Hilaire Belloc’s 1936 Insights on “The Modern Man”

Dr. Robert Hickson

12 October 2020

Our Lady of the Pillar (36 A.D.)

Epigraphs

“Lest my title should mislead I will restrict it by definition.” (Hilaire Belloc, Who Own America? (1936, 1999), page 431.)

***

“That this new worship is vigorous and real may be proved by the test of sacrifice: that which a man worships is that for which he will sacrifice not only his comfort but, in extreme cases, his life.” (Hilaire Belloc, Who Owns America?, pages 434-435—my emphasis added.)

***

“Social energy is a function of the zest for living…The remedy can only be found in a change of philosophy; that is, of religion….But those that see this are few….But it is also their duty not to deceive themselves upon the conditions of their task….that the difficulty is increasing and that therefore they must bear themselves as must all those who attempt a creative effort at reform: that is, as sufferers who will probably fail.” (Hilaire Belloc, Who Owns America?, pages 440-442—my emphasis added.)

***

In 1936, when he was sixty-six years of age, Hilaire Belloc accepted an invitation to write an essay entitled “The Modern Man,” which was the final essay of a 21-chapter book, entitled Who Owns America?A New Declaration of Independence,1 a sequel to the 1930 Agrarian Manifesto, I’ll Take My Stand—The South and the Agrarian Tradition, as written by twelve prominent southern authors.

We propose now to consider Belloc’s mature essay on the modern man more closely in order to understand its own principles and then, fittingly, also to apply his gracious insights still today, though some of them may seem to be a little too ethereal for us, and impractical. Yet Belloc, as a Distributist, robustly stands between large-scale corporate, industrial capitalism and large state socialism and with both their own managing oligarchs (including the money power and financiers). For Belloc always tried to keep a proper proportion and humane scale of things in human affairs (not just in the economy). The test of humane scale was always a good criterion to aid and to measure his responsible judgments.

Belloc starts off by focusing on the limits and proportions of his analysis:

I write not of contemporary man in his infinite variety nor even of the modern European, but of the modern man under industrial capitalism—man as he has been formed through long association and particularly as he has been formed in Great Britain; but not Ireland save in the industrialist northeast corner of that island. (431)

Moreover, as Belloc’s special differentiations more concretely continue to develop, he says:

I write of modern man as you see him today [in year 1936—three years before the outbreak of World War II], not only in the streets of [the cities, variously named]…but in the villages; for the whole of our State has by this time arrived at much the same type of citizen (if citizen he can be called). The countryman has become a townee: to put it more elegantly, he has “acquired the urban mind.”

So defined, the modern man would seem to have three characteristics. (431-432—my emphasis added)

In an abbreviated manner, Belloc first summarizes those three characteristics, and then elaborates:

First, he has lost the old doctrinal position on transcendental things….Second, as a consequence of this [loss] he has lost his economic freedom, or, indeed, the very concept of it [economic freedom]. Third, there has been produced in him, by the loss of economic freedom, coupled with the loss of the old religious doctrines, an interior conception of himself which molds all his actions.

Let us develop these three characteristics and see how they are worked up to make the subject of our inquiry: the matter of the modern capitalist State. (432—my emphasis added)

It will be especially fruitful of truth for us if we now examine Hilaire Belloc’s candid assessment of England’s selective religious history and its present situation just before the Second World War, where Belloc will lose another son, Peter, in 1940. (Belloc’s eldest son, Louis, an aviator, was lost in 1918 near the end of the war, and his body was never recovered.)

Belloc now reveals a few other personal matters (without mentioning the loss of his beloved wife Elodie on 2 February 1914, on the Feast of Candlemas, just before the outbreak of World War I):

With all those of my own generation (I am in my sixty-sixth year) I knew extremely well an older generation which was in all ranks of society fixed upon certain transcendent doctrines chosen out of the original [Catholic] body of Christian doctrines inherited from the conversion of the Roman Empire and its development in the Middle Ages, though England has been changed in its religious attitude by the great philosophic revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and was positively a Protestant country (as she still is negatively a Protestant country). Those ancient doctrines which were retained were strongly and, I repeat, always universally held. They include the doctrines of free will, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul (that is, a permanent personality) surviving death forever; the doctrine of the Incarnation—that is, the doctrine that God had become Man—which gave to the personality of man an infinite value since it was so regarded by its Creator; and the doctrine of eternal reward and punishment—reward for right and punishment for wrong-doing. (432-433—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

Belloc, as we shall see, is also especially attentive to the sometimes dire and disordered consequences after just one or more of these above certitudes and affirmations are no longer believed to be true and, therefore, binding.

