Maurice Baring’s Multi-Faceted 1912 Travelogue: Round the World in Any Number of Days

Dr. Robert Hickson

9 September 2020

Saint Peter Claver, S.J. (d. 1654)

Epigraphs

“Shortly afterwards [on 21 June 1912], he started on his tour round the world [until October of 1912], the result of which was what seems to me one of the most enchanting, also one of the most unusual travel-books ever written: Round the World in Any Number of Days.” (Dame Ethel Smyth, Maurice Baring (London: William Heinemann LTD, 1938), page 42—my bold emphasis added.)

***

“In October of the same year (1912) The Times sent him to the Balkans, where war had broken out. I think this persistence of newspaper editors in using Baring as War Correspondent is impressive and creditable to both parties….One may conclude it was not only on account of his vivid narrative style, but also because of his enterprise and reliability, that he was once more sent to the seat of war by the foremost English Journal.” (Dame Ethel Smyth, Maurice Baring (1938), pages 42-43—my bold emphasis added.)

***

“And I, for one, in any case, felt that come what might, I had had my dream. I had had a glimpse of Eden, a peep into the earthly paradise.” (Maurice Baring, Round the World in Any Number of Days (London: William Heinemann LTD, 1926), page 97—my emphasis added.)

***

It should be of worth to us yet today to see some of the nourishing perceptiveness and insights of Maurice Baring in his 1912 travel writings less than two years before the outbreak of World War I. Although Baring’s vivid and varied record of his five-month trip was first published in the United States in 1914, we shall now refer to, and often to quote, only from a later publisher’s unified and final 1926 English edition, which is still entitled: Round the World in Any Number of Days.1

From June to October 1912, Maurice Baring (1874-1945) first sailed east from England to Naples, Italy, on to India and Ceylon, then on to Australia and New Zealand, and briefly (but very movingly) through Roratonga and Papeete, Tahiti (mindful also of the beautiful Marquesas Archipelago) and onward to San Francisco, and then winding up by train coming down the Hudson River Coast into New York City (and Long Island), from which he sailed back to England, in order to begin his mission to the Balkans as a trusted War Correspondent.

After this brief introduction and partial summary, let us first consider how Baring concretely presents a fresh mango as it was recommended to him in Ceylon so as to alleviate the “damp heat that saps your very being” (38):

It is when you are dressed for dinner and you come down into the large high dining-room, full of electric fans, that you realize that it is impossible to be cool. It is an absorbing, annihilating damp heat that saps your very being.

The first thing to do is to eat a mango. Will it be as good as you are told it is? Yes, it is better. At first you think it is just an ordinary apricot and then you think it is a banana; no, fresher; a peach, a strawberry, and then a delicious, sharp, fresh, aromatic after-taste comes, slightly tinged with turpentine, but not bitter. Then you get all the tastes at once, and you know that the mango is like nothing else but its own incomparable self.

It has all these different tastes at once, simultaneously. In this it resembles the beatific vision as told of by St. Thomas Aquinas. The point of the beatific vision, says St. Thomas, is its infinite variety. (38—italics in the original)

Baring then immediately elaborates upon his unusual analogy of Beatitude’s “infinite variety” with the concurrent variety of tastes accessible to one who is savouring a fresh mango:

So that those who enjoy it [i.e., the vision of beatitude] have at the same time the feeling that they are looking at a perfect landscape, hearing the sweetest of music, bathing it a cold stream on a hot day, reaching the top of a mountain, galloping on grass on a horse that isn’t running away, floating over tree-tops, reading very good verse, eating toasted cheese, drinking a really good cocktail [or wine!]—and any other nice thing you can think of, all at once. The point, therefore, of the taste of the mango is its infinite variety. It was probably mangoes which grew in Eden on the Tree of Knowledge, only I expect they had a different kind of skin then, and were without that cumbersome and obstinate kernel which makes them so difficult to eat. (38-39—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)

Such a perceptive and extended passage on beatitude and a mango fruit is a representative instance of Baring’s multi-faceted and unusual pre-World War I travelogue. And there is more to come.

For example, Maurice Baring—the Russian scholar and linguist—then freshly mentions the reliable reports or realities of “ghosts at sea” and he modestly says:

But I have spoiled that story. I have merely told the bare facts; what you want is the whole thing: the dialogue, the details; the technical terms. Ghosts at sea are more frightening than ghosts on shore, but I think the worst of all ghosts are river ghosts or, for instance, the ghosts that haunt the rivers of Russia. They have green, watery eyes, hair made of weeds, and they laugh at you when they see you and then you go mad. This naiad ghost is called Russalka. I have never seen one or any other ghost either, but I have once in the company of a friend [Hilaire Belloc] heard a ghost sing. (47—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)

Baring at once adds a footnote to this passage in the 1926 edition, where he now more revealingly says: “Now that the age of reticence has gone his name [my friend] can be mentioned. It was H. Belloc.” (47—my emphasis added)

Throughout his Round the World, Maurice Baring mentions and quotes his friend Hilaire Belloc, as well as G.K. Chesterton, and even Dr. Samuel Johnson, the noted, often witty, Lexicographer. For example, Baring says:

So that one wonders [at times] how it happens that any one goes to sea [and thereby also then has “the possibility of drowning”!]; and one is inclined almost to agree with Dr. Johnson’s opinions on the subject.

“A ship,” he said, “is worse than a gaol [jail]. There is in a gaol better air, better company, better conveniences of every kind, and a ship has the additional disadvantage of being in danger [as in drowning!]. When men come to like a sea-life they are not fit to live on land.”

“Then,” said [James] Boswell, “it would be cruel in a father to breed his son to the see.”

It would be cruel,” said Johnson, “in a father who thinks as I do. Men go to sea before they know the unhappiness of that way of life; and when they come to know it, they cannot escape from it, because it is then too late to choose another profession, as, indeed, is generally the case with men when they have once engaged in any particular way of life.” (52—my emphasis added)

In view of these wholehearted and differentiated words, Baring soon again quotes Dr. Johnson who also sincerely said: “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier or not having been at sea.” (58)

Maurice Baring also shows his sincere admiration of the poet and scholar, Andrew Lang (59-61).

We thus propose to give only a selection of Baring’s thoughts. First of all, Baring gives us the context for his subsequent personal words about the Scottish poet, scholar, and translator, Andrew Lang himself, who had just died in July of 1912 (having been born in Scotland in 1844):

And yet it happens that many writers [like Belloc and Baring themselves!] write books on different subjects. Andrew Lang, for instance; at Fremantle [a port-city on the west coast of Australia] we heard the sad news of his death. Personally I knew him slightly and he had shown me much kindness. Also we had corresponded about a ghost story. I have literally fed on his books since I was fifteen. When a boy awakens to a love of literature and his enthusiasm for a number of authors is kindled to a white-hot pitch, he wishes to see that enthusiasm confirmed and justified in the writings of older men, and he turns to the critics. The critics pull his favourite poets to pieces, and sniff, and cavil, and patronize, and analyze, and damn with faint praise, and dissect, and blame, and make reservations, and deal out niggard approval. Nothing is so trying to the young as the jaded palate of elder critics. But in Andrew Lang’s criticism (so lightly and beautifully put, so unpedantic and so easy) the boy will find the enthusiasm he expects. (59—my emphasis added)

Baring then remembers other examples of Lang’s admirable qualities:

In a letter to me Andrew Lang once said he appreciated all the poets from Homer to Robert Bridges, with the exception of Byron. I’m sorry he didn’t like Byron. But I didn’t like Byron as a boy, and it was as a boy that Andrew Lang what I most needed, praise of my favourites—Shelley, Keats, William Morris, Dumas; of all the poets I had just discovered and the romantics in whom I was revelling, and of French verse into the bargain.

As a boy, when I began to read the critics, I found that they despised French verse, and I wondered. But Andrew Lang was my solace. He understood. He knew the language….You must be used to the sound of French to appreciate French verse….

Andrew Lang is an author who spent the large capital of his wit, his learning, his wide sympathies, royally and generously without stint; he was a master of English prose, and some of the best pages he ever wrote were flung into leaders in the Daily News….He had a fine and rare appreciation of the world’s good verse; he could write ghost stories, fairy tales, doggerel; he was a supreme dialectician, an amusing parodist, a prince of letter-writers, as well as a poet;—perhaps he was of all things a poet. The following translation [by Andrew Lang] of Rufinus’ lines to Rhodocleia, sending her a wreath, is a good example of his verse. He has turned an exquisite Greek poem into an exquisite English poem: [then the full poetic translation is actually provided on page 61]….

Practically I saw nothing of Australia, but I suppose there is no harm in writing these notes—the mere rough impressions of a fugitive traveller. (59-61—my bold emphasis added)

Such is Maurice Baring’s sincere forthrightness and his modesty.

In September of 1912, Baring was in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, and we hear about someone he memorably met:

One of the most interesting people I have met here is a French lady of the highest culture and education, Soeur Marie Joseph, who is at the head of a Home of Compassion for derelict children. She went out to the Crimean War [1853-1856] under Florence Nightingale and looked after the wounded on the battlefield that knew nothings of anaesthetics. She told me that sometimes the doctors, after a day of surgical operations, would be drunk with the fumes of the blood. The wounded had to be tied down to be operated on, and sometimes, where this was not practicable, people had to sit on them.

Soeur Marie Joseph is very fond of New Zealand. She came out, attracted by what she heard of the [native] Maoris, and she knew the Maoris with an intimate thoroughness. She has a great admiration for them; and she gave me many instances of their chivalry and nobility of character….This morning at one of the Catholic churches here the priest preached a most interesting sermon….I have had a glimpse of New Zealand, such as no books and no pictures could give me, and I have consequently enriched my store of experience and extended the frontiers of my outlook. (85-86—my emphasis added)

In mid-September 1912, Baring arrived first in Roratonga en route to Tahiti, and noticed, among other distinctive qualities, that the Tonga natives spoke with special tones:

Their voices are in harmony with the liquid musical quality of their language, which consists of soft open vowels. It is, I suppose, the most melodious of all human languages….

I bathed in the sea, and then…I went on board once more. From Roratonga it only takes two days to get to the island of Tahiti [in French Polynesia], and the steamer anchored at Papeete [the capitol of French Polynesia] on Friday, September 20 [1912].

Roratonga gives you a kind of foretaste of the whole charm and beauty of the South Seas. It is the appetizer, …not the whole meal. Tahiti is the whole thing; the real thing, the thing that one has dreamt about all one’s life; the thing which made Stevenson [Robert Louis Stevenson] leave Europe for ever. All tellers of fairy tales, and all poets from Homer downwards, have always imagined the existence of certain Fortunate islands [“the Happy Isles”] which were so full of magic and charm that they turned man from his duty and from his tasks, labour, or occupation in which he was engaged, and held him a willing captive, who would not sell his captivity for all the prizes of the busy world. (90-91—my emphasis added)

After Baring’s further presentations of Tahiti’s allurements (or perilous temptations?), he says:

I cannot imagine anything more ideal than to possess a schooner fitted with a small motor in case of calm, and to cruise [under sail] about the waters between Tahiti and the Marquesas [the archipelago], which, one is told, are the most beautiful of all….They are things to be seen; they are places to be seen and lived in; not to be written about. The pen can give no idea of their charm….Loath as I was to go, at the end of twenty-four hours I felt it was a good thing that I was going, otherwise I should have been tempted to remain there for the rest of my life….

We left Tahiti in the afternoon, when the greater part of the population came down to the wharf to see us off. We left feeling like Ulysses [Odysseus] when he was driven by force (or by Penelope’s letters) from the island of Calypso. And I, for one, in any case, felt that come what might, I had had my dream. I had had a glimpse of Eden, a peep into the earthly paradise. (95-97—my emphasis added)

Before leaving these varied and inviting samples of Maurice Baring’s 1912 travelogue, I propose to present one scene from his brief time in San Francisco:

The next night I left San Francisco for Chicago. Before leaving San Francisco, I had a dinner at a restaurant called the “New Franks” [run by “a Dalmatian” with “a French cook or cooks”]. It is a small restaurant, and it provides the best food I have ever eaten anywhere….I was not hungry the night I went to the New Franks. I was not inclined to eat, but the sheer excellence of the cooking there excited my greed, and bade my appetite rise from the dead….And I had never tasted anything so good in my life [not even a mango!]….

The trouble about small restaurants, when they are excellent, is, that they become well known, and are then so largely patronized that they become large and ultimately bad.

Once I was walking in Normandy with a friend [perhaps Hilaire Belloc?], and we stopped in a very small town to have luncheon at an hotel. We asked if there was any wine. Yes, there was some wine, some Burgundy, some Beaune. We tried a bottle, and it surprised us. Surprise is, in fact, a mild word to describe the sharpness of our ecstasy.

“Is not this wine very good?” we asked of the host.

“Yes, sirs,” he answered, “it is very good. It is very old, but there is not much of it left.”

Now, my friend was a journalist, who writes about French towns and French wines in the English Press.

Whatever happens,” I said to him, “if you write about this town and about this wine, which I know you will do, you must not divulge the name of the town.”

He agreed. He wrote an article about the town, he grew lyric over the wine, and looted all the poets of the world from Homer downwards for epithets and comparisons fit for it. He did not mention the name of the place.

The year after he returned to the same place and ordered a bottle of the Burgundy. There was no more left. Some English gentlemen, the host told him, had come on purpose from England to finish it.

Now, I am sure some very intelligent man, and a man who was passionately fond of good wine, read the article and guessed, from the description, the whereabouts of the little French town and the precious liquid.

The moral of this is: “Don’t tell secrets in the newspapers; don’t even tell half a secret.”

The evening I left San Francisco I had a small adventure. I asked a man the way to some street. He told me the way, and then, catching hold of my arm, he said, “You will stand me a drink.”….Then he said, “I’m a bum….I’m a booze-fighter.” He added with engaging frankness that he was half drunk: an under-statement. (114-118—my emphasis added)

Such is the richness and variety of Maurice Baring’s writing, even his travel writing on the eve of the coming and soon spreading War.

God’s good foison” – “God’s good abundance”—is what the Catholic poet, John Dryden (d. 1700), once generously said of the earlier Catholic poet, Geoffrey Chaucer (d. 1400).

Such an abundance also characterizes the writing and the heart of Maurice Baring, who, three years before his 1912 voyage, became a Roman Catholic. It was on 1 February 1909 that he was received into the Church, on the Vigil of Candlemas.

–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1 See, first of all, Maurice Baring, Round the World in Any Number of Days (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company—The Riverside Press Cambridge, October 1914), 248 pages. The final 1926 edition, with longer dedications added, is published, as follows: Maurice Baring, Round the World in Any Number of Days (London: William Heinemann LTD, 1926 ), pages v-xv, and 1-140. Illustrations are by Basil Blackwood; and Dedications are now to his close friend, Dame Ether Smyth, Doctor (and Composer) of Music; and to his valorous Companion in World War I, Major Bowman, D.S.O., M.C. Henceforth, all references to and quotations of Baring’s text will be to the 1926 edition, and placed above in parentheses in the main body of this brief essay. We shall now accent a representative selection of Baring’s insights.

Maurice Baring, One of God’s Gentlemen, Presents Xantippe: The Wife of Socrates

(Author’s Note: This 2017 essay on Maurice Baring is intended to be a fitting sequel to the recently posted essay on Max Beerbohm’s Parody of some of Maurice Baring’s subtle writings. This essay shows the deep character of Maurice Baring himself, as well as presents an instance of his gifted writing on certain personalities from the Classical Ancient World of Greece.)

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                      9 June 2017

Feast of Mary Mother of Fair Grace

Saint Columba (Saint Columbkille) (d. 597)

Maurice Baring, One of God’s Gentlemen, Presents Xantippe:

The Wife of Socrates

Epigraphs

“On the eve of Candlemas 1909, I was received into the Catholic Church by Father Sebastian Bowden at the Brompton Oratory [in London and on 1 February]: the only action in my life which I am quite certain I have never regretted. Father Sebastian began life as an officer in the Scots Guards. He had served as A.D.C. [Aide-de-Camp] under the same chief and at the same time as my uncle, Lord Cromer. He lived all the rest of his life at the Oratory and died in 1920. He was fond even in old age of riding about London on a cob [his small horse of sturdy build]. His face was stamped with the victory of character over all other elements. He was a sensible Conservative, a patriot, a prime example of an English gentleman in mind and appearance; a prince of courtesy, and a saint; and I regard my acquaintance with him and the friendship and sympathy he gave me as the greatest privilege bestowed on me by Providence.” (Maurice Baring, The Puppet Show of Memory, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1922), pp. 395-396—my emphasis added)

***

“That night [17 May 1915]…there was a rumour that B.K. [Major Basil Barrington-Kennett] had been killed. The next day the rumour was confirmed.

If ever a man deserved a soldier’s death, to die leading his men and the men of his own regiment into battle, it was B.K. But of all the bitter losses one had to bear throughout the war, it was, with one exception [i.e., his cherished long-time friend, Auberon “Bron” Herbert, Captain Lord Lucas, d. 3 November 1916 at age 40; and to whom, in 1909, Baring had dedicated his parodic Dead Letters (1911)], this particular loss I felt most, minded most, resented most, and found most difficult to accept.

He [“B.K.”] was not an old friend of mine. I had never seen him before the war. But he was bound up with every moment of my life during the first months of the war, and I had got to know him intimately and to admire him more than others and to delight in his company more than in that of others….But when this particular piece of news [about his death] came I felt the taste of the war turn bitter indeed, and apart from any personal feelings, one rebelled against the waste which had deprived, first the Flying Corps and then the Army, of the services of so noble a character. He was the most completely unselfish man I have ever met: a compound of loyalty and generosity and a gay and keen interest in everything life has to offer.

Not long ago I heard a little boy of eight years old asked if he knew what the word gentleman meant. He said, ‘Yes, of course.’ On being pressed for a definition he said: ‘A gentleman is a man who loves God very much and has beautiful manners.’ This definition exactly fitted B.K.” (Maurice Baring, R.F.C., HQ.–1914-1918 (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1920), pp. 92-93—my emphasis added)

***

“He [General Éduard de Castelnau, 1851-1944] seemed to belong to a nobler epoch than ours [circa 1914-1918], to be [himself] a native of the age of chivalry, of that time [in the 13th Century] when Louis IX, who is known as Saint Louis, dispensed justice under a spreading oak-tree. He had the easy familiarity, the slight play of kindly irony, the little ripple of humour, the keen glance, the foresight and forethought, that politesse du cœur [that deep and sincere politeness of heart], that complete remoteness from what is common, mean, base, self-seeking, which are the foundation and substance of God’s gentlemen.” (Maurice Baring, R.F.C., HQ.—1914-1918, p. 273—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

***

This short essay proposes to consider, not only the above-mentioned Major B.K. and General de Castelnau, but also Maurice Baring himself, as “one of God’s gentlemen,” as one whose own generous and chivalrous character is marked by a sincere, deep, and guileless politesse de cœur, even as he presents to us now the volubly scolding (sometimes shrewish) wife of Socrates, Xantippe. Under her eloquent reproaches Socrates himself is shown to be a man of a few words, maybe for a good reason, inasmuch as he expectantly approaches the end of his earthly life, which is already forebodingly endangered—though seemingly unnoticed by his discouraged and hot-tempered wife. (In 399 B.C., five years after the humiliating defeat and capitulation of Athens in the devastating Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) in which he had earlier been a combatant, Socrates himself, after his trial, was to die.)

Baring first published this charming character portrayal of Xantippe and her husband in 1911, three years before the Great War of 1914-1918 was to break out, and only some two years after he had become a Catholic. The Xantippe portrayal was then again later published in his book’s set of 23 short literary presentations, entitled Diminutive Dramas,1 where Baring’s characteristic magnanimity recurrently showed itself. And he expressed it often with “a play of kindly irony” and a warmly sustained, flowing “ripple of humour”—as we may soon come to see, especially if we were–with only two reciters– to read with a fittingly swift pace the entire short play aloud. (Recently, and in the presence of our two young children at home, my German wife herself expressively read the lines and convincingly played Xantippe —with me as the taciturn, somewhat intimidated Socrates in the background as a foil—and she thereby heartily evoked the joy and smiles of the astounded children!)

Now we should present Baring’s own description of the Scene at the opening of the Play:

“A room in SOCRATES’ house. XANTIPPE is seated at a table [in Athens], on which an unappetizing meal, consisting of figs, parsley, and some hashed goat’s meat, is spread.” (177)

We should remember the goat’s meat is, purportedly, one of Socrates’ favorite dishes, at least in Xantippe’s estimation. As Socrates (S) enters his home, Xantippe (X) has the first comment (177):

X: “You’re twenty [sic] minutes late.”

S: “I’m sorry, I was kept—”

X: “Wasting your time as usual, I suppose, and bothering people with questions who have something better to do than to listen to you. You can’t think what a mistake it is by going on like that. You can’t think how much people dislike it. If people enjoyed it, or admired it, I could understand the waste of time—but they don’t. It only makes them angry. Everybody’s saying so.”

S: “Who’s everybody?

X: “There you are with your questions again. Please don’t try to catch me out with those kind of tricks. I’m not a philosopher. I’m not a sophist. I know I’m not clever—I’m only a woman. But I do know the difference between right and wrong and black and white, and I don’t think it’s very kind of you, or very generous either, to be always pointing out my ignorance, and perpetually making me the butt of your sarcasm.”

S: “But I never said a word.”

X: “Oh, please, don’t try to wriggle out of it. We all know you’re very good at that. I do hate that shuffling so. It’s so cowardly. I do like a man you can trust—and depend on—who when he says Yes means Yes, and when he says No means No.”

S: “I’m sorry I spoke.”

X: “I suppose that’s what you call irony. I’ve no doubt it’s very clever, but I’m afraid it’s wasted on me. I should keep those remarks for the market-place and the gymnasia and the workshops. I’ve no doubt they’d be highly appreciated there by that clique of young men who do nothing but admire each other. I’m afraid I’m old-fashioned. I was brought up to think that a man should treat his wife with decent civility, and try, even if he did think her stupid, not to be always showing it.” (177-178—my emphasis added)

Baring’s tonal words show Xantippe to be a more sympathetic figure than we might have originally thought to be so.

In reply to Xantippe’s last set of words, Socrates can only say: “Have I by a word or hint ever suggested that you were stupid?” The pathos now grows.

X: “Oh, of course not—never. However, we won’t discuss that. We will change the subject, if you don’t mind.”

S: “But really—”

X: (ignoring the interruption). Please give me your plate. I will help you to the goat.”

S: “None for me, thank you, to-day”

X: “Why not? I suppose it’s not good enough. I’m afraid I can’t provide the food you get at your grand friends’ houses, but I do think it’s rather cruel of you to sneer at my poor humble efforts.” (178—my emphasis added)

Socrates goes on to reveal only the fact that he is not very hungry: “I’ve really got no appetite for meat to-day. I’ll have some figs, if you don’t mind.” (179) And Xantippe immediately responds:

X: “I suppose that’s the new fad, not to eat meat. I assure you people talk quite enough about you as it is without your making yourself more peculiar. Only yesterday Chrysilla was talking about your clothes. She asked if you made them dirty on purpose. She said the spots on the back couldn’t have got there by accident. Every one notices it—every one says the same thing. Of course they think it’s my fault. No doubt it’s very amusing for people who don’t mind attracting attention and who like being notorious: but it is rather hard on me. And when I hear people saying ‘Poor Socrates! it is a shame that his wife looks after him so badly and doesn’t even mend his sandals‘–I admit I do feel rather hurt. However, that would never enter into your head. A philosopher hasn’t time to think of other people. I suppose unselfishness doesn’t form part of a sophist’s training, does it?

