to do it with humility and without that smooth, insidious and self-assured presumption that is—along with despair—regrettably a grave sin against hope.

Father Hardon also abidingly knew all of these components and aspects of adventure and our obligatory responsibility; and he (along with Josef Pieper (d. 6 November 1997)) has helped me so much, and so well, to savour still many fundamental facts and principles of our historic Catholic Faith.

Father Hardon, S.J. died on 30 December 2000, R.I.P. Every day I still pray for him gratefully.

–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

Archbishop Viganò: Restore Christianity with Good Literature

Note: this essay has first been published at LifeSiteNews.com and is re-printed here with kind permission.

by Dr. Maike Hickson

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has recently written a preface for a book, Gratitude, Contemplation, and the Sacramental Worth of Catholic Literature, a collection of essays written by my husband Dr. Robert Hickson over the course of several decades. Being a distillation of his life work, this new book aims at presenting to the readers a whole set of inspiring books – most of them Catholic – that can help us restore a Catholic memory. That is to say, these books can help us revive a sense of Catholicity that comes to us from time periods and regions where the Catholic faith was an integral part of the state and society, from a lived faith.

We are very grateful to Archbishop Viganò for his preface, which highlights the importance of culture – and importantly, literature – for the revival of Christianity, and therefore we decided to publish it here (see full text below). His comments aim at turning our minds to the future, preparing the ground for a time where Christ again will reign in the heart and minds of man. His preface is therefore a sort of manifesto of faith and hope, and a wonderful instruction for us on how to go about preparing the ground for Christ.

The Italian prelate and courageous defender of the faith points to the importance of having a memory of our Catholic culture. “Memory,” he writes, “is a fundamental element of a people’s identity, civilization and culture: a society without memory, whose patrimony consists solely of a present without a past, is condemned to have no future. It is alarming that this loss of collective memory affects not only Christian nations but also seriously afflicts the Catholic Church herself and, consequently, Catholics.” The lack of culture among Catholics today, he adds, is “not the result of chance, but of systematic work on the part of those who, as enemies of the True, Good and Beautiful, must erase any ray of these divine attributes from even the most marginal aspects of social life, from our idioms, from memories of our childhood and from the stories of our grandparents.”

Describing this cultural tabula rasa that has taken place among Catholics, Archbishop Viganò goes on to say that “Reading the pages of Dante, Manzoni or one of the great Christian writers of the past, many Catholics can no longer grasp the moral and transcendent sense of a culture that is no longer their common heritage, a jealously guarded legacy, the deep root of a robust plant full of fruit.”

On the contrary, he explains, “in its place we have a bundle of the confused rubbish of the myths of the Revolution, the dusty Masonic ideological repertoire, and the iconography of a supposed freedom won by the guillotine, along with the persecution of the Church, the martyrdom of Catholics in Mexico and Spain, the end of the tyranny of Kings and Popes and the triumph of bankers and usurers.”

Archbishop Viganò clearly shows us that he understands the concept of a “cultural revolution” as developed by the Communist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, who aimed at winning the minds of the people by influencing and dominating their culture.

This cultural – and with it spiritual – empoverishment among Catholics, according to the prelate, “has found significant encouragement also among those who, within the Catholic Church, have erased 2,000 years of the inestimable patrimony of faith, spirituality and art, beginning with a wretched sense of inferiority instilled in the faithful even by the hierarchy since Vatican II.” It was the very hierarchy of the Church – together with many simpler clergymen – who helped promote such a devastation of the art within the realm of the Catholic Church. Let us only think of the modern churches, altars, and of modern church music!

With powerful words, Archbishop Viganò describes how this destruction is ultimately aimed at God Himself: “Certainly, behind this induced amnesia, there is a Trinitarian heresy. And where the Deceiver lurks, the eternal Truth of God must be obscured in order to make room for the lie, the betrayal of reality, the denial of the past.” In light of this analysis, it nearly seems to be a counter-revolutionary act to revive Catholic literature, Catholic music, Catholic architecture.

Explains the prelate: “Rediscovering memory, even in literature, is a meritorious and necessary work for the restoration of Christianity, a restoration that is needed today more than ever if we want to entrust to our children a legacy to be preserved and handed down as a tangible sign of God’s intervention in the history of the human race.”