There is also the matter of one’s sense of honor and moral code, or what Belloc calls, traditionally, “a certain code” (433):

There was also retained a certain code in declaring what was right and what was wrong; for instance, if you had a wife still living it was wrong to marry another wife. It was wrong to take away another man’s property in order to advantage your self. It was wrong for a public man to take a bribe and so forth, or to blackmail and so forth. (433)

Being an honest man himself, Belloc anticipates and answers some objections to his own position:

It may be objected by some that the old religious doctrines have been retained into our own day [1936]; no: not by the average man as doctrines—that is, certitudes. Some parts have been retained, but not the same parts by the mass of men. You will still find a minority attached to one or the other of these doctrines. There is a large body which still holds to the doctrine of immortality divorced from the conception of eternal punishment for wrong-doing—and indeed from any punishment other than that suffered in this life.

The doctrine of the Incarnation has gone by the board. You may count up a large number of men and women who still maintain it, but most of these are in the minority—a small minority—of educated men, at least, outside the Catholic body. Most of them, moreover (outside the Catholic body), hold it as an opinion, not as a certitude; moreover, they give to it, each of them, any interpretation they choose, while the masses around them have stopped thinking of the thing altogether, let alone holding it even as an opinion. What does remain of it is a sort of vague aroma which concedes that a long-dead individual who may or may not have really existed and who is, anyhow, long dead, provided an excellent model for conduct. This model is again a figment of the individual’s imagination supported occasionally by fragmentary recollections of ancient documents in themselves fragmentary. (443-434—my emphasis added, in order to help sharpen for us Belloc’s own very fine irony!)

Before moving on to examine his characterizing “second point, the political consequences of a change of religion,” (435—emphasis added) Belloc logically considers, by way of further preparation, “the doctrine of free will” (434):

The doctrine of free will, though inseparable from practical action, has been battered down. The conception of inevitable tendencies, of an inevitable chain of cause and effect, has superseded it. The code of right and wrong has gone, too, and with it, necessarily, the conception of eternal reward and eternal punishment. (434—my emphasis added)

After further lines of argument, Belloc then says: “with the loss of this old religion, the modern man has also lost the obvious truth that a culture is based upon the philosophy it holds.” (435—my emphasis added) For example:

If you believe in the transcendent importance and permanence of personality (that is, the immortality of the soul) and in the supreme sanctions attaching to a particular code of morals (that is, heaven and hell), you act more or less accordingly, by which it is not meant that an ideal is reached or even maintained, but that it remains an ideal and, therefore, permeates society. Thus, a man today [1936] most evil in other respects will not [usually] betray his own country nor deny the validity of its laws, though he will deny the divine authority lying behind those conceptions. (435—my emphasis added)

For the remainder of his essay (436-442), Belloc will concentrate on the last of his three specified characteristics of modern man upon which he has already so openly focused. In his introductory words Belloc now says:

As to the third characteristic, which is the most practically important for our analysis, the effect of all these [characteristics and grave losses!] on modern man’s conception of himself, it has by this time become glaringly apparent.

We note in the first place that with a loss of the sense of free will the modern man has lost the sense of economic freedom. We notice that temporal good has taken the place of other values. We note that a moral code, including property as a right—not as a mere institution—has disappeared. (436—italics in the original; bold emphasis added)

Just as now (in the year 2020) thoughtful and attentive people properly fear being, or becoming, dependently ensnared in some kind of manipulated “technological servitude,” so, too, did Hilaire Belloc warn against (and himself fear) the inhuman scale of servility and the dreaded combination of “insufficiency and insecurity” (438) where a man thereby dependently, if not desperately, surrenders his own economic freedom in order to have more economic security as well as to his having more of a sufficiency of wealth and protective insurance.

The proper way to face the combined risk of “insecurity and insufficiency” is a theme, or even the pervasive “sub-text,” throughout the last part of Belloc’s essay. The temptation to surrender remains: to sacrifice one’s modest integrity and economic freedom for the sake of more stably gaining a more guaranteed security and sufficiency—even for one’s family, for example, despite the further surrender and loss of a more humane scale of life, without any coarsening oligarchic over-centralization. In this light, let us consider Belloc’s own progression of words and insights.