[SOCRATES says nothing, but eats first one fig and then another.]

X: “I think you might at least answer when spoken to. I am far from expecting you to treat me with consideration or respect; but I do expect ordinary civility.”

[SOCRATES goes on eating figs in silence.]

X: “Oh, I see, you’re going to sulk. First you browbeat, then you’re satirical. Then you sneer at the food, and then you sulk.” (179—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

Baring’s presentation now moves on to the specific discussion of food, but only after Socrates shows no larger response to his wife’s more capacious comments. The only reply Socrates chooses to make to her is somewhat impersonal, as well as brief: “I never said a word against the food.” (180—my emphasis added) Nor does Socrates ever thank her for being a good cook who tries to please him!

We may now imagine the different emphases and tones of voice that might be fittingly expressed by the actors in this continuing and somewhat one-sidedly animated dialogue, if this deftly written little domestic drama were also to be performed on stage. Xantippe now resumes (with a touch of irony) her own more loquacious and more differentiated response to her terse husband:

X: “You never said a word against the food. You only kept me waiting nearly half an hour for dinner—not that that was anything new—I’m sure I ought to be used to that by now—and you only refused to look at the dish which I had taken pains to cook with my own hands for you.”

S: “All I said was I wasn’t hungry—that I had no appetite for meat.”

X: “You’ve eaten all the figs. You’ve got quite an appetite for those.”

S: “That’s different.”

X: “Oh, that’s different, is it? One can be hungry enough to eat all the fruit there is in the house, which I was especially keeping for this evening, but not hungry enough to touch a piece of meat. I suppose that’s algebra.”

S: “You know I very rarely eat meat.”

X: “Really? I hadn’t noticed it. I always hear of your eating meat in other people’s houses; but my poor cooking is not good enough for you. I’m sorry, but I can’t afford those spicy messy dishes. If I had a husband who had a real profession, and worked, and did something useful to earn his living and support his house and home, it would be different; only I think the least you could do is not to sneer at one when one is only trying to do one’s best.” (180—my emphasis added)

To this cascade of words and spousal reproaches Socrates only says: “I very rarely eat meat anywhere now.” Perceiving this rarity of meat to be a nutritional deficiency in her husband, Xantippe finds new grounds for her sharp solicitousness:

X: “That’s why you’re looking so ill. All the doctors say it’s a mistake. Some people can do without meat. They don’t need it—but a man who works with his brain like you ought to eat nourishing food. You ought to force yourself to eat meat, even if you don’t feel inclined to.”

S: “I thought you said just now that I did nothing.”

X: “There you are, cross-examining me like a lawyer, and tripping me up. I’ve no doubt it’s very amusing for a professional philosopher to catch out a poor ignorant woman like me. It’s a pity your audience isn’t here. They would enjoy it. However, I’m afraid I’m not impressed. You can twist my words into anything you like. You can prove I meant black when I said white, but you know perfectly well what I mean. You know as well as I do that your eccentricity has made you thoroughly unpopular. And what I say is, it’s just these little things that matter. Now put all that nonsense away and have some goat.”

S: “No, thank you. I really can’t.”

X: “It’s excellent goat, and there’s some garlic in the sauce. I hate garlic, and it’s there on purpose for you—

S: “Oh!”….

X: “I suppose you had dinner before you came here [i.e. came home], or you’re going to have dinner somewhere else presently.”

S: “I haven’t touched food since I left the house.”

X: “Then it’s quite ridiculous your not eating [even if it were, perhaps, on the threshold of death?]. Let me give you some goat at once.”

S: “I couldn’t, really. Besides, I must go in a minute.” (180-182—my emphasis added)

As we approach the end of Maurice Baring’s diminutive dramatic depiction, we must also consider now the implicit presence of dramatic irony and pathos. For, without Xantippe’s adequate knowledge, Socrates may actually be preparing to leave home in order to face his stern Athenian accusers and, perhaps, never to come home again. Let us therefore consider some of Baring’s sudden hints, or subtle clues.

S: “…Besides, I must go in a minute.”

X: “There! I knew it! You’re going out to dinner.”

S: “You’re mistaken, Xantippe.”

X: “You’d far better tell me the truth at once. I’m quite certain to find it out sooner or later. You can’t think how foolish it is to tell lies and then to be found out afterwards. You can’t think how much a woman despises a man for that—you couldn’t do anything more foolish.”

S: “I promise you by all the gods that I’m not going to dine elsewhere. [A true fact; but what of import are you not telling your wife?!]

X: “I suppose you don’t expect me to fall into that trap! Swearing by all the gods, when every one in Athens knows you are a professed atheist—when you do nothing but mock the gods from morning to nightand, what’s far worse, make other people mock them too; when I scarcely like to have a slave [a possible informant or spy!] in the house because of your impiety—and your blasphemy.” (182—my emphasis added)

Maurice Baring, in this last passage, deftly has Xantippe herself make many of the same charges that are later made by Socrates’ own three accusers, who then successfully condemn him to death.

Moreover, immediately after Xantippe’s grave and bulging charges against her husband, Socrates, in an understated way, merely says to her: “I really think you are rather unfair, Xantippe. You will be sorry for this some day.” (182—my emphasis added)

X: “Then may I ask where you are going?”

S: “I’ve got an important engagement.”

X: “And with whom?”

S: “I would rather not say, for your sake.”

X: “That’s very clever and ingenious to put it on me. But I’m tired of being bullied. Even a worm will turn, and I demand to be treated just for once like a human being, and with the minimum of courtesy and frankness. I don’t ask for your confidence [trust], I know that would be useless. But I do ask to be treated with a grain of straightforwardness and honesty. I insist upon it. I have borne your sneers, your sarcasm, and your sulkiness, your irritability, your withering silence, quite long enough. I will not put up with it any longer.” (182-183—my emphasis added)

After this scorching and humiliating indictment of Socrates’ character and the very conduct of his domestic life with her (without even mentioning their three sons), Socrates decides to open up to her a little:

S: “Very well. Since you will have it, I have been impeached by Lycon, Meletus, and Anytus [Socrates’ three primary Athenian accusers] on some ridiculous [sic] charge, the result of which, however, may be extremely serious—in fact it may be a matter of life and death—and I am obliged to appear before them at once.”

X: “Oh dear, oh dear! I always said so. I knew it would come to this! This is what comes of not eating meat like a decent citizen!” [Xantippe bursts into tears.] —Curtain.—The End (183—my emphasis added)

Socrates was then to face his stern accusers at the public trial in 399 B.C., and he defended himself at some length, but in a not very conciliatory way. He was thus finally condemned to death, and, after thirty days, he drank the hemlock.

After now knowing of, and even having read large portions of, this charming diminutive drama by Maurice Baring, we might also come especially to appreciate and savor a magnificent student “blooper” on an academic test concerning Socrates: “Socrates died of an overdose of wedlock.”

Maurice Baring would have cherished this “blooper,” and I like to think that he might even have composed it himself when he was an antic young student. For, even then, he was known for his magnanimous parodies. He also had a keen sense of pathos (as in the case of Xantippe), and it is to be especially seen in his ennobling elegiac verses and in most of his later heart-searching novels.

CODA

Since Maurice Baring especially admired (and desired to imitate) the moral character and chivalrous standards of the French General Éduard de Castelnau (1851-1944), I propose to end this essay with Baring’s own slightly expanded presentation of that great and deeply admired man, part of which has already been revealed in our Epigraphs above, at the beginning of this essay; but it is worthy of our now repeating Baring’s memorable articulation of those inspiring interwoven qualities:

May 26, 1918….Headquarters, 8th Brigade [in France]….

We [General Trenchard and I] saw General de Castlenau [sic–Castelnau] too, who is charming….Our unique and undefined position [in France] depended, as far as practical results were concerned, entirely on the goodwill of the French. Luckily this goodwill was given to us in an overflowing measure by General de Castelnau, the commander of the Group of Armies of the East. He and the General [Trenchard, for whom Major Baring was the beloved and trusted Aide-de-Camp] understood each other at once after their first conversation.

General de Castelnau’s name and exploits need no comment [at least not in 1918 Europe]. They will be written, and are already written in gold, in the history of France, and in the Gesta Dei per Francos [the Epic High Deeds of God as Enacted by and through the Franks], as the victor of the Grand Couronné and the restorer of the situation at Verdun. But it is perhaps permissible to say a word or two about his personality.

He seemed to belong to a nobler epoch than ours, to be a native of the age of chivalry, of that time when Louis IX [of France], who is known as Saint Louis, dispensed justice under a spreading oak-tree. He has the easy familiarity, the slight play of kindly irony [like Baring with his depiction of Xantippe and Socrates!], the little ripple of humour, the keen glance, the foresight and forethought, that politesse du cœur, that complete remoteness from what is common, mean, base, self-seeking, which are the foundation and substance of God’s gentlemen. His white hair, his keen eyes, his features, which looked as if they had been cut by a master-hand out of a fine block of granite, radiated goodness and courage and cheerfulness, a salt-like sense, and a twinkling humour. And his smile went straight to your heart, and made you feel at home, comfortable, easy and happy. When one had luncheon with him and the orderly said luncheon was ready he used to say:

“A cheval, Messieurs [To Horse, Gentlemen!],

and throughout his conversation there was always a rippling current of good-humoured, delicate and keen chaff [reminding one of Maurice Baring’s “Xantippe and Socrates”]. To hear him talk was like reading, was to breathe the atmosphere in which classic French was born, racy, natural, idiomatic, and utterly free from anything shoddy, artificial or pretentious. He was the salt of the earth, and one felt that if [Edmund] Burke had met him he would have torn up his dirge of the death of the Age of Chivalry [to be found in Burke’s classic 1790 Reflections on the Revolution in France], for there [in May of 1918] it [the chivalry] was alive and enjoying life and making others enjoy it. (Maurice Baring, R.F.C., H.Q.—1914-1918 (1920), pages 272-274—my emphasis added)

Is it not desirable that we too try to hold ourselves to the chivalrous standards of General de Castelnau?

May we too–like the generous and magnanimous Maurice Baring himself in his own discerningly compassionate (and comic) depiction of Xantippe (and her laconic husband)—show ourselves to be “one of God’s gentlemen.” Fittingly, we should thus recall how “a little boy of eight years old” himself memorably defined a gentleman: “A gentleman is a man who loves God very much and has beautiful manners.”

Recognizing that courtesy itself is a form of charity, Baring’s beloved friend Hilaire Belloc even wrote in one of his short poems entitled “Courtesy” that “the Grace of God is in Courtesy.”

Maurice Baring’s own deep politesse du cœur was so admirably able to encounter and depict with chivalrous compassion—and with “a ripple of good humour”—the challenges of those increasingly isolated and poignantly elegiac characters: voluble Xantippe and her tersely Philosophizing Husband.

–FINIS–

© 2017 Robert D. Hickson

1Maurice Baring, Diminutive Dramas (London: William Heinemann LTD., 1925), 183 pages. The last of the twenty-three dramatic sketches is entitled “Xantippe and Socrates” (Chapter XXIII, pp. 177-183). Although the book was originally published in late December 1910-early January 1911, it was published again in 1919, and then once again in 1925, by W. Heinemann, as part of “The Works of MAURICE BARING: Collected Uniform Edition.” All further references will be to that 1925 edition of Diminutive Dramas, and the pages quoted will be placed in parentheses above in the main text. In this context, Baring’s Dead Letters—a charming 1910 set of parodies—should also be savored, especially two of them: “From the Mycenae Papers” and “Lady Macbeth’s Trouble.” Maurice Baring, Dead Letters (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company 1925), pp.1-7 and 95-99. See too Paul Horgan, Maurice Baring Restored: Selections from His Work (1970).

Max Beerbohm’s Charming 1950 Parody on Maurice Baring: “All Roads—” As a Christmas Garland Woven for His Gifted Friend

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                             14 August 2020

The Vigil of the Assumption of Mary

Saint Eusebius (d. 357)

Saint Maximilian Kolbe (d. 1941)

Epigraphs

“Publisher’s 1950 Note: A Christmas Garland was, when it was first published [in 1912], acclaimed by many writers as the best book of prose parodies in the English language. We venture to think that it still holds this pride of place. A parody on a certain M**R*C* B*R*NG [Maurice Baring] is now included.” (London: William Heinemann, 1950)

***

“Despite the last sentence in the foregoing [Rapallo, 1912] note, I did, in recent years, write one other parody, ‘All Roads–‘. It amused and pleased my old friend, the brilliant, the greatly gifted Maurice Baring. Had he not liked it [Baring was to die on 14 December 1945], I would not include it in this later [1950] edition.” (Max Beerbohm’s own 1949 Rapallo Postscript to the 1950 Heinemann London edition—my emphasis added.)

***

Maurice Baring [d. 1945] had already variously presented his own subtle and multiple talents in writing charming parodies, and it may be seen even in his set of what he called “diminutive dramas.” One may see it, for example, in the deft ironic domestic discourse between an earnest, sometimes shrewish, wife and her meditative, ironical philosopher husband, such as Socrates. That little drama is to be found (and to be read aloud and likely further cherished) in the drama of “Xantippe and Socrates” which is still to be highly recommended to everyone. One may see its subtle presentation in the final chapter of a larger collection in Baring’s 1925 versatile book, entitled Diminutive Dramas (London: William Heinemann LTD., 1925—in Chapter XXIII, on pages 177-183, will be found that timely and timeless little gem, “Xantippe and Socrates.”)

***

As a literary gift to his friend Maurice Baring, Max Beerbohm decided to tell a tale about a young man in the British diplomatic service in Rome who, with the help of a haunting young woman he never spoke to, overcame his longstanding displeasure with Christmas. He was then never to see her again.

Here is how Beerbohm’s narrator, partly aware of Baring’s earlier biography, begins his tale:

Michael Forster reached Rome in the first week of December and drove straight to the Embassy. Every one there was very kind to him. It was rather like being a new boy at a public school and not being bullied. All the same, he could not help wishing himself back at Copenhagen, or at Berne, where he had felt life-sized. Rome dwarfed him. She seemed to say to him, “If you want monuments, look around you! You will know that though you are twenty-five years old you are nobody—and never will be anybody though you live to be a hundred.” But at any rate he was not dreading the advent of Christmas.

Year after year, he had dreaded it ever since his childhood.1

Beerbohm’s hyphenated title, “All Roads–”, may well evoke the saying that “All Roads Lead to Rome”—and maybe also implicitly to the Catholic Faith. However, Beerbohm is more enigmatic when, right under the parody’s title is a chapter heading, namely “Chapter V.” as if there are earlier parts of the prose parody, as well as later ones, too. But let us pass on now to some other and more vivid matters.

After describing an ambiguous (partly unhistorical) set of incidents with Michael’s specially cherished German governess, “Fräulein Schultz” (57, 58), “and though he forgot all about her soon after she went to be a governess somewhere else, he never lost his dislike of Christmas.” (58—my emphasis added)

Nonetheless, “he was glad to be transferred to Rome” (58), but it was:

Not that he had yet felt any definite wavering in regard to the Church in which he had been baptised and confirmed. He was still a Protestant. But he had long since ceased to protest day in, day out, and the prospect of seeing a Christmas passed over lightly was one of the things that cheered him on his journey south….and it was a blow to him when one day Sainson, the Second Secretary, said, “Of course, the Chief will be giving the usual beano [noisy, festive] dinner on Christmas night.” (58—my emphasis added)

“Michael, at this news,” realized that he lacked a born and “real vocation for diplomacy, but he did manage to think out a plausible excuse, and on Christmas night, after he had dressed, he slipped out and dined in an obscure little restaurant in the Via Golfango.” (58—italics in the original)

A new character now comes into the tale, “a friend of his family,” the one who had recommended to him the little restaurant and he will now introduce him to a remarkable woman in her seventies:

When he [Michael] was half-through his meal [Pierre] Frénard himself came in and joined him at his table. Later, while they sat over their coffee, Frénard said he thought of going on to Mme. Yakovlev’s [still on that Christmas night].

Michael asked, “Who is Mme. Yakovlev?”

Frénard laughed and said, “Oh, she’s one of those women who know everybody. Fancy anyone not knowing her. You had better come with me. This is one of her Soirs. She has two a week….”

“Tell me about her,”said Michael.

“There’s not much to tell,” answered Frénard….“Her father was very poor, an Irish landowner, living mostly at home in a tumble-down castle, but sometimes travelling. From one of his journeys he brought back a bride—a young Turkish lady, a niece of Mustapha Pasha. There was one child of the marriage, a daughter; she was christened Clara. Both parents died when she [Clara] was twelve years old. She was then brought up by an aunt in Scotland. The aunt had been a devout Catholic, but there was some kink in her, and she was now a Presbyterian. The girl was not at all happy with her. She ran away when she was sixteen [four years later] and became a postulant in an Ursuline Convent near Glasgow. But she found she had no real vocation.” (59-60—my emphasis added)

After the narrator presents a wide range and variety of her mixed international life (60), we are then told that “Sergius Yakovlev, her third husband, was a trusted adviser of [Tsar] Alexander the Third….She and he [Sergius] are said to have been quite happy while he lived. Anyhow, she never married again. She settled in Rome….She was seventy-three last June. She knows a great deal but seldom says very much. What she says has point.” (60—my emphasis added)

Later at Mme. Yakovlev’s salone, “Michael was piloted by Frénard to Mme. Yakovlev and presented to her. Somehow he had expected her to be tall, but she was quite short.” (61) She asked him a question about a certain “Septimus Forster whom she had known in Algiers” (61), but:

Before he could think of an answer, he had to make way for another fresh arrival. He felt that he had not made a good impression. But afterwards Frénard told him that Mme. Yakovlev had liked him very much. (61-62)

Michael was now suddenly to glimpse the haunting young woman who was to influence him so greatly:

In one of the groups [of “fresh arrivals”] nearest to him he saw a young woman whose face was familiar to him, though he was sure he had never seen her before, and though she was unlike any one he had ever seen….She seemed utterly remote from the group she stood in….How was she here? How could she be? That she was a musician, and an exquisite one, Michael was sure. Her eyes and her hands proclaimed that. (62)

As part of Beerbohm’s deft artfulness, our minds are then presented with a contrasting human form, the robust Jorton himself, another family relation and indeed another “fresh arrival”:

While Michael gazed and wondered, the vast bulk of Professor Jorton suddenly interposed itself between him and the unknown [young woman], and he was affectionately hailed in the booming voice of the famous Alpine climber and Egyptologist, who was an old friend of the [Michael Forster] family and one of his Godfathers. That Jorton should be here was natural enough, for in spite of all his peaks and papyri he was the most social of men, and no capital city was complete without him. Michael felt sure he could learn from Jorton something about the identity of the young woman. (62-63—my emphasis added)

Now we are to hear a part of Professor Jorton’s biographical report on young Eleanor d’Urutsia:

“I don’t wonder that you’re struck by her. Eleanor d’Urutsias don’t grow on every bush….She married out of the schoolroom, as it were. She was only sixteen when young Fernand d’Urutsia came over to London….He was quite poor, and so was she, but they were ideally happy. He died on the first anniversary of their wedding, at Qualva, a fishing-village near Biarritz. It was feared that she would lose her reason. But she is ‘of the stuff that can affront despair.’ She withdrew into solitude for three years—no one knows where. Probably in some conventual [religious] institution, for she became passionately dévote when she was received into the Roman communion. She is now twenty years old….She is very musical. She used to sing charmingly. She plays her own accompaniments. I hope she will sing to-night. Shall I present you to her?

Ah, not to-night,” said Michael. “Not here in this crush.” (63—my emphasis added)

But Michael Forster could not keep his eyes off her, and he began to have some affectionate illusions: “With his eyes fixed on her again, he knew in his heart that somehow, mysteriously, not yet, but not a long while hence, his life would be linked with hers.” (64—my emphasis added)

How will Max Beerbohm now deftly, and even elegiacally, present the three concluding paragraphs of his tale, while keeping in mind the large corpus of Maurice Baring’s prose and verse?

After speaking with some of the new arrivals, Michael became more at ease as he spoke to an international set of expressive visitors:

Then he was aware that something was happening. There was movement in the group around Mme. [Eleanor] d’Urutsia, and a murmur of excitement throughout the room, and then a deep hush, as she passed slowly to the pianoforte.

Michael had known that if she sang it would be unlike any singing that he had heard. But he had not known how utterly unlike it would be. The song itself [touching upon the Nativity] was one he had often heard, and had not cared for—Weber’s setting of Bérenger’s “Noel.” She transported it into some sphere of unconjectured beauty in which one could only hold one’s breath, and marvel as best one might. (64—my emphasis added)

The last paragraph of the nuanced prose parody is well worth our repeated savoring and our poignant ironical reflections which distil some of Maurice Baring’s own deeply elegiac themes and also his noble perceptions of human sorrows:

The [musical] notes came and went without melancholy as one knows it, without gaity as one could recognise it, but with an ethereal mingling of both these moods. And they seemed to come not from in the room. One seemed to hear them wafted from a great distance, across the waters of a great lake. This made Michael all the more certain in his heart that his future was indissolubly one with the future of Eleanor d’Urutsia. As it happened, he never saw her again. But she had entirely conquered his dislike of Christmas. He was destined to love it ever after. (65—my emphasis added)

CODA

In his own 1935 novel Darby and Joan, Maurice Baring has memorably said, first through the words of a Catholic priest, that “the acceptance of sorrow is the secret of life.” (Our Lady must have deeply known that intimate wisdom– also at that first Christmas.)

Let us consider what Maurice Baring himself wrote in 1935, in Darby and Joan:2

“One has to accept sorrow for it to be of any healing power, and that is the most difficult thing in the world.”

“I didn’t think about it in that way. I don’t think I rebelled against it, because I thought my father was happier dead and at peace, than alive and in pain; but I was just stunned. Apart from that, I have not experienced real sorrow; only disappointment and disillusion.”

“A priest once said to me, ‘When you understand what accepted sorrow means, you will understand everything. It is the secret of life.’”

For our sake now at the end of Max Beerbohm’s warm, often comic, partly exaggerated parody of a friend’s writing and literary style, we may now appreciate, a little, what comes from Maurice Baring’s own sincere heart and its depth.

Such are also the graceful and subtly allusive developments in Max Beerbohm’s interwoven 1950 Christmas Garland, especially his artful parody, “All Roads–” by M**R*CE B*R*NG.

–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1Max Beerhohm, “All Roads–”, one of eighteen portraits in A Christmas Garland (London: William Heinemann, 1950), page 57—my emphasis added. Henceforth, all references will be to this text of “All Roads–” and placed above in parentheses in the main body of this brief essay and commentary. Moreover, G.K. Chesterton has a parodic portrait entitled “Some Damnable Errors about Christmas” starting on page 47; and Hilaire Belloc is also parodied by Beerbohm in a portrait merely entitled “On Christmas”–by “H*l**r* B*ll*c starting on page 147. Baring, Belloc, and Chesterton are together once again!

2Maurice Baring, Darby and Joan (London: William Heinemann, 1935), page 178—italics are in the original.

Josef Pieper on the Sophist Phenomenon and Its Recurring Temptations

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                2 August 2020

Our Lady of the Angels

Saint Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787)

Saint Peter Julian Eymard (d. 1868)

Epigraphs

“What indeed did Plato have against the sophists? His objection could tentatively be summed up in these brief terms: corruption of the word—you are corrupting the language! Still the core of the matter is not yet identified with this. The specific threat, for Plato, comes from the sophists’ way of cultivating the word with exceptional awareness of linguistic nuances and utmost formal intelligence, from their way of pushing and perfecting the employment of verbal constructions to crafty limits, thereby—and precisely in this—corrupting the meaning and the dignity of the very same words.” (Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, pages 14-15.)