It is in this context that he kindly mentions the “meritorious work” of this new book, praising its “noble purpose of restoring Catholic memory, bringing it back to its ancient splendor, that is, the substance of a harmonious and organic past that has grown and still lives today.” He adds that “Robert Hickson rightly shows us, in the restoration of memory, the way to rediscover the shared faith that shapes the traits of a shared Catholic culture.”

Dr. Hickson’s new book was published last month and contains 25 essays on many different Catholic authors, such as Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, Maurice Baring, Evelyn Waugh, Josef Pieper, George Bernanos, Ernest Psichari, Father John Hardon, S.J., L. Brent Bozell Jr., and, last but not least, the Orthodox Christian authors Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The themes of this book are war and peace, justice, the Catholic vow, saints, friendship, chivalry, martyrdom and sacrifice, just to name a few. The essays of the book were written from 1982 until 2017, the first being an essay where Hickson developed the concept of “sacramental literature” and the importance of “restoring a Catholic memory.” Anthony S. Fraser, the son of the famous Catholic convert and traditionalist, Hamish Fraser, kindly had edited the essays for his friend, before he so suddenly died on August 28, 2014, the Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo. May his soul rest in peace. We thank you, Tony!

Here is the full preface written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò:

Memory is a fundamental element of a people’s identity, civilization and culture: a society without memory, whose patrimony consists solely of a present without a past, is condemned to have no future. It is alarming that this loss of collective memory affects not only Christian nations, but also seriously afflicts the Catholic Church herself and, consequently, Catholics.

This amnesia affects all social classes and is not the result of chance, but of systematic work on the part of those who, as enemies of the True, Good and Beautiful, must erase any ray of these divine attributes from even the most marginal aspects of social life, from our idioms, from memories of our childhood and from the stories of our grandparents. The Orwellian action of artificially remodeling the past has become commonplace in the contemporary world, to the point that a class of high school students are unable to recognize an altarpiece depicting a scene from the life of Christ or a bas-relief with one of the most revered saints of the past. Dr. Robert Hickson calls this inability “deficiency of dogmatic understanding”, “Catholic illiteracy of pestilential proportions”.

Tabula rasa: millions of souls who only twenty or thirty years ago would have immediately identified the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan or Saint Jerome or Saint Mary Magdalene are capable of seeing only two men along a river, an old man with a lion and a woman with a vase. Reading the pages of Dante, Manzoni or one of the great Christian writers of the past, many Catholics can no longer grasp the moral and transcendent sense of a culture that is no longer their common heritage, a jealously guarded legacy, the deep root of a robust plant full of fruit.

In its place we have a bundle of the confused rubbish of the myths of the Revolution, the dusty Masonic ideological repertoire, and the iconography of a supposed freedom won by the guillotine, along with the persecution of the Church, the martyrdom of Catholics in Mexico and Spain, the end of the tyranny of Kings and Popes and the triumph of bankers and usurers. A lineage of kings, saints, and heroes is ignored by its heirs, who stoop to boasting about their ancestors who were criminals, usurpers, and seditious traitors: never has falsification reached the point of such incomprehensible perversion, and it is evident that the desire to artificially create such ancestry is the necessary premise for the barbarization of the offspring, which is now practically accomplished.

We must also recognize that this removal has found significant encouragement also among those who, within the Catholic Church, have erased two thousand years of the inestimable patrimony of faith, spirituality and art, beginning with a wretched sense of inferiority instilled in the faithful even by the Hierarchy since Vatican II. The ancient apostolic liturgy, on which centuries of poetic compositions, mosaics, frescoes, paintings, sculptures, chiseled vases, illuminated chorales, embroidered vestments, plainchants and polyphony have been shaped, has been proscribed. In its place we now have a squalid rite without roots, born from the pen of conspirators dipped in the inkwell of Protestantism; music that is no longer sacred but profane; tasteless liturgical vestments and sacred vessels made of common material. And as a grey counterpoint to the hymns of St. Ambrose and St. Thomas, we now have poor paraphrases without metrics and without soul, grotesque paintings and disturbing sculptures. The removal of the admirable writings of the Fathers of the Church, the works of the mystics, the erudite dissertations of theologians and philosophers and, in the final analysis, of Sacred Scripture itself – whose divine inspiration is sometimes denied, sacrilegiously affirming that it is merely of human origin – have all constituted necessary steps of being able to boast of the credit of worldly novelties, which before those monuments of human ingenuity enlightened by Grace appear as miserable forgeries.