Speaking of the growing ill consequences of “unlimited competition” as if it were itself a destructively wielded “sword,” Belloc resorts to an unexpected, yet helpful, metaphor:

The profound truth contained in the phrase “they that take the sword [of “unlimited competition”] shall perish by the sword” is no where more clearly apparent than here. Temporal good means in practice, wealth, and the pursuit of wealth as an end, and as almost the only end, has resulted in the destruction of all those safeguards whereby the individual wealth of the many was guaranteed. As a consequence there has arisen, through the action of unlimited competition, a polity in which a few control the means of production and the many have become wage-slaves under those few. Whether the few who control the means of production will form a stable class or no may be debated. In the immediate past and on into our own day the pursuit of wealth as the supreme god has made even the wealth of the most wealthy unstable. But there are signs that this state of affairs is ending and that the strongest of those who control the means of production are creating an organization [financial, with debt bondage and management, too?] which will render their domination permanent.

A test of all this may be discovered in the conception of “success.” That idea is now almost wholly confined to the attainment of a position among those who control the means of production and are to that extent secure. (436-437—my emphasis added)

After speaking of “the strong attitude of mind” (437), Belloc speaks of several “derivatives” of this overall “attitude.” He gives several concrete examples, and then says, indeed:

It has become difficult or impossible for the modern man to dissociate the conception of virtue and greatness from the possession of much wealth.

But the most practically derivative of this attitude is the acceptation by the great mass of modern men of a quasi-servile position….To be secure in the reception of these [“regular enjoyment of payments”] is his chief aim, the loss of such support his chief dread. The modern man is not controlled in his actions by the fear of any ultimate spiritual effect of his actions, but of their effect upon the likelihood of his maintaining or losing this livelihood which he enjoys at the will of his economic masters….(through the orders of their own financial masters…). (437-438—my emphasis added)

After he discusses “plutocracy” and the instrumental “parliamentary system” and its ways of thwarting “direct popular action by the pretense of representation” and other “illusions” to which the modern man “submits,” Belloc candidly says:

Now it should be clear to anyone who will think lucidly and coldly upon the direction in which all this must move that it is moving toward the establishment of slavery. Industrial capitalism, as we now have it [in 1936], the control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange (and the control of the modes, therefore, by which production, distribution, and exchange are conducted) by a few, must mean that the many are compelled to work for the profit of the few. When this state of affairs has produced INSUFFICIENCY and INSECURITY, the obvious remedies, if we proceed upon the line of least resistance, would be found in giving to the dispossessed (who have come to form the vast majority of those who were formerly economically free) security and sufficiency on condition that they work under the orders of the few.

To be compelled to work, not by your own initiative, but at the initiation of another, is the definition of slavery.

Whether slavery shall come first in the form of slavery to the State before it arrive at the final and natural and stable form of slavery to individuals—slavery it still is, and the modern man accepts such slavery in the unshakable belief that it is in the nature of things. (438-439—my emphasis added)

Throughout his writings, also in this essay, Belloc emphasizes his incisive presupposition that “economic freedom…can only coexist with private property well distributed.” (439—my emphasis added) But, he also argues that the modern man doubts the validity of such a well-reasoned claim:

He will tell you that the system is impossible, giving as his reasons all manner of external conditions (such as the rapidity of communication, the concentration of the banking system, the cost of great units of machinery, and so forth), but having for his real reason the mere experience of his life. He has never known economic freedom. He has not seen it in action; and without experience of a thing, one cannot make a mental image of it. (439)

Moreover, as Belloc summarizes: not only is it so that “modern man is heading for slavery,” (439) but it is also a fact that “he is heading for the consequent decline of our civilization.” (439)

In conclusion, Hilaire Belloc briefly, but elegiacally, mentions first the degrading effects of “the modern mind” and then the proposed reforms and remedies that are fittingly to be nobly attempted now, without self-deception, and in the face of our approaching servitude and our declining civilization:

It is customary to ascribe to the influence of the press the cause of this development [a coming slavery and the companion decline of our civilization], but….the press in its present degradation…is but a function of the modern mind….

The few who have perceived these truths, the few who can contrast the modern man [and contrast the current man in 2020] with the immediate ancestry of his age, but have forgotten, know that the remedy can only be found in a change of philosophy; that is, of religion. They know further that the material test of this change and at the same time the prime condition which would foster the change would be the reinstitution of private property and its extension to a determining number of the community.

But those who see this are few. It is their duty to work upon the lines which their knowledge of the trouble suggests, but it is also their duty not to deceive themselves upon the conditions of their task….Therefore they must bear themselves as must all those who attempt a creative effort at reform [in religion and philosophy, too]: that is, as sufferers who will probably fail.