***

“This timeless character of the sophistic phenomenon, transcending any particular age, prompted certain important, indeed disturbing, comments by Hegel….He called the sophists of Socrates’ time ‘extremely refined and learned people’; but such praise…sounds somewhat ambiguous. It is precisely such learned refinement and unmoored questioning that plucks apart any object and dialectically discredits everything; it is such ‘refined reasoning’…—an expression repeatedly used by Hegel [“gebildetes Raisonnement”]–that poses the true danger. It almost inevitably leads us, says Hegel, to the conviction that everything can be justified if we look hard enough for reasons. To quote Hegel: ‘You need not have advanced very far in your learning in order to find good reasons even for the most evil of things. All the evil deeds in this world since Adam and Eve have been justified with good reasons.’ Hegel, therefore, sees here a danger clearly intrinsic to the human mind, being part of its nature, a danger that can perhaps be overcome but never entirely avoided.” (Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, pages 8-9—my bold emphasis added)

***

“It is one of my favorite questions in tests…: Can a lie be taken as communication? I tend to deny it. A lie is the opposite of communication. It means specifically to withhold the others’ share and portion of reality, to prevent his participation in reality. And so: corruption of the relationship to reality, and corruption of communication—these evidently are the two possible forms in which the corruption of the word manifests itself.” (Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, page 16—my emphasis added)

***

Josef Pieper published a short book in English in 1992 that is subtly entitled Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power.1 Because of its timelines, as well as its timelessness, I propose to consider the first section of that profoundly insightful book, which was first published in German in 1974 and which will now be found on pages seven to thirty-nine of the 1992 English translation, almost twenty years later.

The first page of Dr. Pieper’s 32-page enquiry clearly discloses his thesis and its motivation:

The topic of this essay can also be stated as “the abuse of language in its relation to the abuse of power.” I intend to approach this subject from two different directions: though they are two distinct considerations, I shall nonetheless try to show their intrinsic connection.

One of these considerations is a phenomenon of classical antiquity [Socrates, Plato, Gorgias, Protagoas, Aristotle and such]….To be sure, historicity…is not my concern in this. It is rather Plato’s position—and this indeed is the other [second] consideration—which shall be taken as a paradigm showing, I believe, something directly relevant for us and our own situation today [also in 2020 A.D.]. The case can be made that Plato recognized, identified, and battled in the sophistry of his time a danger and a threat besetting the pursuits of the human mind and the life of society in any era….

Anything that may at first sound like a mere critique of the present, aimed at our own situation, should also be taken as pointing to a timeless temptation that since the beginning of history has always required mankind’s resistance and will require it forever. This [is the] timeless character of the sophistic phenomenon, transcending any particular age…. (7-8—my emphasis added)

In their own respective meditations, both Plato and Josef Pieper are persistently attentive to “the art of twisting words” (7) and “the sophistry of [our own] day” (7) and the concealed disguises of some “such learned refinement” (8) and “such a deceptive illusion” (19) as is characteristically hidden as part of “the sophist mentality” (10).

Pieper’s meditation of thirty-two pages deserves to be slowly and carefully read so as to savor his multiple interrelations and enduring substance. For example: “the incommensurability” (11) of money and spirit (or of money and mind); “the sophists’ way of cultivating the word” (14); “to know reality with the aim of communication” (16); “the sophists’ rhetoric, that artistry with words” (16-17); “verbal artistry and linguistic form” (18) which are “nevertheless sham and foul” (19)—that is to say, “unless the linguistic artist [is also] a speaker of truth” (19). Pieper raises good questions such as the recurrent “by what standard?” (12) and comes even to ask: “To what purpose are you in this world?” (48—my emphasis added). Therefore, in this context: “What is it that makes the sophists so dangerous?” (34—my emphasis added).

And we wonder: “what is a well-ordered language?” (36) Dare we say in response that: “a language is well ordered when its words express reality with as little distortion and as little omission as possible”? (36—my emphasis added)

Continuing his fresh perceptions and keen discernments, Pieper says such additionally challenging things as: he who “explicitly disregards reality ceases to have communication” (20-21) and thus one must fittingly be “explicitly committed to the truth” (20-21); by way of contrast,“flattery intends not to communicate, but to manipulate” (22-23) while often “having an ulterior motive” (23) such as “domination” and especially by deftly flattering our pride. Moreover, as Pieper then properly counter-argues and contends: “Academic must mean anti-sophistic” (38) and we must be found “taking an anti-sophistic stance” (35). Moreover, as others also say: “The lingo of the revolution is a form of modern sophistry.” (32—my emphasis added) And Pieper even later refers to “the jargon of the revolution” (39) as a form of “bondage,” as well. That is to say, the jargon-lingo of the revolution itself appears to be the cramped and stifling product of self-deluded, fevered opinions and “mind-forged manacles.”

After such a selective summary of Josef Pieper’s variety and compactness—and of his multiple challenges to us—it is fitting that we now return to an examination of some of Dr. Pieper’s longer passages. For example:

Word and language, in essence, do not constitute a specific or specialized area; they are not a particular discipline or field. No, word and language form a medium that sustains the common existence of the human spirit as such….And so, if the word becomes corrupted, human existence itself will not remain unaffected and untainted.

What, however, does “corrupting the word” mean?….Human words and language accomplish a twofold purpose….Since this accomplishment is twofold, we may already here suspect that the word’s degeneration and corruption can also be twofold. First, words convey reality. We speak in order to name and identify something that is real, to identify it [something] for someone, of course—and this points to the second aspect in question, the interpersonal character of human speech. (15—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)

After some further observations about Socrates and Gorgias the Sophist, Dr. Pieper says:

And with this we have identified the other [the second] aspect of the corruption of the word: the destruction of its nature as communication….The very moment, as I have stated, that someone in full awareness employs words yet explicitly disregards reality, he in fact ceases to communicate anything to the other. This the reader may more or less have accepted. But an instrument of power? Is this not too strong and too overbearing an expression? It really implies that from one moment to the next the human relationship between the speaker and the listener changes….From that moment on, to be precise, all conversation ceases; all dialogue and all communication comes to an end. But what, then, is taking place? The very question is answered by Socrates with an old-fashioned term: flattery….

What, then, is flattery?….The decisive element is this: having an ulterior motive [not the truth]….What I say to him is designed to get something from him!….He [the seeming conversational partner] has become for me an object to be manipulated, possibly to be dominated, to be handled and controlled….I concentrate on his weaknesses and on those areas that may appeal to him—all in order to manipulate him, to use him for my purposes….The word is perverted and debased [i.e., such “sophisticated language, disconnected from the roots of truth” (20)] to become a catalyst, a drug, as it were, and is as such administered. Instrument of power may still seem a somewhat strong term; still, it does not seem so farfetched any longer. (20-23—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)

Moving forth some seven illuminating pages, Pieper resumes some of his earlier thoughts:

Be that as it may—this much remains true: wherever the main purpose of speech is flattery, there the word becomes corrupted, and necessarily so. And instead of genuine communication, there will exist something for which domination is too benign a term; more appropriately we should speak of tyranny, of despotism. On the one side there will be sham authority, unsupported by any intellectual superiority, and on the other a state of dependency, which again is too benign a term. Bondage would be more correct….[That is,] a pseudoauthority [in combination with]…a state of mental bondage.

Plato evidently knew what he was talking about when he declared the sophists’ accomplished art of flattery to be the deceptive mirage of the political process, that is, the counterfeit usurpation of power. (29-30—italics; my bold emphasis added)

Moreover, a few pages later, Pieper chooses to make a clarifying interim summary once again;

The common element in all of this is the degeneration of language into an instrument of rape. It does contain violence, albeit in latent form….This lesson, in a nutshell, says: the abuse of political power is fundamentally connected with the sophistic abuse of the word, indeed, finds in it the fertile soil in which to hide and grow and get ready, so much so that the latent potential of the totalitarian poison can be ascertained, as it were, by observing the symptom of the public abuse of language….The relationship based on mere power, and thus the most miserable decay of human interaction, stands in direct proportion to the most devastating breakdown in orientation toward reality.

I spoke [earlier] of public discourse becoming “detached from the notions of truth and reality.” This brief characterization may still be too mild; it does not yet express the full measure of devastation breeding within the sophistic corruption of the word. (32-33—my bold emphasis added)

With a glance to contemporary societies in the twentieth century, Josef Pieper adds a note or so:

It is entirely possible that the true and authentic reality is being drowned out by the countless superficial information bits noisily and breathlessly presented in propaganda fashion. Consequently, one may be entirely knowledgeable about a thousand details and nevertheless, because of ignorance regarding the core of the matter, remain without basic insight. This is a phenomenon in itself already quite astonishing and disturbing….“a fundamental ignorance [said Arnold Gehlen], created by technology and nourished by information.” But, I wanted to say, something more discouraging is readily conceivable as well: the place of authentic reality is taken over by a fictitious reality;…a pseudoreality, deceptively appearing as being real, so much so that it becomes almost impossible any more to discern the truth.

Plato’s literary activity extended over fifty years, and time and again he asked himself anew: What is it that makes the sophists so dangerous? Toward the end he wrote one more dialogue, the Sophist, in which he added a new element to his answer: “The sophists,” he says, “fabricate a fictitious reality.”….This Platonic nightmare, I hold, possesses an alarming contemporary relevance. For the general public is being reduced to a state where people not only are unable to find out about the truth but also become unable even to search for the truth because they are satisfied with deception and trickery that have determined their convictions, satisfied with the fictitious reality created by design through the abuse of language. This, says Plato, is the worst that the sophists are capable of wreaking upon mankind by their corruption of the word.

There is now the ancient saying, corruptio optimi pessima, “the best, corrupted, becomes the worst”….Plato is not simply taking an anti-sophist stance….his unwavering strong opposition…[is] in view of this own position regarding the overriding importance of the good that is endangered and threatened by the sophists. With this, indeed, we touch on those most basic convictions relative to the value and meaning of human existence as such. (33-34—italics; my bold emphasis added)

With his characteristic politeness, Josef Pieper inserts his further good words near the end of his essay: “the well-ordered human existence…is essentially based on the well-ordered language….when its words express reality with as little distortion and as little omission as possible.” (36—my emphasis added)

–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abusive of Power (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992). The German text was first published in 1974, and then again in 1988; and the original German title was: Mißbrauch der Sprache, Mißbrauch der Macht. The second portion of Josef Pieper’s longer 47-page book in its entirety is entitled “Knowledge and Freedom” and is to be found on pages 41-54, although it will not be discussed in this essay. With one exception (48), all future references will be to the pages 7-39, and placed above in parentheses in the main body of this brief essay.

G.K. Chesterton’s 1920 Insights on “The Story of the Vow”

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                   11 July 2020

Saint Pius I (d. 167)

Saint Benedict of Nursia (d. 543)

The Hicksons’ Sacramental Anniversary

Epigraphs

The civilisation of vows was broken up when Henry the Eighth broke his own vow of marriage. Or rather, it was broken up by a new cynicism in the ruling powers of Europe, of which that was the almost accidental expression in England. The monasteries, that had been built by vows, were destroyed. The guilds [of the pledged craftsmen and tradesmen], that had been regiments of volunteers, were dispersed. The sacramental nature of marriage was denied; and many of the greatest intellects of the new movement, like Milton [the poet John Milton], already indulged in a very modern idealisation of divorce.” (G.K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920), page 96—my emphasis added.)

***

“Such, in very vague outline, has been the historical nature of vows; and the unique part they played in that medieval civilisation out of which modern civilisation rose—or fell.” (G. K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce (1920), page 93—my emphasis added.)

***

“But when this saner view of history is realised, there does remain something more mystical and difficult to define. Even heathen things are Christian when they have been preserved by Christianity. Chivalry is something recognisably different even from the virtus of Virgil. Charity is something exceedingly different from the plain pity of Homer.” (G.K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce (1920), page 86—my emphasis added.)

***

In 1920, two years before he was received into the Catholic Church at forty-eight years of age, G.K. Chesterton published a book entitled The Superstition of Divorce,1 in which there is to be refreshingly found a variegated and unexpected twenty-page chapter entitled “The Story of the Vow.”

It is our intention in this brief essay to concentrate on some parts of that one chapter so that we may better understand and circulate Chesterton’s reviving insights on the meaning of a vow, and on some of the consequences of a vow, as distinct from a mere contract or an unfair “leonine contract.” For, it is so that a vow is not always a solemn act and grave promise made also as an irreversible promise to God. But sometimes it is: for example, as is the case in a sacramental marriage or in a sacred calling to the religious life, as in the pledges of a monk, or those of a knight.

Moreover, says Chesterton:

The whole of what we call chivalry was one great vow. Vows of chivalry varied infinitely from the most solid to the most fantastic; from a vow to give all the spoils of conquest to the poor to a vow to refrain from shaving until the first glimpse of Jerusalem. As I have remarked, this rule of loyalty, even in unruly exceptions which proved the rule, ran through all the romances [as with beloved Don Quixote!] and songs of the troubadours; and there were always vows even when they were very far from being marriage vows….

I mean here to emphasise the presence, and not even to settle the proportion, of this new notion [of vows] in the middle ages….When we come to workmen and small tradesmen, we find the same vague yet vivid presence of the spirit that can only be called the vow. In this sense there was a chivalry of trades as well as chivalry of orders of knighthood. (89-91—my emphasis added)

Returning to another portion of his earlier analogies with the classical pagan world, Chesterton says:

Even our patriotism [now] is something more subtle than the undivided love of the city [like Athens]; and the change is felt in the most permanent things, such as the love of landscape [in Belloc’s Sussex and the Sea!] or the love of woman.

To define the differentiation in all these things will always be hopelessly difficult. But I would here suggest one element in the change [from the Ancient World] which is perhaps too much neglected: the nature of a vow.

I might express it by saying that pagan antiquity was the age of status; that Christian mediævalism was the age of vows; and that sceptical modernity has been the age of contracts; or rather has tried to be, and has failed.

The outstanding example of status is slavery. (86-87—my emphasis added)

Later alerting us to the consequential breakup of families (and hence to the wounding of the vulnerable little children), Chesterton had also earlier warned us of something else: “The point is that every philosophy of sex must fail which does not account for its ambition of fixity, as well as for its experience of failure.” (83—my emphasis added) For, as he later also politely and quite fairly adds:

The point here, however, is that the trade and craft [guilds] had not only something like the crest [of aristocratic heraldry], but something like the vow of knighthood. There was in the guildsman the same basic notion that belonged to knights and even to the monks. It was the notion of the free choice of a fixed estate. [That is to say, with reference to the free choice of the knight or the monk: “He is not bound to be bound” (83)!] We can realise the moral atmosphere if we compare the system of Christian guilds, not only with the [unfree] status of the Greek and Roman slaves, but with such a scheme as that of the Indian castes. The oriental caste has some of the qualities of the occidental guild; especially the valuable quality of tradition and the accumulation of culture. (91-92—my emphasis added)

As Chesterton said about the slow transition from pagan antiquity to a wider Christian civilisation: “It marks at least a special stage of transition that the form of freedom was essential to the fact of service, or even of servitude. In this way it is not a coincidence that the word homage actually means manhood.” (89—my emphasis added)

Looking back at all of this evidence, Chesterton said:

But we can never judge it [the idea of the vow] fairly till we face, as I have tried to suggest, this main fact of history: that the personal pledge, feudal or civic or monastic, was the way in which the world did escape from the system of slavery in the past. For the modern break-down of mere contract leaves it still doubtful [as of 1920] if there be any other way of escaping it [i.e., an effective, even subtle, form of slavery] in the future.

The idea, or at any rate the ideal, of the thing called the vow is fairly obvious. It is to combine the fixity that goes with finality with self-respect that only goes with freedom. (94—my emphasis added)

In light of Henry the Eighth’s and John Milton’s sense of marital license, Chesterton said:

The progress of this sort of emancipation advanced step by step with the progress of that aristocratic ascendancy which has made the history of modern England [along with an inordinate dominance by the money power with “the sign of golden usury” (91)]; with all its sympathy with personal liberty, and all its utter lack of sympathy with popular life. Marriage not only became less of a sacrament but less of a sanctity. It threatened to become not only a contract, but a contract that could not be kept [as with “no-fault divorce” today]….It began with divorce of a king; and it is now ending in divorces for a whole kingdom.

The modern era that followed can be called the era of contract; but it can still be called the era of leonine contract. The nobles of the new time first robbed the people, and then offered to bargain with them. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they first robbed the people, and then offered to cheat them….The object of the whole process was to isolate the individual poor man in his dealings with the individual rich man; and then offer to buy and sell with him, though it must be himself that was bought and sold. (96-98—my emphasis added)

Moreover, says Chesterton, and in an increasingly earnest way:

Unless the tendency [as seen from the vantage point of 1920] be reversed, he [the vulnerable and isolated poorer man] will probably become admittedly a slave [also in debt-bondage and facing usurious compound interest]. That is to say, the word slave will never be used, for it is always easy to find an inoffensive word; but he will be admittedly a man legally bound to certain social service, in return for economic security. In other words, the modern experiment of mere contract has broken down….The substitute for it may be the old one of status; but is must be something having some of the stability of status. So far history has found only one way of combining that sort of stability with any sort of liberty. (98—my emphasis added)

Now Chesterton comes to his main concern in his entire book on the family and divorce:

There is only one form of freedom that they [the “captains of industry” (99) and theirs managerial elites] tolerate; and that is the sort of sexual freedom that is covered by the legal fiction of divorce.

If we ask why this liberty is alone left, when so many liberties are lost, we shall find the answer in the summary of this chapter. They are trying to break the vow of the knight as they broke the vow of the monk. They recognise the vow as the vital antithesis to servile status; the alternative and therefore the antagonist. (99-100—my emphasis added)

Now returning to the sanctity of marriage, Chesterton becomes even more specific and robustly affirmative, ending his Chapter 3 with a deft and realistic literary allusion about one of those gravely ill effects of one conspicuous historical form of slavery:

Marriage makes a small state within the state, which resists all such [inordinate and intrusive] regimentation. That [marital] bond breaks all other [lesser positive-law] bonds; that [marital] law is found stronger than all later and lesser laws.

They [the modern state] desire the democracy to be sexually fluid, because the making of small nuclei is like the making of small nations. Like small nations, they are a nuisance to the mind of imperial scope….

It is so difficult to see the world in which we live [in 1920], that I know that many will see all I have said here of [often camouflaged] slavery as a nonsensical nightmare. But if my association of divorce with slavery seems only a far-fetched and theoretical paradox, I should have no difficulty in replacing it by a concrete and familiar picture. Let them merely remember the time when they read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and ask themselves whether the oldest and simplest of the charges against slavery has not always been the breaking up of families. (100-101—my emphasis added)

In this context it was also significant for a just and magnanimous man like G.K. Chesterton to discover that the printed subtitle of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1851-1852 widely influential pre-war novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is Life Among the Lowly.

The novel’s subtitle also recalls G.K. Chesterton’s keenly discerning and paradoxical wit in his Orthodoxy: “Without humility you can’t enjoy anything, even pride.”

We may better now also appreciate what Chesterton’s dear friend Hilaire Belloc had published eight years earlier in his 1912 book, which was also subtly entitled The Servile State.

–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1 G.K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920), containing 151 pages in length overall, with five chapters and a brief conclusion. All future references to this book, especially to Chapter 3 (“The Story of the Vow”) will be placed in parentheses above in the main body of this essay and commentary.

H. Belloc’s 1910 Sense of “Sacramental Things”: The Revival of the Past as a Vivid and Abiding Presence

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                  29 June 2020

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (d. 67 AD)

Hilaire Belloc’s Final Arrival Afoot in Rome (1901)

Epigraphs

“But whatever prompts the adventure [in the night] or the necessity, when the long burden [of the night] has been borne,…while all the air, still cold, is full of the scent of morning;…when in the end of that miracle the landscape is fully revealed,…then the great hill before one,…towering at last into the peaks and crests of the inaccessible places, gives a soul to the new [newly revealed] land….The sun, in a single moment and with the immediate summons of a bugle-call, strikes the spear-head of the high places [as in the Alps!], and at once the valley…is transfigured, and with the daylight all manner of things have come back into the world….

Livelihood is come back with the sunlight, and the fixed certitudes of the soul; number, and measure and comprehension have returned, and a just appreciation of all reality is the gift of the new day. Glory (which, if men would only know it, lies behind all true certitude) illuminates and enlivens the seen world, and the living light makes of the true things now revealed something more than truth absolute; they [these very providential things] appear as truth acting and creating.” (Hilaire Belloc, “On Sacramental Things,” from his 1910 anthology, On Something, pages 260-261—my emphasis added.)

***

“And there lies behind it [i.e., “the first shaft of the sun”], one is very sure, an infinite progress of such exaltations [after “the long night” (265)], so that one begins to understand…what has been meant by those great phrases which still lead on, still comfort, and still make darkly wise, the uncomforted wondering of mankind. Such is the famous phrase: ‘Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who serve Him.’” (Hilaire Belloc, “On Sacramental Things,” in On Something, pages 261-262—my emphasis added)

***

“To consider such things is a sacramental occupation. And yet the more I think of them the less I can quite understand in what elements their power consists….There is a resurrection, and we are refreshed and renewed. But why all these things are so neither I nor any other man can tell.” Hilaire Belloc, “On Sacramental Things,” page 257 and 265—my emphasis added)

***

While still an adventurous young man in his thirties, Hilaire Belloc wrote a moving and grateful short essay on the mediation and mystery of “sacramental things.” His vivid perceptions of the manifold world of the senses so often led him to deeper and abiding contemplative insights and sustaining nourishments.

For example, here is how, with examples, Belloc begins his grateful essay “On Sacramental Things”1:

It is good for a man’s soul to sit down in the silence by himself and to think of those things which happen by some accident to be in communion with the world….They will comfort him; they will prove a sort of solace against the expectation of the end….

A woman smiling at a little child, not knowing that others saw her, and holding out her hands towards it, and in one of her hands flowers; an old man, lean and active, with an eager face, walking at dusk upon a warm and windy evening westward towards a clear sunset below dark and flying clouds;….a deep, strong tide running back to the sea, going noiselessly and flat and black and smooth, and heavy with purpose under an old wall; the sea smell of a Channel [an English Channel] seaport town; a ship [under sail] coming up at one out of the whole sea when one is in a little boat and is waiting for her, coming up at one with her great sails merry and every one doing its work, with the life of the wind in her, and a balance, rhythm, and [a] give in all that she does which marries her to the sea….(257-258—my emphasis added)

Belloc then decides to add some technical sailing details and, with it, some implied history:

Whether it [the arriving sailboat] be a fore and aft rig and one sees only great lines of the white, or a square rig and one sees what is commonly and well called a leaning tower of canvas, or that primal rig, the triangular sail [the lugsail], that cuts through the airs of the world and clove a way for the first adventurers, whatever its rig, a ship so approaching an awaiting [small] boat from which we watch her is one of the [sacramental] things I mean.

I would that the taste of my time [around 1910 and just before world War I] permitted a lengthy list of such things: they are pleasant to remember! They do so nourish the mind! (258—my emphasis added)

Among others of Belloc’s more intimately and allusive wishes to have now openly recalled, he includes now some of his special, personal combinations, namely:

A glance of sudden comprehension mixed with mercy and humour from the face of a lover or a friend;…[also a] chief and most persistent memory, a great hill when [as on his 1901 long foot-path to Rome] the morning strikes it and one sees it up before one round the turning of a rock after the long [mountain] passes and despairs of the night.