This absence of beauty is the necessary counterpart to an absence of holiness, for where the Lord of all things is forgotten and banished, not even the appearance of Beauty survives. It is not only Beauty that has been banished: Catholic Truth has been banished along with it, in all its crystalline splendor, in all its dazzling consistency, in all its irrepressible capacity to permeate every sphere of civilized living. Because the Truth is eternal, immutable and divisive: it existed yesterday, it exists today and it will exist tomorrow, as eternal and immutable and divisive as the Word of God.

Certainly, behind this induced amnesia, there is a Trinitarian heresy. And where the Deceiver lurks, the eternal Truth of God must be obscured in order to make room for the lie, the betrayal of reality, the denial of the past. In a forgery that is truly criminal forgery, even the very custodians of the depositum fidei ask forgiveness from the world for sins never committed by our fathers – in the name of God, Religion or the Fatherland – supporting the widest and most articulated historical forgery carried out by the enemies of God. And this betrays not only the ignorance of History which is already culpable, but also culpable bad faith and the malicious will to deceive the simple ones.

Rediscovering memory, even in literature, is a meritorious and necessary work for the restoration of Christianity, a restoration that is needed today more than ever if we want to entrust to our children a legacy to be preserved and handed down as a tangible sign of God’s intervention in the history of the human race: how much Providence has accomplished over the centuries – and that art has immortalized by depicting miracles, the victories of the Christians over the Turk, sovereigns kneeling at the feet of the Virgin, patron saints of famous universities and prosperous corporations – can be renewed today and especially tomorrow, only if we can rediscover our past and understand it in the light of the mystery of the Redemption.

This book proposes the noble purpose of restoring Catholic memory, bringing it back to its ancient splendor, that is, the substance of a harmonious and organic past that has grown and still lives today, just as the hereditary traits of a child are found developed in the adult man, or as the vital principle of the seed is found in the sap of the tree and in the pulp of the fruit. Robert Hickson rightly shows us, in the restoration of memory, the way to rediscover the shared faith that shapes the traits of a shared Catholic culture.

In this sense it is significant – I would say extremely appropriate, even if only by analogy – to have also included Christian literature among the Sacramentals, applying to it the  same as action as that of blessed water, the glow of the candles, the ringing of bells, the liturgical chant: the invocation of the Virgin in the thirty-third canto of Dante’s Paradiso, the dialogue of Cardinal Borromeo with the Innominato, and a passage by Chesterton all make Catholic truths present in our minds and, in some way, they realize what they mean and can influence the spiritual life, expanding and completing it. Because of this mystery of God’s unfathomable mercy we are touched in our souls, moved to tears, inspired by Good, spurred to conversion. But this is also what happens when we contemplate an altarpiece or listen to a composition of sacred music, in which a ray of divine perfection bursts into the greyness of everyday life and shows us the splendor of the Kingdom that awaits us.

The author writes: “We are called to the commitment to recover the life and full memory of the Body of Christ, even if in our eyes we cannot do much to rebuild that Body”. But the Lord does not ask us to perform miracles: He invites us to make them possible, to create the conditions in our souls and in our social bodies so that the wonders of divine omnipotence may be manifested. To open ourselves to the past, to the memory of God’s great actions in history, is an essential condition for making it possible for us to become aware of our identity and our destiny today so that we may restore the Kingdom of Christ tomorrow.

+ Carlo Maria Viganò
Titular Archbishop of Ulpiana
Apostolic Nuncio

28 August 2020
Saint Augustine
Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church

“The Fall”: A Poem by Isabella Maria Hickson

Note: This poem was written this fall by our 12-year-old daughter, Isabella Maria. As a sort of a short respite in these difficult times, we hope you will enjoy it, at the end of this season and on the last day of November.

***

The cool and beautiful fall

Is like a different color in the season’s hall

It has a change in the weather

That alteration comes like a feather

The leaves all turn yellow, orange, and red

And softly fall upon the earthen bed

***

All the animals get ready for the winter cold

And take all the food their homes can hold

All can sense the oncoming chill

That comes in a hurry over every hill

They make their homes stronger

To help them last much longer

***

Every being of any kind

Does not want to be left behind

In the preparation for the winter’s frost

For they know the very great cost

If they do not take heed to hurry

The winter will come in like a flurry

***

So when it changes from warm to cool it is the fall

It is like a new attire for Queen Season’s ball

So it is the time the many leaves to rake

And harvest and all kinds of things to bake

The time to slowly stay at home

And get ready to build out of snow a dome

***

So let us thank God for this lovely season

He gave us for a great reason