When a man has journeyed and journeyed through those hours in which there is no colour or shape,…and when, therefore, the waking soul is bewildered or despairs, the morning is always a resurrection—but especially when it [the morning] reveals a height in the sky.

This last picture I would particularly cherish, so great a consolation is it, and so permanent a grace does it lend later to the burdened mind of man. (258-259—my emphasis added)

After his additional descriptions of, for example, “so many rivers crossed, and more than one of them forded in peril” (259), Belloc also acknowledges more broadly the fuller proportions and accents of human communion:

So much, then, is conveyed by a hill-top at sunrise when it comes upon the traveller or the soldier after the long march of a night, the bending of the shoulders [with a heavy rucksack], and the emptiness of the dark.

Many other things put one into communion with the whole world….

Apart from landscape other things belong to this contemplation [of sacramental things]: Notes of music, and, stronger even than repeated and simple notes of music, a subtle scent and its association, a familiar printed page [verse or prose]. Perhaps the test of these sacramental things is their power to revive the past [to include the sacred, inasmuch as Belloc had also just candidly spoken of “the Faith, the chief problem of this world.” (263—emphasis added)].

There is [for example also] a story translated into the noblest of English writing by Dasent [Sir George Webbe Dasent, circa 1860]. It is to be found in his Tales from the Norse. It is called “The Story of the Master Maid.” (263—my emphasis added, to include those additional emphases placed inside the subordinate, clarifying brackets.)

It is now fitting, I believe, to present Hilaire Belloc’s entire eloquent summary of this poignant Norse tale of loyalty and deep love and the final fruits of a sincere vow, once forgotten and broken, but touchingly later restored:

A man had found in his youth a woman on the Norwegian hills: this woman was faëry, and there was a spell upon her. But he won her out of it in various ways, and they crossed the sea together, and he would bring her to his father’s house, but his father was a King. As they went over-sea together alone, he said and swore to her that he would never forget how they had met and loved each other without warning, but by an act of God, upon the Dovrefjeld. Come near his father’s house, the ordinary influences of the ordinary day touched him; he bade her enter a hut and wait a moment until he had warned his father of so strange a marriage; she, however, gazing into his eyes, and knowing how the divine may be transformed into the earthly, quite as surely as the earthly into the divine, makes him promise that he will not eat human food. He sits at his father’s table, still steeped in her and the seas. He forgets his vow2 and eats human food, and at once he forgets [his vow].

Then follows much for which I have no space, but the woman in the hut by her magic causes herself to be at last sent for to the father’s palace. The young man sees her, and is only slightly troubled as by a memory which he cannot grasp. They talk together as strangers; but looking out of the window by accident the King’s son sees a bird and its mate; he points them out to the woman, and she says suddenly: “So was it with you and me high up upon the Dovrefjeld.” Then he remembers all. (264-265—my emphasis added)

After contemplating Belloc’s deftly crafted and heart-piercing well-told-tale, we are more fully prepared for his immediately final summary paragraph on the Mediation and Mystery of Sacramental Things—perhaps even as “External Channels of Grace” as Father John A. Hardon, S.J. (d. 30 December 2000) would often solemnly say to us. Analogously, Hilaire Belloc here humbly says:

Now that [Norse] story is a symbol, and tells the truth. We see some one thing in this world, and suddenly it becomes particular and sacramental; a woman and a child, a man at evening, a troop of soldiers; we hear notes of music, we smell the smell that went with a passed time, or we discover after the long night a shaft of light upon the tops of the hills at morning: there is a resurrection, and we are refreshed and renewed.

But why all these things are so neither I nor any other man can tell. (265—my emphasis added)

The Mystery abides. Yet we also remember the words “Sapientis Ordinare”—it is characteristic of a wise man to give order to things—perhaps even unto the “sacramental things.’

With his own special gifts, and as our guide, Saint Thomas Aquinas always strove to remain proportionally attentive to both Ordo et Mysterium. He humbly believed and trusted that reality as such is knowable and intelligible, and yet unfathomable.

–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, “On Sacramental Things,” (pages 257-265 in full), the essay being from Belloc’s own 1910 anthology, entitled On Something (London: Methuen & Co. LTD, 1910). The first passage of citation above is from pages 257-258—my emphasis added. All further citations to the Belloc essay will also be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this short essay and brief commentary.

2 Hilaire Belloc’s intimate friend, G.K. Chesterton, wrote his own profound chapter VII, entitled “The Story of the Vow,” and it is especially worthy of a savouring and close reading. It is a chapter (chapter seven) in Chesterton’s own 1920 book, The Superstition of Divorce.

Hilaire Belloc’s “The Barbarians” (1912) and the Analogy of a Self-Sabotaging Cultural Immune System

(Author’s note: this essay was first published in 2017, and we hereby reprint it in light of current events.)

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                8 August 2017

Saint John Marie Vianney (d. 1859)

Epigraphs

“The Barbarian….will consume what civilisation [hence sacred tradition] has slowly produced after generations of selection and effort but he will not be at…pains to replace such goods nor indeed has he a comprehension of the virtue that has brought them [such goods] into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is for ever marvelling that civilisation [especially Christian civilisation, Christendom] should have offended him with priests and soldiers….In a word, the Barbarian is discoverable everywhere [even as a Caudillo Churchman] in this that he cannot make; that he can befog or destroy, but he cannot sustain; and of every Barbarian in the decline or peril of every civilisation [to include, even now, what remains of “the great and ancient body of Christendom”] exactly that has been true.” (Hilaire Belloc, “The Barbarians,” pp. 281, 282-283—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

***

“Upon the model of this conception men, watching the dissolution of our own civilisation to-day [before World War I, in 1912], or at least its corruption, have asked themselves whence those Barbarians would come that should complete its final ruin [as was once the case in North Africa and in Asia Minor, also with the Faith].” (Hilaire Belloc, “The Barbarians,” pp. 273-274—my emphasis added)

***

“But the truth is that no such [mere] mechanical explanation will suffice to set forth the causes [not just the symptoms] of a civilisation’s decay. Before the barbarian in any form can appear [also inside the Church], it [the civilisation] must already have weakened. If it cannot absorb or reject an alien element [such as a doctrinal heresy] it is because its organism [thus its immune system] has grown enfeebled, and its powers of digestion and excretion are lost or deteriorated; and whoever would restore any society which menaces to fall, must busy himself about the inward nature of that society [to include its composite and intimately religious society] much more than about its external dangers or the merely mechanical and numerical factors of peril to be discovered within it.” (Hilaire Belloc, “The Barbarians,” pp. 274-275—my emphasis added)

***

After recently re-reading after some years Hilaire Belloc’s 1912 essay, entitled “The Barbarians,” I have thought to apply a few of his keen insights about both ancient and modern civilisation to the current Catholic Church and her own “cultural immune system,” as it were.1 This limited analogy may also thereby allow us to consider the additional phenomenon of “auto-immune diseases,” whereby an immune system comes to sabotage itself—sometimes swiftly, sometimes slowly.

Belloc begins his own searching essay with an aptly cautionary sentence: “The use of analogy, which is so wise and necessary a thing in historical judgment, has a knack of slipping into the falsest forms.” (273) We must therefore be careful with our application of compressed metaphors and likewise preserve a just sense of proportion. For, analogy itself means proportion (analogia).

To help us understand his caution, Belloc gives an illustrative example:

When ancient civilisation broke down its breakdown was accompanied by the infiltration of barbaric auxiliaries into the Roman armies, but the settlement of Barbarians…, upon Roman land, …, in some provinces [was accomplished], by devastatingirruptions of barbaric hordes.

The presence of these foreign elements, coupled with the loss of so many arts, led men to speak of “the Barbarian invasions” as though these were the principal cause of what was in reality no more than the old age and fatigue of an antique society. (273—my emphasis added)

In this context, we might also helpfully recall what the Roman historian, Livy, had earlier (and very trenchantly) written, even back in 19 B.C., and in the general introduction to his own multi-volume history of Rome. Livy had then said that Rome had so degenerated and come down in those times even to such a point where “we can tolerate neither our vices nor their remedies” (“donec ad haec tempora quibus nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus peruentum est”).2 This compact insight about cumulative decadence is certainly “a terrible thing to think upon” (in the words of Father François Rabelais). Into such a weakened culture—to include a fatigued and weakened culture and immune system of the Catholic Church—there will come various parasites and barbarians. They should be expected (and firmly resisted). For, a certain kind of weakness constitutes a “provocative weakness” (in the memorable words of Dr. Fritz Kraemer)—“for it is so weak that it is provocative to others.”

But, in the face of certain threats, there is also a dangerous progression: from denial to indifference to despair. Some have even colloquially referred to the three sequenced tricks often employed by the Prince of this World: “I don’t exist”; “I do exist but it makes no difference”; “I do exist and that’s all that exists, the reality of evil; goodness is an illusion.” We might also call it a slothful mental or spiritual movement from “What’s the difference?” to “What’s the use?”—an expression of the despairing sense of futility. From denial to presumptuous sloth to despair.

Father Enrique Rueda’s 1982 book—The Homosexual Network: Private Lives and Public Policy3—illustrated for me such an enervating psychological pattern unto futility, if not, after all, despair. Father Rueda had told me that three-fifths of the specific evidence and other materials he had assembled he had cautiously “sent to Rome, and confidentially”: inasmuch as he did not want to scandalize the vulnerable faithful.4 His published Homosexual Network already had 680 pages of evidence and argumentation, and that was only two-fifths of the evidence he had produced. Even in 1982—during the reign of Pope John Paul II—there was already a grave problem of homoeroticism in the Catholic Seminaries in the United States, and also in some of the Catholic clergy. Father Rueda himself had, in his careful research, first discovered the meaning of “gay” which was an intentionally used ideological and meliorative word. For, he discovered, “gay” meant that both “being homoerotic” and “also acting out such a yearning disposition” were, in themselves, “good” and, conversely, “being straight was bad.” However, now in 2017—35 years later—Catholics so nonchalantly use the word “gay,” thereby appropriating (perhaps unknowingly) the soiled language of their own enemy or adversary or opponent.

Hilaire Belloc illustrated this same linguistic and essentially moral phenomenon back in 1912. Let us consider this matter now, especially the implications of an attenuated language concerning Marriage:

It is certain that if the fundamental institutions of a polity are no longer regarded as fundamental by its citizens, that polity is about to pass through total change which in a living organism we call death.

Now the modern attack upon property and upon marriage (to take but two fundamental institutions of the European [at least as of 1912]) is precisely of this nature. Our peril is not that certain men attack the one or the other and deny their moral right to exist. Our peril rather is that, quite as much as those who attack, those who defend [marriage and property] seem to take for granted the relativeness, the artificiality, the non-fundamental character of institution which they are apparently concerned to support. (278-279—my emphasis added)

Belloc then considers the purported defence of marriage more specifically:

See how marriage is defended. To those who would destroy it under the plea of its inconveniences and tragedies, the answer [especially in England as of 1912] is no longer made that, good or ill, it is an absolute and is intangible. The answer made is that it [marriage] is convenient, or useful, or necessary, or merely traditional.

Most significant of all, the terminology of the attack [such as “gay” in another “marital” context] is on the lips of the defence, but the contrary is never the case. Those opponents of marriage who abound in modern England will never use the term “a sacrament,” yet how many for whom marriage is still a sacrament [such as Roman Catholics] will forego the pseudo-scientific jargon [e.g., “sustainable developments in and among the gay, single-sex civil partnerships”] of their opponents? (279-280—my emphasis added)

Adopting the categories and undefined equivocal language of one’s opponents is, indeed, a recurrent peril and often a sophistical trap. Much alertness is required to detect and resist sufficiently such ensnaring sentimentalism or subtle humbug based on false premises.

Belloc will now introduce us to one such unprincipled form of the “strutting Barbarian”:

The [presumptuous] Barbarian, when he had graduated to be a “pragmatist,” struts like a nigger in evening clothes [sic—as in Fats Domino’s own singing of “The Darktown Strutters’ Ball”!], and believes himself superior to the gifts of reason [and to “the accuracy of mathematics” (280)], or free to maintain that definition, limit, quantity and [the law of] contradiction are little childish things which he [the strutter as well as the dialectical Hegelian] has outgrown….

The Barbarian hopes—and that is the very mark of himthat he can have his cake and eat it too. He will consume what civilisation [or our sacred tradition] has slowly produced after generations of selection and effort [as in the cultivated vineyards!] but he will not be at… pains to replace such goods nor indeed has he a comprehension of the virtue that brought them [such goods] into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is for ever marvelling that civilisation should have offended him with priests and soldiers.

The Barbarian wonders what strange meaning may lurk in that ancient and solemn truth, “Sine Auctoritate nulla vita” [“Without Authority there is no life”]. (281-282—my emphasis added)

Belloc concludes with some candor that should make us more attentive and more wholeheartedly resistant now to the ongoing subtle, and also the crude, subversion of our Catholic Faith:

The real interest in watching [and then resisting] the Barbarian [within the gates and even within the walls] is not the amusement derivable from his [often perverse] antics, but the prime doubt [i.e., “dubium”] whether he [perhaps even as a crude lout or Caudillo leader] will succeed or no, whether he will flourish. He is, I repeat, not an agent, but merely a symptom, yet he should be watched as a symptom. It is not he in his [unmanly] impotence that can discover the power to disintegrate the great and ancient body of Christendom [and the Faith], but if we come to see him [that same Barbarian] triumphant we may be certain [“sine dubio”] that that [corrupted] body, from causes must vaster than such as he could control, is furnishing him with substance and forming for him a congenial soil—and that is as much as to say that we [and thus our sustaining culture of the Faith] are dying. (282-283—my emphasis added)

CODA

Hilaire Belloc’s fresh insights about the Barbarian and about his recurrent qualitative conduct throughout history will now also prepare us, I hope, to ask with integrity certain candid questions about our own “fundamental convictions” and, thus, about some “fundamental institutions,” especially the sacred and enduring institution of the Mystical Body of Christ (the Corpus Christi Mysticum), also known as the Catholic Church—to include the threefold interdependence and interrelationship of the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant. My observations and questions propose to cover the interval of time beginning mainly in October of 1962 (or a little before) and continuing until today. When the Second Vatican Council formally began on 11 October 1962, I was still nineteen years of age, and very young.

By slightly introducing some autobiographical evidence as a witness, beginning with my time as a West Point cadet (5 July 1960-3 June 1964), I hope thereby to make more pertinent, even more trenchant, some of my own searching and specific questions as a Catholic layman down the years, and amidst many intellectual, spiritual, and moral challenges. For, some of the things I first heard or read in my callowness and considerable theological ignorance later became much clearer, and, for me personally, even momentous. However, I early on was reliably led to understand that the deepest ongoing revolution was about the very nature of the Church, de Ecclesia. The subtle revolutionaries, striving to bypass and offset Pope Pius XII’s own doctrinal distinctions, attempted to say that “the Mystical Body of Christ” was larger than the Catholic Church, and thus more “inclusive” and much more “ecumenical.”

Professor Roberto de Mattei has just recently made me understand this larger matter freshly and still more deeply than ever before. His brief 2 August 2017 article on Corrispondenza Romana5 said the following, for example:

On the historical level, however,Vatican II constitutes a non-decomposable block [sic]: It has its own unity, its essence, its nature. Considered in its origins, its implementation and consequences, it can be described as a Revolution in mentality and language, which has profoundly changed the life of the Church, initiating a moral and religious crisis without precedent. If the theological judgment may be vague and comprehensive, the judgment of history is merciless and without appeal. The Second Vatican Council was not only unsuccessful or a failure: it was a catastrophe for the Church….

When Vatican II opened in October 1962, Catholics from all over the world were waiting for the disclosing of the Third Secret [of Fatima] and the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary….What better occasion for John XXIII (died 3rd June 1963), Paul VI and with circa 3000 bishops gathered around them [at the ongoing Second Vatican Council still in Rome], in the very heart of Christendom, to meet Our Lady’s requests in a solemn and unanimous way? On February 3rd 1964, Monsignor Geraldo de Proença Sigaud, personally delivered to Paul VI, a petition signed by 510 prelates from 78 countries, which implored the Pontiff in union with all the bishops, to consecrate the world and, in an explicit manner, Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Pope and most of the Council Fathers ignored the appeal….

The failed consecration allowed Russia to continue spreading its errors throughout the world and these errors conquered the highest ranks of the Church, inviting a terrible chastisement for all humanity. Paul VI and the majority of the Council Fathers assume an historical responsibility for which today we gauge the consequences. (by Roberto de Mattei ) (My bold emphasis added to the text itself.)

It was sometime in early 1963—a year, more or less, before the 4 February 1964 Marian Petition to Pope Paul VI—that our two West Point Catholic Chaplains (Monsignor Moore and Father Mc Cormick) said something unforgettable in a conversation. Speaking of the Vatican Council, they said: “They have now asked the Blessed Mother to leave the Marriage Feast of Cana.” (It was only many years later—in the early 1980s—that I learned of a French priest who seems to be the first one to have written those piercing and sad words, namely L’Abbé Berto, himself a peritus at the Council: Victor-Alain Berto (1900-1968).) Quoting Our Lady, he also poignantly wrote: “Vinum non habent” (“They have no wine.”). Perhaps in her dismissal she still had time to tell them that. About Grace, too.

Some twenty years later, in the 1980s—while he was visiting my home in Front Royal, Virginia for the evening and for some deep historical and theological discourse—the learned Jesuit priest, Father Robert I. Bradley, S. J., unexpectedly told me a related story from back in 1965 and from inside Saint Peter’s, concerning Our Lady’s newly proposed title as the Mother of the Church (Mater Ecclesiae).

Father Bradley’s careful historical recollection of these 1965 events—where he was personally present—had to do with the audible unsettling reaction to Pope Paul VI’s new proposal, which he made in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the end of the Second Vatican Council. (And he actually proposed it after the formal close of the Council itself, as Father Bradley himself said from his first-hand experience there.) It came to pass that Pope Paul’s somewhat weak and shaky voice publicly proposed to the larger Assembly to restore an older title of Our Blessed Lady and Blessed Mother, and thus to address her once again as the “Mater Ecclesiae.”

Immediately after that Papal proposal, as Father Bradley earnestly acknowledged, there came an audible hiss throughout Saint Peter’s—a rudely disapproving and an unmistakably audible and permeating hiss inside the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican.

It was only after this shocking report that I told Father Bradley about Abbé Berto’s own 1963 words about Our Lady’s being asked to leave the Marriage Feast of Cana. In both cases, she seemed to be an unwelcome barrier to Ecumenism, the new coalescent ecumenism or syncretism. Father Bradley and I then considered together whether or not to use, without scandalizing others, an evocative and reality-revealing formulation: “The Theological Journey from Our Lady’s Being Asked to Leave the Marriage Feast of Cana to Her Being Crudely Hissed At in Saint Peter’s.” It was, moreover, a weakening and self-sabotaging Journey of only two years: from 1963 to 1965. The Church’s immune system was thereby further weakened. There are also signs of auto-immune reactions and disorders, or self-sabotaging actions (or evasions), whereby one actually subverts one’s own protective immune system.

We may now incorporate these events and implications into what we have already considered concerning Our Lady of Fatima and her entire Message of Mercy and Warning—to include the already mentioned (and ignored) 3 February 1964 Petition to Pope Paul VI from 510 Prelates during the Vatican Council who were asking for the special and specific consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Not consecrating Russia then also may have weakened the Church’s immune system.

In this context, we should ask a few other questions. For example:

To what extent were all—or selectively only some—of the Council Fathers informed about the the content and resolutions of the secret meetings held in Strasbourg, France and in Metz, France prior to, or slightly after, the October 1962 opening of the Council—those meetings being respectively held with Moscow and with certain representatives of the modern Jews? (The great Catholic scholar and French layman, Jean Madiran (1920-2013), wrote extensively and reliably about these matters.6)

To what extent did Cardinal Tisserant (after Metz) and Father Yves Congar, O.P. (after Strasbourg) make known the existence of their own individual private meetings and, especially, the content of their binding “ecumenical” decisions and agreements, to include any “secret accords” and hence their promised “self-censorship” henceforth about certain strategic and contested topics at the Ecumenical Council? Were most of the Council Fathers intentionally kept in the dark about such matters of secret diplomacy, and was this thought to be a sign of integrity and pastoral and ecumenical forthrightness? Were the leaders of the Council “playing with a full deck of cards”?

And how many of the more progressive (or purportedly “liberal”) Council Fathers and their own Periti may very well have gravely perjured themselves at the Council? For, they had all by then taken themselves the solemn Anti-Modernist Oath, which was only later withdrawn—after the Council–and then made non-binding and was even effectively, but quite quietly, revoked by Pope Paul VI himself, in July of 1967.

We wonder how such things affected the larger deliberations at the Council—especially their deliberations about the unique doctrines of the Catholic Faith, such as the matter of Supernatural (and Sanctifying) Grace and the specific Seven Sacraments and the Two Deadly Sins against the Virtue of Hope (Presumption and Despair), i.e., against the Infused Virtue of Hope.

Does it not seem that even the proposed Gospel of Life—as in Evangelium Vitae—is essentially (if not entirely) about Natural Life, not Supernatural Life?

Moreover, how are we to understand that a Pastoral Ecumenical Council would not want to know more fully—and with a provision of Strategic Intelligence—at least two major adversarial groups (or combatant ideologies): Communism; and both the Range and the Substantive Content of Modern Judaism?

That is to say, what do we need to know about the Political Action of Communist Forces? What do we need to know about the Cultural Action of Communist Forces?

Likewise, what do we need to know about the Political Action of Jewish Forces, and also especially about the Cultural Action of Jewish Forces?

A wise French mentor [Arnaud de Lassus], recently deceased, said to me years ago (in the 1980s) two especially memorable and reality-illuminating things:

“As I look back at the Council and the cumulative Aftermath, I see, on several fronts, the Attenuation of Sacrificium, Sacramentum, and Sacerdotium—and of Grace!

Secondly, he said:

“Our great challenge in this situation today is ‘How do we properly resist the Corruptions of Authority without thereby subverting the Principle of Authority?’”

My beloved mentor saw and sensed so well the ongoing weakening of the Church’s cultural immune system and its sometimes inattentively careless (and delusional) resort to self-sabotaging actions, to “auto-immune disorders and diseases,” as it were. He also knew that such enervating conduct would more and more provoke the barbarians unto further-sapping, or conquering, actions.

Like Hilaire Belloc and Jean Madiran, Arnaud de Lassus (R.I.P.) was a very great man of integrity, and graciously modest, as well. He was invariably charitable, but always after the truth.

–FINIS–

© 2017 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, “The Barbarians,” to be found in his own Anthology of Essays, entitled This and That and The Other (Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press—Essay Index Reprint Series, 1968—an exact reprint of the original 1912 edition), pp. 273-283. Further page references to this reprinted text will be placed above, in parentheses, in the main body of this essay.

2See Titus Livy, Titi Livi Ab Urbe Condita—Oxford Classical Texts (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press—Oxford University Press, 1974, reprinted in 1979), p. 2—Praefatio (Preface)—my emphasis added.

3(Reverend Father) Enrique Rueda, The Homosexual Network: Private Lives and Public Policy (Old Greenwich, Connecticut: Devin-Adair Company, 1982), 680 pages.

4Father Rueda also told me that, in his confidential report to Rome, he earnestly, and even insistently, recommended that the problems with homoeroticism should be dealt with on a “one-to-one basis, individually,” and “not at all with group dynamics” or with more collective “consciousness-raising sessions,” both of which would only exacerbate the situation and the disordered (or worse) affliction. He later told me that his recommendation was ignored and effectively rejected “because the problem is also in Rome.” These words were spoken to me by Father Rueda in 1982, while I was on the Faculty of Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia.

5See the 2-page English translation of Professor de Mattei’s own article,“The Second Vatican Council and the Message of Fatima,” which is now to be found conveniently on the website of Professor de Mattei himself: http://www.robertodemattei.it/en/2017/08/03/the-second-vatican-council-and-the-message-of-fatima/. Professor de Mattei’s original article was in Italian.

6See Jean Madiran, “Rome’s Secret Accord with Jewish Leaders,” (10 pages), first published in French in Itinéraires in 1986—and it was translated into English for Apropos, in Issue 9 (1990). The journal is printed in Scotland. This earlier article (with four others) is still to be seen on the Apropos website on 29 July 2013. Until his sudden death on 28 August 2014 the Editor was Anthony S. Fraser (R.I.P.). See www.apropos.org.uk (Archives), also Approaches: issues 84, 85, 86, 88, and 93-94 for additional writings by Jean Madiran. Approaches was Hamish Fraser’s earlier magazine, later re-titled.

Remembering Louis Blanqui and the Leninist Concept of “Enlightened Terror”

(Author’s June 2020 note: This essay was written and published in early January 2013.)

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                              6 January 2013

Feast of the Epiphany

Saint Andre Bessette

Epigraphs:

“He agreed with my view that the means governed the end, ill means distorting the end.” (B.H. Liddell Hart, Lawrence of Arabia.)1

***

“The manipulation of language was one of the salient characteristics of Leninism, particularly in the de-coupling of words from the reality they were supposed to represent.” (Stéphane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression.)2

***

“The war we are in is particularly characterized as being omni-dimensional, but it perhaps is even more sharply distinctive for the fact that within the omni-dimensional deployment psycho-political operations have been raised to the level of a primary weapons system.” (James Burnham, The War We Are In (1967), Chapter I—“The Decade Past,” p. 14)

***

On 4 June 1960, one month before I was to enter the United States Military Academy as a seventeen-year-old New Cadet, an article was published that was later to illuminate much reality for me as a military officer—especially about the strategic and tactical manipulation of mobs by well-trained, disciplined cadres who sought “command of the streets.” The 1960 article was entitled “Student Riots and Blanqui’s Legacy” and the writer was the former Trotskyite, James Burnham.

Burnham’s well-informed article was originally published in his regular bi-weekly column in National Review under the heading “The Third World War.” But, it was later published again in 1967, in one of James Burnham’s strategic-cultural books, entitled The War We Are In: The Last Decade and the Next.3

Moreover, if one considers Burnham’s 1960 article also in light of advanced modern communication-technologies some fifty years later, and in light of such recent, purportedly spontaneous manifestations as “the Arab Spring,” one may freshly see again some enduring principles and applications of effective indirect warfare. We may also come to see how this matter of indirection is itself related to strategic and tactical deception and to the difficult matter of detecting and countering “False-Flag Operations.”

Since this essay proposes to be intelligible to the general reader, as well as urgently pertinent to the reader’s actual needs for discernment and counter-action, it is fitting to make a clarification and a slight over-simplification. By tactical, in this essay, we should understand something as being directed toward more short-term and partial objectives. By strategic, we should understand something as being directed toward more long-term and decisive objectives. The choice of tactics is also a part of strategy. Moreover, in the introductory section of his book’s Chapter VIII, entitled “The Forms of Modern Warfare,” written in 1967 amidst the keen challenges of that era, Burnham thoughtfully says:

Military theorists tell us that the principles of warfare never change. This may be so, if the principles are formulated in general enough terms, but practical strategy as well as weapons and tactics are of course continually changing. The war we are in is not the first in which political, psychological and other “unconventional” methods have been employed. Their use goes back to the beginning of warfare—that is, to the beginning of man’s social history. We take the term “Trojan Horse” from three thousand years ago to describe certain types of contemporary infiltration behind enemy lines. Thucydides makes clear the important role of political warfare in the Peloponnesian conflict. In gaining his sweeping victories at the end of the fourteenth century, the Mongol leader, Tamerlane, made political and psychological measures a major weapons system…. Very often this method of psychological terror attained Tamerlane’s objective—the conquest of a city—without any need of overt fighting. The two surrenders of Czechoslovakia—to Hitler in 1938 and to Stalin in 1947—are not so very different from the surrenders by the Asian cities to the Mongol conqueror….Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen points, particularly his stress on self-determination, were an important factor in bringing about the downfall of the German and especially the Austro-Hungarian governments in the First World War. Hitler took control of the Rhineland, the Saar and Austria, as well as Czechoslovakia, by political warfare methods without fighting by the main elements of his armed forces.4

After his brief conspectus of relevant history, Burnham brings us closer to the specific challenge of Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist communism and the revolutionary methods which its strategic-and-tactical “Conflict Apparatus”5 variously employed:

There is, thus, ample precedent for the communist use of political and psychological warfare methods, together with the many sorts of guerrilla, partisan and paramilitary methods, and the lesser but increasing use of these methods by the anti-communist camp. However, as I have remarked earlier, no previous conflict has displayed as great a variety and number of methods—of dimensions—as the war we are in. From the communist point of view, every institution in the camp of the enemy is a battleground: churches as well as armies; business corporations and trade unions alike; art, literature and science; Boy Scout troops along with intelligence agencies; communications media just as much as political parties. The front, as Colonel William R. Kintner has insisted through the title of one of his books, is everywhere. And since the enemy attacks everywhere, we must either resist everywhere, or succumb.6

Let us now turn to Burnham’s consideration of Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), whom Vladimir Lenin himself thoroughly studied and greatly admired. Burnham will thereby lead us to other deeper considerations by first examining “the political pattern” that “emerges unmistakably” when we observe the worldwide, and often simultaneous, “student riots” of 1960.

Burnham first presents some facts and, then, some of the cumulative effects of these often concurrent, but geographically separated, events—all of them also occurring, we should note, in strategic locations:

During the past two years [1958-1960] there have been mass riots in the streets of many major cities of the non-communist world: Caracas, Montevideo, Lima, Baghdad, Havana, Capetown, Léopoldville, Algiers, Seoul, Ankara, Tokyo, San Francisco, among others. In these, students are usually prominent. Nearly all of these riots, with the notable exception of Algiers, have been directed against political friends of the United States.7

Moreover, lest we think these disruptions to be mere trifles, Burnham adds:

These riots have been remarkably successful. They played an essential role in the overthrow of no less than five governments that were firm allies of the U.S.: in Venezuela, Iraq, Cuba, South Korea and Turkey. South Korea and Turkey have been thrown into domestic turmoil.8

Then making a partial review of the geographically distributed, representative effects, he says:

Riots in the Latin American capitals prevented Vice President Nixon’s visit from yielding positive results, marred the President’s [Eisenhower’s] subsequent trip, and degraded U.S. prestige in the eyes of the Latin American masses. The fierce riots now sweeping through the street of Tokyo may smash the pro-United States Kishi government, and compel both repudiation of the U.S.-Japan security treaty and cancellation of Mr. Eisenhower’s scheduled visit.9

With careful probabilistic reasoning, Burnham raises a few questions and gives his reflective judgment and the reasons for his conclusion, in light of earlier historical operations of “the conflict apparatus”:

Do the communists have a hand in these events? When we fit them together, the political pattern emerges unmistakably. Cui prodest?—to whose benefit—the old rule tells us to ask. Invariably the answer is, to the benefit of the communists and the policies they favor. Where are the street riots against a pro-communist regime or policy? Coincidences so multiple, both positive and negative, simply do not occur in politics.10

After giving the likely “left-Liberal and socialist” objections to his view—and he eloquently states them in a whole, lengthy paragraph, and without any caricature or mocking distortion—he proceeds gradually to refute them, by first understanding some other ways of thinking about the usefulness of crowds and uproars. For example:

The Bolshevik approach to mobs, riots and “command of the streets” is rather more serious. In his design for the revolutionary party—the conflict apparatus—Lenin, like Bakunin [the Anarchist] and Nechayev [the Russian Nihilist] before him, incorporated the ideas of Louis Auguste Blanqui, a French revolutionist who lived from 1805-81. Blanqui first became prominent in the 1830 revolution, and devoted the rest of his life, in and out of prison, to revolutionary conspiracy. He believed that the key to successful revolt was the development of a small, secret,“cadre” organization. Normally the cadres would remain underground, abstaining from political affairs. They were to be trained in the manipulation of crowds and the use of the small arms and improvised weapons accessible to crowds.11

For our further instruction and strategic edification, Burnham gives some additionally specific history:

Blanqui assumed that the normal course of modern mass society would periodically bring crowds into the streets. Unguided, they would mill around to no particular purpose. The trained cadres could, however, deploy through the mass and take leadership. In the 1848 and 1870 revolutions [in France] the practical cogency of Blanqui’s ideas was proved. In 1870 it was his cadres—4,000 strong—who were primarily responsible for the overthrow of the Third Empire and establishment of the Paris Commune—history’s first revolutionary, proletarian, Soviet dictatorship. Unguided mobs may shake but they do not overthrow regimes. They do not produce consistent slogans and select strategic targets. [That is, as the earlier “Comintern”—Third Communist International Apparatus 1919-1943—had done, and even as the follow-up “Cominform”—the 1943-1956 Communist Information Bureau—did, though in a more mitigated, speciously conciliatory, way]. The coordinated operations of these recent [1958-1960] riots, and their high measure of success, are the product of trained Bolshevik neo-Blanquists who, once the masses take to the street, supply the guidance and slogans, point to the targets, and foment the violence.12

Supporting his analysis further, Burnham returns to specific riots then occurring in Japan and Uruguay—and even, in a more incipient way, in California:

This [disciplined guidance] is true not only in Tokyo, where the Bolsheviks work through the wild Zengakuren hoodlums, or in Montevideo, where the communists openly control the student clubs, but in our own San Francisco at “an earlier stage” of the revolutionary process [to be further developed on “the Inner Front” during the Vietnam War?]. The police investigation proved the communist leadership of the student mob that took command of the center of the city….Americans smile incredulously, but it is the simple truth that the HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee] riots last month [in May of 1960] were not a student prank but a rehearsal for revolution.13

What Marguerite Higgins later showed in her 1965 book, Our Vietnam Nightmare,14 poignantly confirms Burnham’s analysis, especially with the manipulation of the “select” Buddhist mobs against President Diem and his regime, helping the agents and complicitors of the 2 November 1963 assassination of the President and his brother Nhu, and thereby the calamitous overthrow of the Diem Regime. Speaking of the Revolutionary and effectively “neo-Blanquist” Cadre-Chief, the Buddhist monk Thich Tri Quang, for example—who himself had immense contempt for the American dupes who courted him and who fatuously thought they could “reform” him—Marguerite Higgins so modestly (and very humble as to her own insufficiency of discernment) wrote the following in her 1965 book:

It seems strangely unreal, looking back on the summer of 1963 [a few months before the assassinations and following coup], that anybody could have still been in doubt about short-term Buddhist aims. “What do the Buddhists want?” I wrote at the end of my Vietnam tour. “What they want is Diem’s head, and not on a silver platter, but wrapped in an American flag.” What I did not foresee was that “Diem’s head wrapped in an American flag, was precisely what the Buddhists would get.15

As we shall soon see, this outcome closely resembles, not only a form of the deceitful “Judo Principle” (using someone’s own force and vices, as well as his moral virtues, against him), but also another part of Leninist doctrine, namely the concept of “enlightened terror.”

In the May 1960 riots and revolutionary rehearsals in San Francisco, some three years before the Diem assassination, however, even then:

The cadre chiefs were well pleased with the exercise [or the “rehearsal”]. For several hours, screened by student-innocents, (in the protective role of the proletarian wives that the Bolsheviks pushed to the front of the 1917 Petrograd mob), they held control of the streets against all the power [police and military] of the enemy. They compelled the local sovereign, Mayor George Christopher, to capitulate….And they bent the courts to their will. Judge A. Axelrod, with a fatuous statement about not wanting to “cause a stigma,” dismissed all charges against all the rioters, Blanquists and dupes. They flung his sentimentality back in his face with a scornful declaration that they “still stand firmly” by their aims and actions. Would that our mayors and judges might say as much!16

Almost three and a half years later, on 5 November 1963—only three days after the Diem assassination—James Burnham wrote another important strategic, and morally discerning, article, entitled “The Revolution on the Mekong.” It was another one of his regular columns in National Review, coming under the heading, “The Third World War,” but also reproduced, on only three incisive pages, in his book The War We Are In.17

As a complement and counterpoise to Marguerite Higgins’ later book, Our Vietnam Nightmare (1965), Burnham’s analysis is, however, more geopolitical, strategical, and doctrinal. He begins his column with stern and sobering words which swiftly catch our attention, without his even mentioning the assassinations on All Souls’ Day three days before:

The first two communist objectives in the South Vietnamese sector of “the revolution on the Mekong”—the phrase is Ho Chi Minh’s—have now been attained. Le Duan, secretary of the Communist Party of North Vietnam, listed the early stages when, in September 1960 [three months after Burnham’s earlier-discussed article on Louis Blanqui], he announced formation of the “National Liberation Front” (FLN) of South Vietnam: “This Front must take as the principal objectives the overthrow of the Diem regime, the abolition of the present Constitution, the orientation of the South Vietnam foreign policy toward neutralism, and the establishment of normal [sic] relations between the South and the North.”18

Moreover, and very importantly to our deeper understanding of these forms of warfare, Burnham then says:

These objectives have been achieved by “enlightened terror,” which aims at bringing about a situation, chiefly by psychological means, in which the active opponents are destroyed by their own camp.19

I believe that these words should be carefully considered, especially because such insidious operations always break intimate trust “within our own camp,” a demoralizing breach which is so difficult to repair.

Burnham then gives supporting documentation for this Doctrine of “Enlightened Terror”:

A remarkable document found on the body of a dead NKVD officer [a Soviet security-and-intelligence officer] explained: “In the concept of enlightened terror the terror subject [the perpetrator] not only remains in the shadows, but acts and applies the terror not in his own name but in the name of his opponent [the target]….In the system of enlightened terror nearly all the efforts of the terror subject are directed at converting the [human] environment into a spontaneous assistant and accessory, in ignorance of its role.” The terror subject indeed [says Burnham] must be congratulating himself today, in his shadows, for the psycho-political manipulation by which he led the Government of the United States to act as his “spontaneous assistant and accessory, in ignorance of its role.”20

At this point of his apparent knowledge of the fuller Vietnam “environment,” Burnham is still unaware of (or at least does not mention) the probability of conscious, culpable complicity, as well, on the part of some U.S. actors, civilian and military.

After Burnham gives an excellent, lucid summary of the strategic geography of the Mekong River as “one of the dozen greatest rivers in the world” from the Tibetan plateau to the China Sea south of Saigon, he affirms that, therefore, as seen through the eyes of the enemy, “the revolution on the Mekong” is “conceived as a vast integrated strategic campaign that will carry communism to the South Seas.”21

Showing first how almost the entire strategic theater—not sufficiently appreciated by the Americans—is already under predominant communist influence or is at least resisted by an “anti-Western “’positive neutrality,’” as in Cambodia, he concludes:

The South Vietnam sector is now the only remaining obstacle of consequence….[Thus,] an anti-communist South Vietnamese regime has been a road block that must be breached or undermined. To that end a varied mix of weapons has been directed: paramilitary, terrorist, psychological and political….In the middle of 1960 the main slogans of the propaganda campaign—many of them destined to make their way through the layers of underground agents, fellow travelers, collaborators, dupes, silly journalists and innocents all the way to the White House [especially, from the outset, to the January 1961 White House of John F. Kennedy]—were launched: “Overthrow of the reactionary U.S.A.-Diem clique!”; “An end to the policy of repression and terror!” etc.22

Concerning President Diem and his regime, specifically, Burnham adds:

The Diem regime represented the only serious and cohesive anti-communist formation in South Vietnam—nor is it by mere chance that Christians were so prominent within it. That regime and that formation are now shattered. The communists and pro-communists are dancing in the streets, schools, and pagodas, along with the naïve and heedless. Some of the officers who took part in the coup are sincerely anti-communist, but they have no “social base” for an anti-communist policy. Moreover, they have the insuperable disadvantage that the whole world knows them—as Moscow immediately named them—for the American puppets they really are.23

Concluding his trenchant article with a consideration of the ideologically Liberal John F. Kennedy Administration and Kennedy’s chosen array of progressive “New Frontiersmen,” Burnham says:

The socio-political process that President Kennedy initiated [in early 1961] can be predicted with near certainty [although President Kennedy’s own imminent assassination on 22 November, only some two weeks later, could not be comparably extrapolated nor reasonably expected]. The new regime, or rather succession of regimes [in South Vietnam], will begin disintegrating at once. Its leftward elements will inevitably make contact with the National Liberation Front (are doubtless already in contact)….And is John F. Kennedy, flying [now himself] the [detente] Treaty of Moscow at the masthead of his ship of state, the man to reject the claims of Peace?24

(Burnham’s sharp irony here about the true nature of “the Peace” will not be easily missed.)

Whether knowingly or not, whether as knaves or dupes, Liberalism tends to give a free hand to its own assassins, even, at times, hands the weapons over to its own assassins. Burnham came to see this sad fact very well.

Less than a year later, during the new Lyndon B. Johnson Administration, James Burnham was, in fact, to publish his long-germinating and profound and still-unrefuted analysis of Liberalism and of its inherent consequences. It is entitled Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism (1964).

Burnham also knew what Alexander Solzhenitsyn himself, again and again, argued in his own writings and critiques: the Girondins give way to the Jacobins; the Mensheviks give way to the Bolsheviks; Stalinism is not at all a corruption of Leninism, but rather a continuation and further fulfillment of Leninism (even in its own disciplined “strategy of terror”). Stalinism, moreover, is not a corruption of some pure deposit of Marxism-Leninism: the monster is in the doctrine itself. Moreover, Lenin’s and Stalin’s views of power and expansion and the sophistic deceits of dialectical-and-historical materialism (and thus its ongoing manipulations of the purported “contradictions at the very heart of reality”) are entirely different from historical “Russian Nationalism,” despite the latter’s own aggressive and imperially expansive initiatives.

In his own 11 September 1987 essay on James Burnham (shortly after “Jim” had just died on 28 July 1987), Joseph Sobran recalls Burnham’s revealingly important, earlier article from the early 1940s, in the Leftist intellectual journal, Partisan Review, a provocative article entitled “Lenin’s Heir.” In Sobran’s words:

Jim did like to shock. The Machiavellians [first published in 1943, after his break with Trotsky] belongs to the same period as “Lenin’s Heir,” a piece he wrote for Partisan Review to “épater les Trotskyistes” [to “floor” or “flabbergast” the Trotskyites], as he told me once smiling. He épatered them, all right. He called the holy martyr Trotsky a “Platonic Communist” and said that Stalin, not Trotsky, was Lenin’s true successor. Stalin had fulfilled it in its real essence: power.25

That is to say, “Power without Grace,” in Helena’s words to her son, Emperor Constantine.26 She then amplifies her theme in that same conversation alone with her son, and gives her further counsel with a view to the future and even to the coming reality of mass democracies:

“Sometimes,” Helena continued, “I have a terrible dream of the future. Not now, but presently, people may forget their loyalty to their kings and emperors and take power for themselves. Instead of letting one victim [like you] bear this frightful curse [the burden of responsibility of an Emperor’s lonely Rule], they will take it all on themselves, each one of them. Think of a whole world possessed of Power without Grace.”27

So, too, will there likely be misery and loutishness and spreading disorder stemming from “Democratic Centralism,” “Bureaucratic Collectivism,” and the theories of Revolutionary Naturalism, such as the dialectical doctrine, power, and disciplined deceits of “Enlightened Terror” which still may come forth from Neo-Leninist Neo-Blanquist Cadres and their coherent “Conflict Apparatus” so deftly prepared and variously able to conduct covert, tactical and strategic, crowd or “mass” manipulation.

Should we not expect that these effective traditions and principles are still being transmitted and subtly adjusted to current actualities (and technologies), and applied, at least by Neo-Bolsheviks or Neo-Jacobins, some of them even religious and imperial Neo-Conservatives or Neo-Zionists?28 Messianic Politics is still a formative (and “deformative”) and fevered factor in our world.

May we, therefore, at least learn from the varied experience and tested wisdom of James Burnham,29 which we now, in part, have seen in this little essay. Thus, we may also now analogously remember the subtle and effective practices of Louis Blanqui himself, and consider how he would likely employ the new electronic, “radio-frequency” instruments and bio-nano technologies of “perception management”—and even “psycho-neuro-linguistics”—today in his covert oligarchic guidance of mobs (and even magistrates). Also by using the “trust-shattering” methods of “enlightened terror.” And even especially so (as with the slower cultural strategy of Antonio Gramsci) against the Catholic Church.

FINIS

© 2013 Robert D. Hickson

1B.H. Liddell Hart, Lawrence of Arabia (New York, New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1989), the Postscript, p. 369—this book was originally published, in 1934, 1935, and 1937, as Colonel Lawrence: The Man Behind the Legend.

2Stéphane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 739. The full clause, with an added, but likewise pertinent, sentence, says as follows :“The manipulation of language was one of the salient characteristics of Leninism, particularly the de-coupling of words from the reality they were supposed to represent, as part of an abstract vision of society in which people lost their real weight and presence and were treated as no more than pieces in a social and historical erector set. This process of abstraction, closely linked to ideology, is another key factor in the birth of the terror.” (pp. 739-740—my emphasis added)

3James Burnham, The War We Are In: The Last Decade and the Next (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1967), pp. 254-256. This essay is to be found in the Section of the book which is entitled “The Forms of Modern Warfare” (Chapter VIII), pages 240-284. Burnham’s own National Review column,“The Third World War,” his regular column since the magazine’s first issue in November 1955, was re-named “The Protracted Conflict” in 1970 and remained so thereafter until his retirement in 1978, regrettably for reasons of impaired health.

4Ibid., pp. 240-241—my emphasis added. See, also, the excellent study by James Chambers, entitled The Devil’s Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe (New York: Atheneum, 1979), a vivid and applicable book of 200 pages.

5Ibid., p. 255.

6Ibid., p. 241—my emphasis added. Burnham refers to Colonel William Kintner’s 1950 book, The Front Is Everywhere.

7Ibid., p. 254.

8Ibid.

9Ibid.

10Ibid., pp. 254-255.

11Ibid., p. 255—my emphasis added.

12Ibid., pp. 255-256—my emphasis added. We also may now better imagine what Pontius Pilate himself, the Roman Procurator, had to face, especially when he encountered the manipulated, and increasingly furious mob with their strident calls for the criminal, Barabbas—which constitutes, as it seems, another part of “that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent! ” in Evelyn Waugh’s memorable words. (Evelyn Waugh, Helena (1950), Chapter 11 “Epiphany,” p. 223—which is the penultimate page of that Chapter).

13Ibid., p. 256—emphasis in the original.

14Marguerite Higgins, Our Vietnam Nightmare (New York: Harper &.Row, Publishers, 1965). See, also, “Giving a Free Hand to the Assassins” (13 December 2012—8 pp.), by Robert Hickson, which is now also posted on the website, Catholicism.org.

15Ibid., p. 33—my emphasis added. On the same page, Higgins quotes the specific words of the arrogant Manipulator-Chief, Thich Tri Quang, from his private interview with the Saigon Press, as recorded in detail, specifically in the Saigon Post: for example,With the Americans, it is not so interesting any more. They are too easy to outwit….Some of them persist in thinking they can ‘reform’ me into agreeing with them….It is useful to smile sometimes and let them think so….We will use the Americans to help us get rid of the Americans.” (p. 33—my emphasis added).

16James Burnham, The War We In, p. 256—my emphasis added.

17Ibid., pp. 232-234.

18Ibid., p. 232.

19Ibid.—my emphasis added.

20Ibid.—my emphasis added, except for the bracket within the phrase “the [human] environment” which is James Burnham’s own original and clarifying insertion.

21Ibid., pp. 232-233.

22Ibid., p. 233.

23Ibid., pp. 233-234—my emphasis added. President Diem, however, was not a puppet, but, rather, a distinctive and independent Catholic Mandarin and protective Nationalist, also against the French, who also resented him, and likewise betrayed him.

24Ibid., p. 234—my emphasis added.

25Joseph Sobran, Joseph Sobran: The National Review Years, 1974-1991 (Vienna, Virginia: FGF Books, 2012), p. 98. Sobran’s 11 September 1987 article is entitled “James Burnham, 1905-1987: Editor, Thinker, Colleague,” pp. 97-99.

26Evelyn Waugh, Helena (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950), p. 185. It comes near the beginning Waugh’s Chapter Nine, entitled “Recessional.”

27Ibid., p.186—my emphasis added. A little later, Constantine says, once again, “If I wish to live, I must determine to rule—And that is [still] true today”; and his mother, once again, immediately replies:“But not without Grace, Constantine.” (p. 186—my emphasis added).

28In this context about the deceitful dialectical mutations of dynamic communism (with its always more stable and dully viscous, underlying “socialist phenomena”), the words of the gifted scholar, William Thomas Walsh might help us to be even more attentive and responsive. Professor Walsh, shortly after the formal conclusion of World War II, met in person with Sister Lucia, then Sr. Maria das Dores (Mary of the Sorrows), for “a long conversation” in Northern Portugal, near Porto. It was “on the afternoon of Monday, July 15, 1946.” In the Epilogue to his 1947 book, Our Lady of Fatima, Walsh spoke of how Sister Lucia of Fatima said “more than once, and with deliberate emphasis” that a certain, very specific, consecration of Russia to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart must be done; and “If it is not done, the errors of Russia will spread through every country of the world.” When he asked her: “Does this mean, in your opinion, that every country, without exception, will be overcome by Communism?”she said “Yes.” This may appear but a visionary folly to many, but maybe not. W.T. Walsh Our Lady of Fatima (Garden City, N.Y.:Image Books, 1954; first ed. in May 1947), p. 221.

29See also the recent essay, “Honor in Foreign Policy” (9 pp.) by Robert Hickson, which text is largely a tribute to the insights of James Burnham. It is dated 18 December 2012, and is now also posted on the website and Electronic Journal of Catholicism.org.

“The Art of Not Yielding to Despair”: Josef Pieper’s 1972 Reflections on Final Hope

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                    5 June 2020

Saint Boniface (d. 755)

Epigraphs

“Whoever does not appreciate the significance of signs and symbols will never understand the essence of a sacrament, and only those who realize what constitutes a sacred action will find the way open to a deeper understanding of the Christian cultus and mystery [as in the Actio Sacra of the Mass].” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), page 164—this is a cited portion of his own “Foreword” to his earlier 1974 book, Über die Schwierigkeit Heute zu Glauben (About the Difficulty of Having Faith Today))

***

“Apparently Immanuel Kant had something like this theological aspect of hope in mind when he said [with his own Prussian Academy of Sciences’ citation to his Vol. ix, 24] that the fundamental philosophical (!) question, ‘What may I hope for?‘ is answered not by philosophy but by religion.” (Josef Pieper, “The Art of Not Yielding to Despair,” in his 1985 book in English, Problems of Modern Faith, page 186—my bold emphasis added; italics also in the original)

***

“And yet… the beginning and the end, the primal Origin of the Creation and the ultimate Consummation of the creative process, meet and touch in Christ; this closing of the ring….[i.e., with] God’s Incarnation….

“Let me repeat once again that anyone who, for whatever reasons, does not accept the historical reality of this primordial event—the Incarnation of God and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ—must inevitably fail to understand the mystery celebrated in Christian worship [i.e., in the sacred Mass]. For, as I have stated, what ‘happens’ in the liturgical worship [the cultus] of the Church derives from that primordial event [Creation-Incarnation]. It [the public worship] is by nature a secondary phenomenon.” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (1989), pages 188-189—my emphasis added)

***

“For example, the idea of the Incarnation of God, in which the ultimate work of the Creation was linked with the Origin of that Creation to form a circle, might appeal to a ‘Gnostic’ philosopher who saw in it the unlooked-for confirmation of a world view based of a single all-embracing principle. But the facts that, within that framework, mankind hated and killed the God-made-man ‘without cause’ (John 15:25) and that yet this same death effected the salvation of man, who had committed the murder: these theological truths explode any tidy formula which anyone might conceive about the world.

“Another example: a philosophy of history which takes into account the possibility of a catastrophic end of history within time and yet, on grounds of the same apocalyptic theology, is opposed to the conclusion, born of despair, that existence is therefore absurd, must inevitably prove [to be] far more arduous, more complex, and, so to speak, ‘less satisfying’ than any philosophy of progress (whether based on idealist [e.g., Kantian or Hegelian], Marxist, or evolutionary conceptions) or any metaphysics of decline and fall. Thus a person who engages in a philosophic act appears to derive a handicap from his collaboration with theology, but simultaneously he derives an enrichment which can be summed up in the term higher truth. For the essential thing in philosophy is neither the avoidance of knotty problems nor the bewitchment of the intellect with plausible or conclusive proofs. Instead the essential thing is that not one single element of reality be suppressed or concealed—not one element of that unfathomable reality the vision of which is synonymous with the concept of ‘truth.’” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (1989), pages 178-179—my bold emphases and italics added)

***

In his 1985 book in English, entitled Problems of Modern Faith, 1Josef Pieper has a seventeen-page essay surprisingly called “The Art of Not Yielding to Despair: Reflections on ‘The End of History,’” which was first published in 1972 in Munich, Germany to honor another professor.

There are portions of this candid and searching essay which—especially toward the end of the essay—are not only timeless, but quite timely in this already eventful year of 2020. Although variously fervent, even destructively revolutionary, hopes (in the plural) may not come to be achieved, there is still—sometimes—a more fundamental, existential hope (in the singular) that remains vividly alive as a gift and, thus, as an infused supernatural virtue. Moreover, despair and presumption are both sins against that virtuous supernatural hope. (However, many persons still do not trust these claims to be a reliable and important part of the truth.)

Briefly now, before Josef Pieper will come to answer a second of two proposed and primary questions, he will fittingly speak of the prior question: “Let us first address the question of what internal evidence exists for the probability or improbability of a catastrophic end to history.” (175-176—mt emphasis added)

Consequently and conditionally, he adds: “If one’s answer to this [first] question [about final catastrophe] is ‘Yes,’ then the second question is: What is to become of man’s hopes for the future, and is not the only appropriate response to human history one of despair?” (175—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

That we may appreciate more fully the methods and tones of his fair-minded enquiries and their spacious unfailing magnanimity, we now consider how he begins his essay:

If one accepts or even is willing to seriously ponder that concept of the temporal end of human history which has been an active feature of Western historical thought from the days of [Apostle-Evangelist] John on Patmos down to the time of [the Russian philosopher] Vladimir Soloviev [d. 1900], who in the final year of the nineteenth century published his myth of the Antichristi.e., the notion that the end of history (we should bear in mind that we are speaking of history within the framework of time!) will be characterized not by a triumph of “reason” or justice or Christianity, but rather by something in the nature of a universal catastrophe for which one of the most appropriate name is “the reign of the Antichrist,” a term implying the worldwide dominion of evil, a pseudo-order [deception] maintained by violence, and so on—if, I say, one regards this concept of history as something which at least merits serious thought, then of course one is immediately confronted by certain questions, and by two questions in particular.

First, does this conception of a catastrophic end to history within time possess any degree of internal probability, given our empirical knowledge of the historical process and of historical trends? In other words, do things [in 1972 or in 2020] “look as if” they might turn out that way? If one’s answer to this question is “Yes,” then the second question is: What is to become of man’s hopes for the future, and is not the only appropriate response to human history one of despair? (175—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

While presenting a set of then-contemporary examples of vaunted material progress and its sometimes ambiguous attainments (as of 1972), Dr. Pieper says:

Most remarkable of all are the great advances which have been made in the sphere of technological domination of nature and the exploitation of its resources. Of course in this area there are a “but” and a “nevertheless” to consider. Technological advances have always possessed the character of opportunities; and as we all know, it is possible to take advantage of an opportunity;….I will cite two examples of the ambivalence of technological progress, both of which relate to the theme of this discussion. The first example is that of research into the psychosomatic or psychophysical reality of man. Never before has investigation in this field revealed as many new techniques for healing man’s ills as it is doing today. However, it is equally true that these same techniques have created unprecedented potentialities for man to seduce, enslave, and forcibly modify the nature of other men.

A second example is that of atomic energy. At this point [in 1972] no one can predict whether the dangers of physical destruction and political abuse inherent in man’s control of atomic energy will eventually be outweighed by the potential of putting it to some meaningful use.

We have asked whether there exist any clues or signs which indicate the possibility, or even the probability, of a catastrophic end of history within time. In attempting to answer this question, I would like, for the time being, to refrain from expressing my own views, and instead present for our consideration statements drawn from other contemporary writers. (178—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

After considering, for example, “modern nihilism” (179) and such a man’s “yearning for self destruction” (179) and [as of 1972] the widespread “materialistic hedonism” (181) and even whether it is “no longer possible for man to maintain control over these factors on which his future fate depends” (179), Pieper presents the views of Aldous Huxley and, especially, his 1961 book, Brave New World Revisited.

Huxley himself is now quoted as follows as he is first shown to be explicitly re-examining his original 1931 book “thirty years later” (182):

“In 1931, when Brave New World was being written, I was convinced that there was still plenty of time. The completely organized society…, the abolition of free will by methodical conditioning, the servitude made acceptable…—these things were coming all right, but not in my time, not even in the time of my grandchildren….In this third quarter of the twentieth century…I feel a good deal less optimistic [now in 1961]….The prophecies made in 1931 are coming true much sooner than I thought.”

Then Huxley reviews his earlier [1931] book point by point and, on the basis of his experience of historical events which took place during the intervening years, predicts a future in which one of the most important elements will be a “scientific dictatorship” in which “there will probably be much less violence than under Hitler and Stalin,” and in which individuals “will be painlessly regimented by a corps of highly trained social engineers.” To be sure, “democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial, but, “the underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism….“Non-violent totalitarianism” is the most inhuman form of totalitarianism—among other reasons because it can always cite what appear to be valid arguments to prove that it is not what it in fact is. This consummate mendacity must inevitably result in the atrophy of communication between human beings, which is essentially built on trust. (182-my emphases added)

To emphasize this factor of trust and distrust, Josef Pieper adds these insightful words from another experienced and understanding author:

Martin Buber attempted to express this fact [of a consequential atrophy] in the following terms: “In the future we may expect the total reciprocity of existential distrust to develop to a point at which speech will revert to silence [or to muteness].” (Of course [comments Pieper] not only does this breakdown of communication fail to eliminate “idle chatter” and mere verbiage (verbositas), but it actually encourages them.) The possibility of such a breakdown of communication, Huxley says, never for a moment occurred to the early advocates of universal literacy and the freedom of the press. “They did not foresee what in fact has happened….the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned…neither with the true or the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant.” (182-183—my bold emphasis added)

By way of closure of this preparatory introduction, Pieper assures us of something important: “Of course not one of the authors I have just quoted speaks so much as a syllable about the ‘Antichrist.’” (183) But, as he had earlier reminded us, as well: “Christians have never abandoned apocalyptic prophecy.” (179) Therefore, to such a matter we now fittingly turn—the second and last part of Josef Pieper’s overall and forthright structure.

Dr. Pieper makes the transition to his part two with the following words:

Tradidit mundum disputationi eorum, (Ecclesiasticus 3:11); God has turned the world over to men to do with [it] as they see fit. This is the terrible dowry of freedom, which necessarily involves the possibility of abuse. “Everything clearly indicates,” says Gabriel Marcel [in his The Mystery of Being], “that we ourselves have been given the authority to build the walls of the prison in which we want to live. This is the terrible price we pay for the unfathomable power which has been entrusted to us and which, moreover, is the foundation of our selfhood.” (183-184—my emphasis added)

Framing his final four points to be candidly accented in part two, Pieper then searchingly asks:

At this point we are in a position to experience the full impact of the second question we posed at the beginning of this discussion: What reason do human beings have for hope if we must expect temporal history to end in catastrophe? Would not the acceptance of such a view necessarily paralyze, and deprive of value, all active engagement in the historical process? How, under such conditions, can we expect a young person to “set to work with a will”? I will attempt to answer this question in several [four] successive stages. (184—my emphasis added)

The final [six] pages of this Pieper essay [pages 184-194] ought now to be closely read and savored by the reader, for there are many nuances of his thought that are modestly, yet forcefully and artfully, presented. I shall now attempt to convey the substance of his four main points and conclusion.

In his “Point One,” Pieper first argues for a certain distinction between what we ardently desire and thus hope for, and what we objectively and alone, however, cannot attain; and therefore: “We must learn this distinction from the inherent wisdom of language itself, which tells us that hope is always directed toward something which we cannot achieve ourselves.” (184—bold emphasis added; italics in original) And Pieper adds:

Furthermore—and this is the most important fact to bear in mind—human hope (not hopes, but hope, which is always singular) is directed toward an ultimate and perfect satiation of desire. What we truly hope for is, as Ernst Bloch quite accurately states: fullness of life; the restoration or healing of man; a homeland, “coming home”; a kingdom; “Jerusalem” [a Visio Pacis]; the absolute satisfaction of all our needs; beatitude of a kind we have never known before. (184-185—my emphasis added)

Our modest mentor then poses another sobering question that “we must ask ourselves”:

Does anyone really believe that he has a right [a claim in justice, or an entitlement] to regard all engagement in the historical process as meaningless, or to deny its value, simply because it will not ultimately create a world without suffering and injustice, a heaven on earth? This question clearly parallels the question of whether we can reasonably maintain that everything we do in this corporeal existence is deprived of value by the fact that in the end we all must die. (185—my emphasis added)

In his “Point Two,” he continues with a lengthy and substantive conditional sentence:

If our historical existence in this world is totally defined by hope and possesses the inherent structure of the “Not-Yet”…; if, until the very moment of death, man is really a viator or traveler “on his way” [“in via”] to something; and if, even in the final instant of his life, the essential thing, fulfillment, still lies before him—then either this hope, which is identical to existence, is simply absurd, or the satisfaction of this hope lies on the other side of death! (185-186—my bolt emphasis added; italics in original)

Since this following passage reminds us vividly of some of the professed anarchists and nihilists who are prominent and also in destructive activities today, I propose to present some thoughts from 1972 or so:

Thus anyone who deliberately restricts his vision to the domain which lies of this side of the boundary of death, quite understandably sees nothing but futility and absurdity. C.S. Lewis says that the truly unfortunate man is the high-minded unbeliever who is desperately trying not to lose what he calls is his faith in man. On the other hand, the ability not to yield to despair when confronted with the fact of death, as well as with the prospect of the catastrophic end of temporal history, is a matter of great practical concern to us all. Even in the midst of catastrophe, a person who possesses this ability remains capable of affirmation, which in turn makes it possible for him to engage in activity on the historical plane: to engage, in other words, in “political” activity—activity directed toward the realization of justice—as well as artistic activity, whose purpose is to praise the Creation. As Erik Peterson [a Catholic theologian] has stated, the mouth of the martyr does not utter a word against God’s Creation. Despite everything which befalls him [the Christian martyr] and despite how the world of man must “really” look to him, he still persists in saying: The Creation is good, very good! (186—my bold emphasis added; italics in original)

As to his briefer “Point Three,” Pieper will have us consider that:

Viewed in the context I have outlined, the emphatic conviction of Christians that hope represents a “theological” virtue may appear, if not plausible, at least somewhat more plausible than before. Apparently Immanuel Kant had something like this theological aspect of hope in mind when he said that the fundamental philosophical (!) question, “What may I hope for?” is answered by religion. (186—my emphases added)

Later, moreover, Josef Pieper says that the unique and infused theological virtue of hope “aims at true fulfillment, which, if it happens at all, will take place ‘beyond’ our corporeal and historical existence, and of which we ‘know’ only through faith.” (187—my emphasis added)

The last three pages consider his “Point Four” as he comes to lead us gradually to the acknowledging of a gift, and thus to invite our gratitude.

Pieper begins his “Point Four” with this sentence and then follows it up with a few more considerations:

The object of the theological “supernatural” hope [an infused virtue in the order of Grace] of the Christian must not be conceived as something wholly divorced from the human existence in this world….When apocalyptic prophecy [of Saint John, for example] speaks of the resurrection of the body and of the “New Earth,” it is in fact telling us that not one iota, not one jot or tittle of everything in this life which was good and right, just, true, and beautiful, fine and salutary will ever be lost. (187)

Nonetheless—and now recalling the practical wisdom of one of his own gifted mentors when he was a young man after World War I—Josef Pieper says:

Of course, the mere fact that two groups ‘have something in common’ [as is the case with certain proposed syncretisms, and even currently official “ecumenisms”] does not make them identical, and what Romano Guardini calls the task of ‘distinguishing that which is Christian’ from what is not, is a never-ending one, of particularly pressing importance at the present time [1972].” (189—my emphasis added)

Furthermore, and as a sort of conclusion, Pieper summarizes some substantive distinctions to carry with us, as part of our grateful acknowledgment of another portion of both “ordo et mysterium”:

Two elements are involved in this task [of fitting distinctions]. The first is the need to confirm and maintain awareness of the crucial insight that precisely because of the irrevocable “Not-Yet” structure of historical existence, the ultimate fulfillment of human hope (not hopes) cannot be realized this side of death. Second, it must be made clear that (and why) the object of this hope, which is at bottom identical with our existence itself,…cannot be formulated in terms of clearly defined plans and goals, or eschatological schemata. Instead, the man who hopes, like the man who prays, must remain open to a fulfillment of which he knows neither in what hour nor in what form it will finally come….

The art of not yielding to despair [or to prideful presumption!] is not something which one can simply learn. Like all other arts, and indeed to a far greater degree than any other [art], it is a gift.

Nevertheless, it is possible [for a creature who is Gratiae Capax] to specify certain conditions [and thus receptive dispositions] which, whether by means of conscious reflection or not, must first be fulfilled, if we are to prove capable of receiving this gift. (189-190—my emphases added)

What a challenge and abundance and risk-full adventure Josef Pieper has so deftly offered to us. In addition to our responsive gratitude, which he has elicited, may we now persevere to the end, which is itself a “magnum donum,” as our sound Catholic doctrine teaches us.

–Finis–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1See Josef Pieper, Problems of Modern Faith: Essays and Addresses (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1985—originally published in German in 1974). The essay on “The Art of Not Yielding to Despair” will be found on pages 175-191 of this English edition. All future page-reference to this essay will be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this commentary.

SUBTLE FORMS OF STRATEGIC INDIRECT WARFARE: INFECTING “SOFT” BIOLOGICAL TARGETS

A 20 May 2020 Note of the Author: After his several conversations and studies with Plant Pathologists at home and abroad during the years 1998-1999, the author was encouraged to present some of his own candid and searching reflections — even though they were to be somewhat historical and philosophical and strategic. One manifestation of the author’s acceptance of that invitation is the following 26 July 1999 meditative essay. It is, moreover, almost 20 pages in length and intentionally challenging. 

 

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                     26 July 1999

Professor of Philosophy, Strategy, and Classical Humanities

United States Air Force Academy

SUBTLE FORMS OF STRATEGIC INDIRECT WARFARE:

INFECTING “SOFT” BIOLOGICAL TARGETS;

SOME PSYCHOLOGICAL, ECONOMIC, AND CULTURAL CONSEQUENCES

Epigraphs:

It should be the aim of grand strategy to discover and pierce the Achilles’ heel of the opposing government’s power to make war.” (B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, p. 212)

His true aim is not so much to seek battle as to seek a strategic situation so advantageous that, if it does not of itself produce a decision, its continuation by battle is sure to achieve this.” (B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, p. 325)

Amidst a group of plant pathologists, how might your grateful visitor from an entirely different intellectual formation approach with practical wisdom the sensitive strategic topic of bio-terrorism and longer-range biological warfare, to include their direct and indirect, economic and psychological consequences? That is to say, the chronic, as well as the traumatic, implications of those malign and fearsome subversions of trust that may deeply affect and infect a culture and whole intimate way of lifeproducing, in the words of the poet Shelly, “the contagion of the world’s slow stain.”

Is it not fitting that I propose a challenging thesis? And should you not always beware of the Air Force, even when they come bearing gifts?

I shall argue, therefore, that, by understanding the ways and means of strategic (and grand-strategic), indirect warfare, in the longer light of military history and intentionally ambiguous cultural subversions, we may better anticipate and strategically counteract inchoate, but subtly developing, forms of bio-terrorism, and longer-range forms of psycho-biological warfare, which may also be intensely dislocating new manifestations of economic warfare.

By indirectly attacking and infecting unprotected “soft targets” such as seeds and soils, a strategic aggressor or trans-national criminal syndicate or terrorist could have many disproportionately adverse effects upon a whole culture and its way of life. This may be but one new form of “asymmetrical warfare” against sophisticated (or decadent) interdependent societies. The developments from research in molecular biology and its variety of manipulative applications in bio-technologies give many new capabilities to the malevolent. We must also therefore consider how there is now developing even a genetics-based “revolution in military affairs (RMA)” or “military-technical revolution,” both of which could be strategically and indirectly employed, also combining “cybernetics” and “biological organisms” as instrumentalities of conflictnew “cyborganizations” as some strangely call this troublesome phenomenon. We once spoke of the revolutionary “mechanization of warfare.” Will we soon also be speaking of the revolutionary “cyborganization of warfare,” with its dubious synthetic formation of “bionic commandos,” and the like?

A pervading (and provocative) question to be found, at least implicitly, throughout this whole essay is: to what extent are the logical premises and the dominant culture of scientific materialism an adequate intellectual, moral, and strategic foundation to combat the increasingly insidious forms of biological warfare and bio-terrorism?

How may we reasonably assess such threats: the risks, in light of our personal and cultural vulnerabilities, and our lack of assurance and insurance? Thucydides said that “most peoples’ character sinks to the level of their fortune!” How, therefore, do we, as a nation, defend ourselves against such subtle and fundamental psycho-biological threatsthreats to our very mental, moral, and physical existencewithout sinking to the level of our adversary, without cynically coming to resemble his moral baseness, without succumbing to this seductive “dialectic of dissolution”?

In the delicate balance between risk and insurance, avoiding too much of either, the boundaries of discourse are usefully disciplined and defined by what both philosophers and even insurance companies call “the concept of moral hazard.” Avoiding too much risk, we must also avoid too much complacency or insurance. That is to say, how do we so proportion and poise that properly “regenerative equilibrium” between “risk and assurance” that we do not actually promote and bring about what we are purportedly trying to insure against? In the words of George Gilder:

Moral hazard is the danger that a policy [or strategy] will encourage the behavioror promote the disastersthat it insures against…. Arson has for some years been among America’s most popular crimes; most of it induced by fire insurance.”i

For example, when, overstepping a certain limit, an insurance company inordinately remunerates a policy holder for the loss of his own building due to criminal arson, they soon unwittingly may provide an incentive to that policy holder himself, when he is weak and morally vulnerable, to do the very thing they are trying to insure against! So, too, it would seem, is it the case often with an overly indulgent or permissive parent, or with a pampering welfare organization or “Provider State” that fosters, sentimentally but unintentionally, a heap of enervated citizens, if not ingrate louts and parasites bereft of resilient initiative.

So, too, is it the case in national security affairs, in the realms of strategic policy and cultural politics, that such consequential moral hazards can be iatrogenic illnesses: illnesses caused by the doctor himself! We shall soon examine, for example, how the U.S.’s highly developed technological capacities can actually promote unconventional warfare and subversive indirection.

How, therefore, may we fittingly discuss the real and growing hazards of biological warfareto include bio-terrorism and bio-criminalitywithout thereby providing incentives to the wrong kinds of persons to do the very things we are seemingly trying to insure against? This is a question of great moment, requiring our trustful and trustworthy integrity and special responsibility, especially for those who have the burden of great knowledge, especially knowledge of the twentieth-century revolution in molecular biology and neuro-science, and their applied biological and medical technologies. The manipulation of neuro-peptides, for example, is so consequential.

It has come to my attention, moreover, that some of your thoughtful members and leadership have already effectively posed the trenchant question: “Why should a professional scientific association of plant pathologists be discussing strategic issues of biological terrorism, criminality, and warfare?” And besides, and for all of us, in the words of Dr. Francois Rabelais, “these are all terrible things to think upon!” Knowledge of such matters may not make us wiser, but it will certainly make us sadder!

Nevertheless, will you accept my invitation to be “Pantagruelists,” at least during the remainder of my presentation and unflinching receptivity to your questions and safe escape from your Conference? For, Rabelais, calling himself “Master Alcofribas, Abstractor of the Quintessence,” in addition to being a very learned medical doctor, scholar of Greek, and Franciscan priest, was also a Pantagruelist! As you will recall from his sixteenth-century rumbustious, comic tale, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Rabelais, “Abstracter of the Quintessence,” defined Pantagruelism as “a certain jollity of mind pickled in the scorn of fortune.” We, too, shall need such a resilient and fortifying ethos, to be sure, in order to deal with the inescapable matter of biological warfare. So, will you accept my invitation?

Encouraged by your considerate acceptance and invitation, I now propose to take a longer view of the issue: that is, to consider biological warfare in the longer light of military history, especially as a form of strategic indirect warfare (or grand strategy) which is cumulatively subversive and dislocating, both mentally and physically, both morally and materially. My intended accentuation will be made clearer, perhaps, if I were to use the phrase “psycho-biological warfare” or “psycho-cultural warfare,” where “culture” is understood to mean any “vital medium,” even when it is, paradoxically, the growth medium of a virus, a virulent medium unto death or spiritual despair.

May I encourage you to consider that, in addition to traditional, long-range strategic agents against the homeland of an adversarysuch as viral smallpox, inhalational anthrax, and pneumonic plaguemodern biological developments permit even subtler targeting against agriculture and the human mind, against economic targets and psychological targets, with anti-crop and anti-soil agents, for example, or insidious psycho-tropic and neuro-tropic agents which darkly manipulate potent neuro-peptides.

Writing in 1932, after the devastating “Carthaginian Peace” of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and subsequently growing economic depression in the West after the financial collapse of 1929, the strategic-minded British military historian, Major General J.F.C. Fuller, prophetically and compassionately said the following about the 1914-1918 First World War, in which he was a combatant officer; and vividly observant of “the changing nature of war”:

As inundations of men, personnel warfare, had failed beyond hope of redemption, the General Staffs, still obsessed by the quantity complex, turned to matériel, seeing in shell fire a means of blasting a road to Paris or Berlin…. The attack by matériel failed ignominiously…. The enormous demands made for all types of munitions of war, however, revealed clearly to the eyes of the General Staffs the economic foundations of the war. So visible did these economic foundations become that it was not long before these Staffs realized that, if the food supply of the enemy be cut off, the foundations of the hostile nation would be undermined and, with the loss of will to endure, its military forces would be paralysed…. Thus, in the World War, the matériel attack having failed, it at once gave way to plundering operationsattacks on trade in place of the devastation of crops. To introduce this most barbarous form of war, the first military problem that the Allied Powers had to solve was the circumvallation of the Central Powers; and the secondtheir surrender by starvation: This is an attack on the enemy’s civil stomach, not only on his men but on his women and children, not only on his soldiers, but on his sick and his poor. The economic attack is without question the most brutal of all forms of attack, because it does not only kill but cripple, and cripples more than one generation. Turning men women and children into starving animals, it is a direct blow against what is called civilization…. [Then, referring to “the theory of moral warfare” and “the weapons of the moral attack,” General Fuller resumes.] Throughout the history of war treachery has proved itself a powerful weapon…. In the World War treachery was attempted through propaganda, the contending newspapers raking dirt out of the gutters of their respective Fleet Streets and squirting it at their country’s enemies. All sense of justice was cast aside, the more outrageous the lie the more potent it was supposed to be…. yet no Government appeared to realize that the attack by lies besmirched its own future….” ii

General Fuller, knowing well that the greatest social effect of the lie is the intimate breaking of trust, which, once broken, is so hard to repair, also far-sightedly commented, in one of his earlier books, written in 1920, as follows:

Today [1920] we stand upon the threshold of a new epoch in the history of the worldwar based on petrol, the natural sequent of an industry based on steam. That we have attained the final step on the evolutionary ladder of war is most unlikely, for mechanical and chemical weapons may disappear and be replaced by others still more terrible. Electricity [much less the use of psycho-tropic or electromagnetic weapons] has scarcely been touched upon and it is not impossible that mechanical warfare will be replaced by one of a wireless nature [or cybernetic, bionic, cyborgian?], and that not only the elements but man’s flesh and bones, will be controlled by the “fluid” which to-day we do not even understand. This method of imposing the will of one man [or nation] on another may in its turn be replaced by a purely psychological warfare, wherein [firepower] weapons are not even used or [physical] battlefields sought or loss of life of limb aimed at; but, in [their] place, the corruption of human reason, the dimming of the human intellect, the disintegration of the moral and spiritual life of one nation by the influence of the will of another is accomplished.iii

Speaking of such topics as “science and warfare…within the enemy’s lines,” “strategy, or the science of making the most of time for warlike ends…with time the controlling factor,” “the evolution of weapons,” and “brain and body warfare,” and of new subtle forms of “scientific warfare,” General Fuller thus illuminates also our current context of anti-crop and anti-seed (or soil) biological warfare, in light of modern neuro-science and its further capacities for intimate manipulation, even in very small, nanogram doses.

But, in response to such actual or potential, cultural and strategic threats, there are no merely technical answers that are adequate or finally protective. After all is said and done, there are no technical solutions to fundamentally moral problems. From such intrinsically moral and spiritual problems, “we may run, but can’t hide,” as the boxer, Joe Louis, once said, in a refreshingly different context! And there is the added issue of what economists call “externalities”i.e., “problems that go beyond the immediate effects of the policy” or the counter-strategy, as against biological terrorism, for example.

By way of further illustration, let us consider two aspects of the dangerous (and ambiguous) aftermath of the so-called “Cold War.” However, it seems preferable to call that struggle the “Camouflaged War” of “Ambiguous Aggression,” as the military historian, B.H Liddell Hart, himself insightfully called this phenomenon of protracted conflict.

First, I would propose to you the eloquent discernment of Whittaker Chambers, from his 1964 posthumously published book, Cold Friday. Secondly, I would offer a further insight from another strategic-minded military historian from Britain, Captain B.H. Liddell Hart himself, who was also a friend of General J.F.C. (“Boney”) Fuller.

In his moving autobiographical chapter, “The Direct Glance,” the former Communist, Whittaker Chambersto whom, in a letter, André Malraux once reverentially wrote: “You are one of those who did not return from Hell with empty hands”poignantly and piercingly said:

I write as a man who made his way back from a special experience of our timethe experience of Communism. I believe the experience to be the central one, for whichever side prevails the outcome will be shaped decisively by what Communism is and meant to be, and by the conditions that made it possible and made possible the great conflict…. A man is obligated, if he seeks to give any effect to his brief life, to tear away all mystery that darkens or distorts, to snap all ties that bind him in the name of an untruth, to push back from all limiting frontiers to the end that man’s intelligence [i.e., Logos] may be free to realize to the fullest of its untrammeled powers a better life in a better world.iv

Then, B.H. Liddell Hart, writing in 1967 on the importance of truth and “the strategy and grand strategy of indirect approach,” complements Whittaker Chambers’ insights about the liberating rejection of untruth:

When, in the course of studying a long series of military campaigns, I first came to perceive the superiority of the indirect over the direct approach, I was looking merely for light upon strategy. With deepened reflection, however, I began to realize that the indirect approach had a much wider applicationthat it was also a law of life in all spheres: a truth of philosophy.v

Liddell Hart then continues his thoughts by applying it to the practical problem of producing persuasion or, more profoundly, a true conviction, since we are only as courageous as we are convinced, truly convinced. He says:

Its fulfillment [i.e., the principle of indirect approach] was seen to be the key to practical achievement in dealing with any problem [to include plant pathologists!] where the human factor predominates, and a conflict of wills tends to spring from an underlying concern for interest. In all such cases, the direct assault of new ideas provokes a stubborn resistance, thus intensifying the difficulty of producing a change of outlook. Conversion is achieved more easily and rapidly by unsuspected infiltration of a different idea or by an argument that turns the flank of instinctive opposition.vi

Moreover, says Liddell Hart: “As in war, the aim is to weaken resistance before attempting to overcome it; and the effect is best attained by drawing the other party out of his defenses,”vii as by making the U.S. centrifugally overextended, for example. This is also sometimes called the psychological preparation of the battlefield. And, “it was Lenin who enunciated the axiom that ‘the soundest strategy in war is to postpone operations until the moral disintegration of the enemy renders the delivery of the mortal blow possible and easy’.”viii Such was the intent of Lenin’s revolutionary psychological warfare and strategic use of “semantic politics,” whereby one strategically captures the key concepts and meanings of language. Hitler also said, “our real wars will in fact all be fought before military operations begin.”ix In Hermann Rauschning’s book, Hitler Speaks, he quotes Hitler’s own conversation with him, as follows:

How to achieve the moral breakdown of the enemy before the war has startedthat is the problem that interests me. Whoever has experienced war at the front [as Hitler himself did in World War I] will want to refrain from all avoidable bloodshed.x

Given their paralyzing, if not disintegrating, moral and psychological effects, would not biological weapons themselves, subtly used, be an acutely effective (even bloodless) indirect way of achieving strategic paralysis? What if subtle, psychotropic and neurotropic bio-agents (to include bio-toxins) were used against the enemy’s (or rival’s) leadership, against his whole “command-and-control apparatus”? (Tabtoxin, for example, a plant toxin, apparently produces a multiplicity of seizures in human beings, and is rather easily confected, I have been told.)

Liddell Hart continues with his eloquent, still applicable, insights:

This idea of the indirect approach is closely related to all problems of the influence of mind upon mindthe most influential factor in human history. Yet it is hard to reconcile with another lesson: that true conclusions can only be reached, or approached, by pursuing the truth without regard to where it may lead or what its effect may beon different interests [even the special interests of plant pathologists!].xi

Then he makes an important distinction between the prophet and the leader, which may also illuminate what I, in some small way, would like to initiate and impart to your receptivity and further responsibilities of leadership. He says:

History bears witness to the vital part that the “prophets” [like General Fuller and Captain Liddell Hart themselves] have played in human progresswhich is evidence of the ultimate practical value of expressing unreservedly the truth as one sees it. Yet it also becomes clear that the acceptance and spreading of their vision [of truth] has always depended on another class of men“leaders” who had to be philosophical strategists, striking a compromise between truth and men’s receptivity to it. Their effect has often depended as much on their own limitations in perceiving the truth as on their practical wisdom in proclaiming it.xii

As one of my own memorable mentors, Major General Mickey Finn, once said to me: “intellectuals should be on tap, not on top”but for very rare exceptions. Sensitive intellectuals usually lack the decisiveness and prompt robustness of leaders.

Developing his profound distinction, Liddell Hart resumes:

The prophets must be stoned; that is their lot and the test of their self-fulfillment. But a leader who is stoned may merely prove that he has failed in his function through a deficiency of wisdom, or through confusing his function with that of a prophet. Time alone can tell whether the effect of such a sacrifice redeems the apparent failure as a leader that does honour to him as a man. At the least, he avoids the more common fault of leadersthat of sacrificing the truth to expediency without ultimate advantage to the cause [of truth]. For, whoever habitually suppresses the truth in the interests of tact will produce a deformity from the womb of his thought.xiii

The traditional Latin aphorism, “Suppressio veri, suggestio falsi” conveys the same nuance. By suppressing the truth, you suggest what is false. By way of omission, you create a deception, producing also a self-deception through this expedient distortion.

Thus, though the idea of the indirect approach is “hard to reconcile” with the pursuit (and the primacy) of the truth, it must be sustainingly sought and preserved. Liddell Hart, pursuant to this aim, asks:

Is there a practical way of combining progress towards the attainment of truth with proper progress towards its acceptance? [Or, should your guest speaker sit down now, before he be stoned?] A possible solution of the problem is suggested by reflection on strategic principleswhich point to the importance of maintaining an object consistently and, also, pursuing it in a way adapted to circumstances [to include the audience!]. Opposition to the truth is inevitable, especially if it takes the form of a new idea, but the degree of resistance can be diminishedby giving thought not only to the aim but to the method of approach. Avoid a frontal attack on a long established position; instead, seek to turn it by flank movement, so that a more penetrable side is exposed to the thrust of truth. [Might such a maneuver work amongst plant pathologists altogether and unmistakably contumacious concerning biological forms of strategic indirect warfare and national defense?] But, in any such indirect approach [Liddell Hart winsomely emphasizes!] take care not to diverge from the truthfor nothing is more fatal to its real advancement that to lapse into untruth.xiv

Solzhenitsyn, like Whittaker Chambers, has often effectively said a similar thing with emphatic integrity: “Don’t live the lie. Even if it means but taking one small step at a time, come out from under the rubble! Come out from under the noisome asphyxiation of untruth. And never willingly participate in, nor be in complicity with, the lie!”

Whittaker Chambers was one of Liddell Hart’s “prophets,” indeed, “who did not return from Hell with empty hands,” and who does “speak with a certain urgency both because…history is closing in…with a speed which, in general [we] do not realize or prefer not to realize, and because I [Chambers] have a sense that time is closing in on me so that, at this point, I do not know whether or not I shall be given time to complete what I have to say.”xv He adds:

I may not claim for the larger meanings of what I shall say: This is truth. I say only: This is my vision of truth; to be checked and rechecked (as I myself continually check and recheck it) against the data of experience.xvi

What does Whittaker Chambers so urgently want to tell us, which, in my judgment, is still pertinent and trenchantly true? He says:

It is pointless and, indeed, impossible to press anything upon those who are unprepared for it. I set up the proposition and left it to those who could to draw the inference…. That proposition questioned the whole materialism of the West [to include its dominant scientific materialism], and the West is heavily materialist. It is, in fact, this materialism that Communism [to include the new forms of Cultural Marxism derived from Georg Lukacs, from the Frankfurt School and its culturally subversive “Critical Theory,” and from Antonio Gramsci himself, one of the two founders of the Italian Communist Party]xvii constantly appeals to and manipulates, not in terms of any easily defined political lines of Left or Right, but in terms of a common investment in a materialist view of life, which an important section of the West shares with Communism, and which Communism has simply carried to its utmost logical conclusion in thought and action. This common interest in a common materialism…nevertheless differs in form, degree, and [illogical] reservations.xviii

At a much deeper level than economics and central state planning, Communism is a cultural system rooted in the world view of dialectical materialism (or “DIAMAT”), which is, of course, intrinsically atheistical.

Chambers, from the bottom of his soul, adds the following about how, “even when the materialism of the West is assertively anti-Communist, it often serves Communist ends”xix:

From this propositionthat is the heart of Communism is the problem of atheismxxfollowed the second proposition which I set up in Witness [his earlier book, published in 1952], also without developing its conclusions. This proposition implied that the struggle of the West with Communism included our own solution. That is to say, in the course of its struggle with Communism, the West would develop or recover those resources (in the main, spiritual and moral), which it held to constitute its superiority to Communism or in the struggle it would go under. Going under might, I suppose, take one of two forms. The West might simply lose the war in political or physical terms. But I also allowed for the fact that the West might win the war in such terms [political and physical] and still lose it, if the taxing necessities of the conflict [and dialectic!] brought the West to resemble what it was struggling against…. A turn in this direction has been perfectly visible in the West for several decades.xxi

From the vantage point of 1999 (as distinct from 1961, when Whittaker Chambers died), I believe, also, that the West lost “the Cold War”the Guerra Friathat Camouflaged War of dialectical (or electro-magnetical) materialism which was aiming for “the freedom from religion” and for “liberation” from “the rights of God,” as distinct from the Cult of Man and his rights. Insofar as I can justly take the measure of what has historically transpired, “checked and rechecked against the data of experience,” we of the West have increasingly come to imitate what we were purportedly fighting against. In light of the concept and reality of “moral hazard,” we of the West have, in a sense, helped to bring about what we were purportedly trying to insure against. If this is so, we are more vulnerable now to biological warfare.

To the extent that I am just and justly proportionate in this judgment, the more difficult it will be for us, on essentially materialist premises, to defend against the destructive anti-human manipulations of molecular biology and its derivative biotechnologies, much less the subtler forms of biological warfare against life, even life in the womb, or through the intentionally sterilizing contamination of vaccines.

This conclusion is certainly not intended to be a moroseness, but certainly implies the need for a deeper and thoroughly strategic “course correction.” For, an effective counter-strategy requires a shared conviction about what, essentially, it means to be human. That is to say: what is man, and what is man for? What is human freedom for?

Materialist neuroscience, which reduces mind to the neurophysiology of the brain, may continue to speak of “memes” (mental genes), and the like, rather than to admit of a fuller “criterion of adequacy” to account for the mystery of man and his loves, and his hopes. Or, as Bertrand Russell once eloquently argued, is it, rather, the case that “a free man’s worship” must henceforth be based “on a firm foundation of unyielding despair,” amidst and “against the whole weight of a universe that cares nothing for his hopes and fears”? Are we then fittingly free to do evil and produce ugliness, even as an engineered devastation of ugliness? To what extent will scientific materialism, on its own premises, provide a defense against subtle and malevolent forms of biological manipulation and warfare?

On materialist premises, moreover, would not the very concept of “malevolence” be an illogicality and an illusion? Must we not squarely face where the inner logic of our premises leads, and what it may embarrassingly conduce to?

Given this context of scientific and cultural materialism, is it not also more likely that, amidst the growing cynicism of modern warfare, strategic adversaries now would be far less reluctant to manipulate and target our economic and psychological foundations, to include our food supplies, and crops, and the sustenance of our own children. As General Fuller said, “if the food supply of the enemy be cut off, the foundations of the hostile nation would be undermined and, with the loss of the will to endure, its military forces would be paralyzed.” In addition to “the devastation of crops,” the new and revengeful enemy would also “give way to plundering operationsattacks on trade” and so “introduce this most barbarous form of war,” “the most brutal of all forms of attack, because it does not only kill but cripple, and cripples more than one generation”to include the vulnerable children.

Material and moral elements will be strategically attacked, as evidence from the Soviet biological warfare program confirms, and morale is to be broken, even unto despair. Will such facts sufficiently wake us up?

In his 1951 book, The Revolt Against Reason, Arnold Lunn wrote:

If materialism be true, our thoughts are the mere by-product of material processes uninfluenced by reason. Hence, if materialism be right, our thoughts are determined by irrational processes and, therefore, the thoughts which lead to the conclusions that materialism is right have no relation to reason. The same argument invalidates Freudianism, behaviorism, and logical positivism. All that the prophets of these cults have achieved is to provide their disciples with reasons for rejecting all philosophies, including Marxism, behaviorism, Freudianism, and logical positivism.xxii

Such nihilism and anarchy are not a good foundation for any resilient counter-strategy against biological warfare, do we agree?

Moreover, The Concise Oxford Dictionary, defines “Naturalism” as “a view of the world which excludes the supernatural or spiritual,” and this reductionist scientific orientation provides the scientific materialist with no justification for the first article in the creed of the true science: “I believe that truth is to be preferred to falsehood”!

On the other hand, it would seem that “theism” of some kind is required as a working hypothesis “without which science itself has no justification,” according to both Arnold Lunn and Sir Arthur Balfour himself (the author of the famous and gravely consequential “Balfour Declaration” of 1917, concerning the future of Palestine). In his 1894 philosophical book, entitled The Foundations of Belief, Balfour profoundly and acutely says:

Theism, then, whether or not it can in the strict meaning be described as proved by science, is a principle which science, for a double reason, requires for its own completion. The ordered system of phenomena asks for a cause; our knowledge of that system is inexplicable unless we assume for it a rational author…. On the naturalistic hypothesis, the whole premises of knowledge are clearly due to the blind operation of material causes, and in the last resort to these alone. On that hypothesis, we no more possess free reason than we possess free will. As all our volitions are the inevitable product of forces which are quite alien to morality, so all our conclusions are the inevitable product of forces which are quite alien to reason.xxiii

From the above, I can only reasonably conclude that no adequate counter-strategy to the threats of biological warfare and bio-terrorism will come from a world-view and culture of naturalism and scientific materialism. If it could be otherwise, I do not yet see it. The challenge of biological warfare, in any event, will take us to the foundations of our very existence. Human superficiality will not be enough.

Nevertheless, the subsequent analysis of strategic indirect warfare on the biological front must be evaluated on its own merits, and will likely display its reasonableness to you only when sufficiently checked (and rechecked) against the data of experienceand hence in the longer light of history, too.

In his Memoirs, Liddell Hart summarized at length the main conclusions of “the military doctrine or philosophy most closely associated with [his] name, the Strategy of Indirect Approach,” which “first found full expression in 1929 in a volume entitled The Decisive Wars of History.xxiv

Let us now imagine how an intelligent strategic (or grand strategic) adversary would apply on the biological front, and with interior lines on the inner front of our own homeland, the following articulation of principles from Liddell Hart’s own Memoirs:

More and more clearly has the fact emerged that a direct approach to one’s mental object, or physical objective, along the “line of natural expectation” for the opponent [rather than “to follow the line of least expectation”], has ever tended to, and usually produced, negative results. The reason has been expressed scientifically by saying that, while the strength of an enemy country [like the USA?] lies outwardly in its numbers and resources, these are fundamentally dependent upon stability or “equilibrium” of control, morale, and supply [or logistics]. The former are but the flesh covering the framework of bones and ligaments.

To move along the line of natural expectation is to consolidate the opponent’s equilibrium, and by stiffening it to augment his resisting power. In war as in wrestling the attempt to throw the opponent without loosening his foothold and balance can only result in self-exhaustion, increasing in disproportionate ratio to the effective strain put upon him. Victory by such a method can only be possible through an immense margin of superior strength in some form, and even so tends to lose decisiveness. In contrast, an examination of military history, not of one period but of its whole course, points to the fact that in all the decisive campaigns the dislocation of the enemy’s psychological an physical balance has been the vital prelude to a successful attempt at his overthrow. This dislocation has been produced by a strategic indirect approach, intentional or fortuitous….

The art of the indirect approach can only be mastered, and its full scope appreciated, by study of [as the Chinese have especially done] and reflection upon the whole history of war. But we can at least crystallize the lessons into two simple maxims, one negative, the other positive. The first is that, in the face of the overwhelming evidence of history, no general is justified in launching his troops to a direct attack upon an enemy firmly in position. The second, that, instead of seeking to upset the enemy’s equilibrium by one’s attack, it must be upset before the real attack is, or can be successfully, launched…. Mechanized forces [tanks and airplanesand now, also, perhaps, other cybernetic or cyborgian technological innovations], by their combination of speed and flexibility, offered the means of pursuing this dual action far more effectively than any army in the past.xxv

However, there is the danger of over-reaching to the point of resembling your adversary, especially your more despotic (or tyrannical) adversary, as with the altogether unintelligent response to Adolph Hitler, in Liddell Hart’s judgment. Such an over-reaction represents another instance of coming to resemble what you are purportedly (and actually) fighting against. In this case, it was the matter of “conscription” as a dire “threat to freedom,” in imitation of National Socialist Germany, rather than of Soviet Bolshevism, as was the case later during “the Cold War.” That is to say, the Protracted Camouflaged War of Dialectical Materialism for the Hegemony of a New Order and Revolutionary Culture, which (like Hegelianism, as well as Marxism) intrinsically denies the law of contradiction (and hence the law of identity). Commenting on the English over-reaction to Hitlerian Germany’s challenge, Liddell Hart said:

The effects [of mandatory military conscription] transcend the military sphere. Bemused [i.e., confused, stupefied, deceived and seduced] by the cry of total warfare, we are trying to make ourselves totalitarianwith the maximum of inefficiency for the minimum of productivity, in proportion to the efforts…. The basic principle of Nazism [National Socialism, in slight contrast to Global, or International, Socialism] is the claim of the State [or the UN?] to determine the individual’s duty, and decide his conscience for him. Hence, in opposing the Nazi’s “New Order,” we weaken our own position if we adopt the same basis….xxvi

We are weakened by coming to resemble what we are ostensibly fighting against. We look for the enemy and it is us.

As part of the long a-growing destructive Western development of “total war,” Liddell Hart, in essential agreement with General Fuller, saw “Napoleon’s responsibility for instituting conscription,” as well as other devastating innovations. On 30 January 1943 he wrote:

Napoleon fell, but left as a legacy the chain of military conscriptionwhich dragged mankind into a series of bigger and badder wars. When Hitler passes, will he also leave the chain of civil conscription, the logical corollary of totalitarianism riveted round the necks of mankindthus establishing the reign of universal servitude [or what Hilaire Belloc called, in 1911, The Servile State]? If so, it will be an ironical reflection on the unthinking conduct of war, and on the efforts and sacrifices made by the peoples who have sought and fought to defeat him [Hitler].xxvii

The deeper challenge of the Soviet Cultural System of “democratic centralism” and “dialectical materialism” was to follow World War II, and that system of servitude we have also come, through protracted struggle, to resemble more and more. Is it not so?

Moreover, and very profoundly, Liddell Hart later added his insights about the further handicaps to recovery after World War II, as a result of Churchill’s own inordinate and promiscuous resort to “guerrilla warfare,” partly in admiring response to T.E. Lawrence’s unconventional warfare activities against the Ottoman Turks during World War I (even though Lawrence was later betrayed and saddened by the Zionist project in Palestine). Liddell Hart’s deep reflections on this matter are especially fitting in our current context of biological warfare and bio-terrorism as an even further “development” of intrusive “total warfare,” and which will be so difficult to counter without a further, self-sabotaging temptation and self-destructive over-reaction on our part, to boot!

For if the nuclear power now available were unleashed and not merely meant as a deterrent, its use would mean “chaos” not “war,” since war is organized action, which could not be continued in a state of chaos. The nuclear deterrent, however, does not apply and cannot be applied to the deterrence of subtler forms of aggression [like bio-terrorism or indirect, longer-range biological warfare]. Through its unsuitability for the purpose [of such deterrence] it tends to encourage them [i.e., to bring about what it is trying to insure against!]. The necessary amplification of the maxim is now “If you wish for peace, understand warparticularly the guerrilla and subversive forms of war.”xxviii

Do you, too, now see the importance of such understanding?

Moreover, “the combination of guerrilla and subversive war…. [does] fit the conditions of the modern age and at the same time [they] are well suited to take advantage of social discontent, racial ferment, and nationalistic fervour.”xxix They constitute “forms of aggression by erosion, to which nuclear weapons were [and are] an inapplicable counter.”xxx Furthermore, “the strategy now being developed by our opponents is inspired by the dual idea of evading and hamstringing superior airpower,”xxxi whose effect is achieved “by producing more cumulative distraction, disturbance, and demoralization among the enemy.”xxxii And, “thus the concept of ‘cold war’ is now [1967] out of date, and should be superseded by that of ‘camouflaged war’.”xxxiii Biological warfare is now even more camouflaged, more difficult to detect, no?

The promiscuous resort to guerrilla warfare by the Allies in World War II“the product of the war policy of instigating and fomenting popular revolution in enemy-occupied countries”xxxivalso, according to Liddell Hart, produced many “a handicap to recovery after liberation.”xxxv

But the heaviest handicap of all, and the most lasting one, was of a moral kind. The armed resistance movement attracted many “bad hats.” It gave them license to indulge their vices and work off their grudges under the cloak of patriotism…. Worse still [like economic warfare!] was its wider effect on the younger generation as a whole. It taught them to defy authority and break the rules of civil morality in the fight against the occupying forces. This left a disrespect for “law and order” [and for the principle of authority itself] that inevitably continued after the invaders had gone.xxxvi

Why was that so, and not otherwise? Liddell Hart’s answer is that there is always a “dangerous aftermath of guerrilla warfare,” for

Violence 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 makes a virtue of defying authority and violating rules. It becomes very difficult to rebuild a country, and a stable state, on a foundation undermined by such experience.xxxvii

The recent experience in the Balkans is confirmatory, with its long-term effects further conducive to the spread of revolt. The “moral hazards” are rampant. Nevertheless, in the words of Liddell Hart:

It is not too late to learn from the experience of history. However tempting the idea may seem of replying to our opponents’ “camouflaged war” [or bio-terrorist] activities by counter-offensive [or counter-terrorist] moves of the same kind, it would be wiser to devise and pursue a more subtle and far-seeing counter-strategy.xxxviii

In light of your special knowledge about plant pathology, and about how crops and seeds and soils and our whole agricultural infrastructure could be undermined, how would you also farsightedly start to resist the subtler “asymmetrical” and subversive forms of strategic indirect warfare on the biological front? I leave you with this challenge. All things considered, may we now more intelligently and responsibly advance our own truly strategic, scientific discourse and protective actions concerning these psycho-biological matters of national and cultural security?

Some Concluding Considerations and Questions:

Liddell Hart made several deep points about strategy in his 1925 book with the intentionally punning title: Paris, or the Future of War. Similar to Sun Tzu, in his view, the aim of war is “to subdue the enemy’s will to resist, with the least possible human and economic loss to itself,” and “a highly organized state was only as strong as its weakest link.”xxxix Thus, if one key section of the nation, such as its agriculture, could be “disorganized and demoralized,” the collapse of its will to resist could induce the surrender of the whole, the psychological surrender of the enemy, or his strategic paralysis. Since, as was earlier cited, the aim of grand strategy was to discover and exploit the Achilles’ heel of the enemy nation (or corporation), just as the Trojan Warrior, Paris (Son of King Priam), killed the Greek champion Achilles, the key strategic principle is to strike against the enemy’s most vulnerable spot, rather than against his strongest fortifications or bulwark, such as his airpower or other forms of technological dominance.

In a later passage of Paris, Liddell Hart adds a strategic nuance concerning a specifically military target, whereby a mobile and maneuvering force properly is to be assembled and concentrated “against the Achilles’ heel of the enemy army, the communications and command centres which form its nerve system.”xl That is to say, the strategic principle applies to both military and civil sectors.

All good strategists try to establish two things: first, to secure and preserve their base; and, secondly, to achieve and sustain “mastery of the communications” in its fullest sense. Both are essential, and, thus, an intelligent adversary will try to counter these, i.e., to disrupt and dislocate that base, and his enemy’s key communications, to include his capacity for strategic mobility (which is currently so important for the United States, for example).

Given these principles, would it not be especially effective to go after the U.S.’s agricultural base and agricultural logistics and communications, so as to effect our disorganization and demoralization, and disrupt our strategic mobility as well as our international trade? According to Dr. Paul Rogers of Britain’s Bradford University, himself a plant pathologist, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) has very subtly done, during the recent past, such economic targeting against Great Britain, after they first had made a very intelligent and thorough study of Great Britain’s “economic geography,” to include its “financial nerve centers of organization.”xli Might we not also reasonably expect such targeting against our nation, or its corporations abroad, like McDonald’s? The recent case of Belgian food contamination, and its trust-breaking official concealments, may be a further sign of such likely developments.

Part of what is so unsettling about the recent food contamination in Belgium is the difficulty of discerning whether it was natural or deliberately introduced. Was it accidental or neglectful, or was it something darker and subtly designed? (Politically, it is not only the European “Green” Parties who, on principle, are against the import of all genetically engineered food from America!) The ambiguities themselves may then be malevolently manipulated, with further adverse consequences on commerce and trade, and even on the politics of the European Union itself, as well as on the domestic governments of Belgium and neighboring France. Comparably, in the United states, the accidental release of the marine neuro-toxin, pfiesteria, into the coastal waters of North Carolina has caused a similar array of difficulties, especially as pfiesteria’s effects on fishermen as well as fish have become more obvious, especially as it has spread further into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. (Apparently, even the University of Virginia Medical School is now urgently, though belatedly, studying this matter closely.) Dr. Thomas Frazier has wisely proposed a deeper, comparative study of both of these cases, and before key evidence may become more inaccessible or intentionally distorted.

It may be useful for us to consider the situation of the United States more closely, for several reasons. At least perceptions are spreading and deepening around the world that the United States is, or is becoming, a “rogue superpower.” Analogies have even been made to the earlier British Empire, especially as to the aggressive conduct of the “Liberal Imperialists,” also know as “the LIMPS.” Moreover, there is the perception that the United States is very vulnerable, as well as very provocative. In the memorable phrase of Dr. Fritz Kraemer (said to me some twenty years ago), the U.S. is in a situation of “provocative weakness,” for, “we are so weak (in some areas) that we are provocative to others.” In 1999, the U.S. is more over-extended and arguably more arrogant, as well as ignorant. Many may have a kind of Schadenfreude, if the U.S. were to be embarrassed and levelled down; and if its own growing “Cultural Balkanization” or racial tensions could be exploited. The issue of multi-cultural immigration and imiscible migrations is itself very sensitive and de-stabilizing. And Mexico is, strategically, still the “soft underbelly” of the United States.

And what of the Drug War? What if naturally growing fungi, destructive of the coca plant, or other drug crops, were deliberately and specially used to target their growth at the roots, namely, at the very stage of cultivation? Would such action be perceived as a kind of economic warfare against the poor, as well as against the power of the drug cartels, drug lords, and money-launderers of “narco-bucks,” where drugs are also viewed even as “an access to liquidity,” especially for the oligarchs and others who “manipulate national debt” for further “leverage”? And would they then take reprisals, against the perceived “initiating country’s” own crops or concentrated animal “breeding stock”? Would such vengeful activity be warfare or criminality or terrorism, or somewhere in “the interstices” or in the ambiguous “seams” between them? All of them, however, could be strategically interrelated as insidious forms of subversion? Do you see what I mean? Is my meaning clear? Our clarified and growing understanding of the principles of strategic indirect warfare may now help us take a better measure of such things, and to develop an intelligent and long-range counter-strategy.

It has been wisely observed by my friend and colleague at the Air Force Academy, Colonel Chip Franck, that there are three main ways that a “rival” or “competitor” has historically (and strategically) responded to a perceived opponent or antagonist: emulation, off-setting, or by-passing. One can either try to match and exceed the rival’s strengths, nullify or weaken his advantages or privileged strengths, or evade them “asymmetrically,”xlii or by using a kind of jujitsu, thereby even using his own strengths or “virtues” against him. The economic and psychological aspects of the full range and spectrum of biological warfare may be helpfully considered as both an “off-setting” and “by-passing” counter-strategy.

Also, in this context, I commend your deeply reflective attention to one of the last books of Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, written in 1961 and considered by many to be his best. It is entitled The Conduct of War, 1789-1961: A Study of the Impact of the French, Industrial, and Russian Revolutions on War and its Conduct.xliii His chapter on “Soviet Revolutionary Warfare” (Chapter XI) is especially discerning and brilliant, and is still very applicable, to include his insights about strategic psychological and political warfare.

In deference to General Fuller, and very consciously so, this essay has tried to initiate us into thinking more deeply about the inchoate and growing impact of the biotechnical revolution on war and its conduct, rooted as it is in the prior scientific revolutions in molecular biology, neuro-science, and information or computer science. Furthermore, as Dr. Malcolm Dando recently suggested during my visit with him at Bradford University, there is a growing conjunction or convergence, or consilience (in the sociobiologist E.O.Wilson’s concept),xliv of several scientific and technological developments, coming to a sharper focus in the whole biological and bio-engineering realm, all of which is all too easily applicable to subtle new forms of warfare. General Fuller’s book on earlier revolutions and their consequences on “total warfare” should be read with these later developments and analogues in mind.

In his recent book, understandably controversial and intentionally provocative, Fighting for the Future, the strategic-minded Ralph Peters has some concluding remarks which are less measured and discerning, but also similar to what the neuro-physiologist, Malcolm Dando, has written and recently said to me about chemical “calmative agents” and about the equivocal (and threatening) manipulation of potent “neuro-peptides,” and other “regulatory peptides” recently discovered. In one of his concluding sections, entitled “Inevitable Weapons,” Ralph Peters says:

The greatest opportunity for us, and the greatest danger to us, will come with the development of behavior-control weapons by the middle decades of the next century, if not sooner. On the one hand, these will be the weapons most horrible to our civilization, but we will be unable to prevent their development. In their perfected form they will permanently alter the perceptions and beliefs of men and women. On the other hand, they offer the first opportunity in history to pacify humankind without violence.xlv

These words recall the foresight of General Fuller, cited at the beginning of this essay, (on page 6, and footnote 3), although Fuller would be much more deeply troubled by, and altogether resistant to, such a de-humanizing “development,” and barbaric regression.

Much more unequivocally and serenely and confidently, Ralph Peters says:

In the first half of the next century, postmodern weapons may allow us to “outlaw” war. In subsequent decades, behavior-control mechanisms finally may let us stop genocide, oppression, fanaticism, and even criminality.xlvi

We may well wonder “who is the ‘us’?” Who will be the “humane” controllers in this Utopian or Dystopian vision or actuality? Who will be the Guardian of “the Guardians”?

Moreover, he says:

[T]his discussion is about a more rarefiedand ultimately more frighteninglevel of manipulation [in contrast to a “bullet,” which is, in a sense, also “a very good behavior-control weapon”]. Weor our enemies, should we fail to actwill develop behavior-control weapons that change the mind without invading the body…. Imagine a weapon, directed at an individual or a mass, that compacts a lifetime’s worth of carefully tailored signals into a microsecond broadcast. Imagine another weapon that targets specific nodes, or simply processes, in the brain.xlvii

Even more disconcerting in this context of psycho-biological warfare, Peters says:

The insidious [.i.e., “ambush”] feature of such weapons is that the victim not only doesn’t know what hit him but doesn’t realize he has been hit by anything at all…. The dark side is that such weapons could permanently alter the perceptions of individuals and entire cultures. xlviii

To me, this sounds like a further “development” of Soviet “penal psychiatry,” as with the research done at the Serbiensky Institute in the dreaded Lubianka. Psycho-tropic and neuro-tropic agents and weapons are now, however, even more likely, “given the current developments in fields as diverse as neurobiology, anthropology, sonics, digital engineering, marketing, and complexity studies.”xlix

Admitting his limitations and ability “to imagine the future,” Ralph Peters nevertheless all too plausibly concludes:

The only thing of which I am certain is that the next century’s revolution in weaponry will involve forms of behavior control and mental intrusion. Attacking the human body has been a sloppy and inefficient means of making war. Attacking the mind may prove the culmination of military history.l

More dubiously, if not altogether dementedly, he adds: “If there is any technology that we must first master and then prohibit elsewhere, it is the means to alter human thought.”li Since these words are not intended to be a self-parody nor an updated satire of “Dr. Strangelove,” I hope they will stir you to your fuller responsibilities and counter-action as scientists very knowledgeable of the new and growing biotechnologies, and their equivocal potential for misapplication.

May I also encourage you to read, in this context, the following additional books, which, even when they hardly (or not at all) mention “biological warfare” or “strategic indirect warfare,” constitute an unmistakable and altogether important array of thoughtful texts:

  1. Jeremy Rifkin, The Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Re-Making the World (1998)
  2. John Harris, Wonderwoman and Superman: The Ethics of Human Biotechnology (1992)
  3. Malcolm Dando, Biological Warfare in the 21st Century: Biotechnology and the Proliferation of Biological Weapons (1994).
  4. Malcolm Dando, A New Form of Warfare: the Rise of Non-Lethal Weapons (1996)
  5. Malcolm Dando, Biotechnology, Weapons, and Humanity (1999)to include his brave chapter 4 on “Genetic Weapons.”
  6. John B. Alexander, Future War: Non-Lethal Weapons in Twenty-First Century Warfare (1999), who is much more sanguine than Dando and I about such developments.
  7. Ken Alibek, Biohazard (1999)(An important and revealing discussion of the secret Soviet/Russian biological warfare program, written by the former Deputy Director of Biopreparat himself, and a defector in 1992.)

Have I been at all effective in conveying to you how these equivocal and unmistakably challenging developments may be applied to subversive warfare and to national defense, and how, in part, they derive from the twentieth–century revolution in molecular biology and biotechnologies in “consilience” with other scientific discoveries and applications?

Taking the longer view, to include the light shed by the multi-cultural history of unconventional and revolutionary warfare and strategic thought (especially indirect deceptive forms of strategic warfare), can you now better appreciate, as scientists and plant pathologists, how the spectrum of biological warfare, bio-terrorism and bio criminality has broadened and deepened?

To what extent have I allowed the value of the strategic indirect approach to emerge in your own growing and discerning consciousness, and to clarify your understanding of warfare, especially subversive forms of warfare against economic and agricultural targets?

Are you also now convinced that surprise, which produces shock (or shock trauma) rather than mere strain, is the best weapon of war, for it throws the enemy off his balance (psychologically and often logistically or physically) as well as secures a position for oneself, which makes the enemy’s situation very dangerous? Have not some keen thinkers even said that “there is no virtue in an indirect approach” as a method unless it secures this end: namely, surprise, which may be itself the higher and prior principle.lii

May we now further collaborate to foster trust in our sustaining (and sustainable) culture, and to mitigate the destructive consequences and deeper implications of “technological surprise” and “strategic surprise” on “the psycho-biological front” of insidious and subversive indirect warfare?

I thank you.

Finis

©Robert D. Hickson 1999

i George Gilder, Wealth and Poverty (New York; Bantam Books, 1981), p. 132.

ii J.F.C. Fuller, War and Western Civilization (London: Duckworth, 1932), pp. 228, 230, and 234. My emphasis added.

iii Brevet-Colonel J.F.C. Fuller, Tanks in the Great War, 1914-1918 (London: John Murray, 1920), p. 320. My emphasis added to the original.

iv Whittaker Chambers, Cold Friday (New York: Random House), pp. 67,68,69.

v B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy (Second Revised Edition) (New York: MeridanPenguin, 1967), p. xx (Preface).

vi Ibid.

vii Ibid.

viii Ibid., p. 208. My emphasis added.

ix Ibid. My emphasis added.

x Ibid. My emphasis added.

xi Ibid., p. xx (Preface). My emphasis added.

xii Ibid. My emphasis added.

xiii Ibid., p. xxi (Preface). My emphasis added.

xiv Ibid. My emphasis added.

xv Whittaker Chambers, Cold Friday, p. 67.

xvi Ibid.

xvii The evidence has recently been de-classified and made shockingly public in Germany, namely the extent to which the Soviet KGB financially (and otherwise) supported the Frankfurt School, and its projects of promoting Kulturpessimismus and cultural subversion: “the Long March through the Institutions,” “the Long March through the Culture.”

xviii Whittaker Chambers, Cold Friday, p. 69. My emphasis added.

xix Ibid., p. 70.

xx Earlier, on pp. 68-69, Chambers had said: “The crux of this matter is the question whether God exists. If God exists, a man cannot be a Communist, which begins with the rejection of God. But, if God does not exist, it follows that Communism, or some suitable variant of it, is right.” Some collective arrangement for regimented and vengeful “economic justice” will likely be proposed even unto the inner levelling of the human person and his higher faculties. Another name for it would be “sleepwalking into servitude.”

xxi Whittaker Chambers, Cold Friday, p. 70.

xxii Arnold Lunn, The Revolt Against Reason (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1951), p. 85.

xxiii See Arnold Lunn, The Revolt Against Reason, p. 85.

xxiv Brian Bond, Liddell Hart: A Study of His Military Thought (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1977), p. 54.

xxv See Brian Bond, Liddell Hart: A Study of His Military Thought, pp. 54-55, for an easily accessible, extended citation of Liddell Hart’s Memoirsuseful, despite Bond’s often insufferable condescension. See also the original text of the Memoirs (2 vols.) (Cassell: London, 1965), pp. 162-165.

xxvi See the whole citation in Brian Bond’s Liddell Hart, p. 127.

xxvii Brian Bond, Liddell Hart, pp. 127-128. My emphasis added.

xxviii B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy (2nd Revised Edition), p. 361. My emphasis added. See the whole new chapter on “Guerrilla War” (Chapter XXIII), added to this edition, specifically.

xxix Ibid., p. 363.

xxx Ibid. My emphasis added.

xxxi Ibid., p. 364.

xxxii Ibid., p. 365.

xxxiii Ibid.

xxxiv Ibid., p. 367.

xxxv Ibid.

xxxvi Ibid.

xxxvii Ibid., 369.

xxxviii Ibid., p. 370

xxxix See B.H. Liddell Hart, Paris, or the Future of War (London: Kegan Paul, 1925), pp. 12-13.

xl Ibid., p. 79 (and following). My emphasis added.

xli Paul Rogers discussed this matter with me during my recent visit with him at Bradford University, but he has also written some monographs on this subject.

xlii See the excellent article by Colonel Raymond Franck and Dr. Gregory Hildebrandt entitled “Competitive Aspects of Contemporary Military-Technical Revolution: Potential Military Rivals to the U.S.” in Defense Analysis (1996-Volume 12, No. 2), pp. 239-258.

xliii Reprinted by Rutgers University Press; New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1962. Originally, it was published in London, England by Eyre and Spothswoode, in 1961.

xliv See Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1998). Consilience means “the interlocking of causal explanations across disciplines.”

xlv Ralph Peters, Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph? (Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1999), p. 207.

xlvi Ibid., pp. 207-208.

xlvii Ibid., p. 208.

xlviii Ibid., The emphasis is in the original text.

xlix Ibid., p. 209.

l Ibid.

li Ibid..

lii See Brian Bond, Liddell aHaHHHHHHHHHH Hart, p. 56. Major General W. H. Bartholomew suggested such things to Liddell Hart himself, in his letter of the late 1920’s (1928-1929)