Such are Hilaire Belloc’s memorable elegiac tones, along with his characteristically poignant, but also very realistic, ending.

He braces us lesser men for the protracted combat—with robustness, and without sentimentality.

What we have is Nature, what we need is Grace.


–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1See the 1999 re-print of the 1936 original text of Who Owns America? (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 1999, 1936). Hilaire Belloc’s essay, “The Modern Man,” will be found on pages 431-442 (Chapter 21) of the ISI text. Henceforth, all references to this 1936 essay (from the Houghton Mifflin Company, originally) will be placed above in parentheses in the re-printed text of this brief essay and appreciative commentary.

The Concept and Reality of a Prolonged Self-Censorship and Its Effects: Alexander Nekrich’s Germinal Insights in the 1970s

Dr. Robert Hickson

29 September 2020

Saint Michael the Archangel

Epigraphs

“The censor’s sway is felt most acutely in the social sciences, especially in the sphere of history. Soviet censorship begins in the head of the historian.” (Alexander Nekrich, “Rewriting History” (1980)—my emphasis added)

***

“For the conscientious researcher, work loses all point if the censor asks him not only to delete this or that fact, but also to reach conclusions that are acceptable in the current political scene. And this is where self-censorship comes into play, the most important forms of censorship in socialist society. Self-censorship exerts a profound influence not only on the quality of the research done, but also on the researcher himself. If censorship is an essential element of the structure of the USSR,…then self-censorship is an essential quality of Homo Sovieticus—especially the sub-species of writer[s?] specialising in history and social and political sciences…. Usually the author is governed by self-censorship and the censors.” (Alexander Nekrich, “Rewriting History” (1980)—my emphasis added)

***

It was from Alexander Nekrich, a Russian emigre and former Soviet historian—who once was an esteemed member in the Soviet Academy of Sciences and History—that I first heard of the word and special concept of “self-censorship.” And then, with his further brief help, I more gradually came to understand some of the atrophying consequences of any protracted self-censorship, as distinct from more obvious and forthright public censorship.

An analogy might be helpful here. If an arm-muscle is inside of a plaster cast for too long, it starts to shrink or shrivel up due to the lack of exercise and of nourishment. So too comes the diminishment or attenuation of the higher range of human faculties when they, too, are deprived of sufficient exercise and nourishment.

One of my most precious forms of admiration and gratitude for Aristotle is to be seen especially in one of his definitions of happiness: “happiness is the exercise of the full range of human faculties along lines of excellence [i.e., virtue].” (I cannot now find the source of those words I once read and memorized at once.)

In the latter part of the 1970s, Professor Alexandr Nekrich visited the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and gave a learned talk. After this talk I had occasion to speak with him, just the two of us. In my callowness I asked this solemnly earnest man what it was like to be an historian in the Soviet Academy of Science when the past is, as it were, always changing in accordance with the Dialectic—dialectical materialism and historical materialism, with its varying and desirably safe temporary interpretations. How, I added, did you enduringly live with such censorship? Professor Nekrich looked at me gravely and said : “You are naive. The greatest censorship is self-censorship.” And he told me more. I do not know why he opened up to me. Perhaps because he knew that I was a military officer.

We discussed the elements of fear and trust and how they shaped the protective resort to self-censorship. I then remarked that such self-censorship would also likely lead to the atrophy of human faculties.

Professor Nekrich then became interested in my word “atrophy” in this context of censorship, although he knew at once of the Greek roots and etymological meaning of that vivid word. I then used a more arcane expression—“atrophying self-censorship”—and he was pleased with it, and said that he would make use of it. Thus we started to consider how that concept could—and should—be applied effectively. We agreed that one of the ill fruits of prolonged self-censorship was the subtle atrophy of one’s indispensable human faculties, leading to a kind of paralysis and debilitation.

I was never to see Alexander Nekrich again, but I shall always remember his earnest and contemplative face and searching questions and insights, to include his mention of the important “SECOND Nazi-Soviet Pact,” which got him into trouble with the censors and supporters of Stalin. I later learned that he (with Mikhail Heller) wrote a lengthy book entitled Utopia in Power (1985) about the 1917-1985 history of the Soviet Union. Only recently, however, was I to discover that Nekrich also wrote an earlier 5-6 page essay on censorship, in 1980, and entitled “Rewriting History” (as translated by Marjorie Farquharson in Index on Censorship 4/1980) which is still to be found on the Internet. It would be of worth to read and discuss that essay still. But a few words now might be apt given the spreading autocratic and enforced rules about protective masks and social distancing and confusing “lockdowns” and all that. Fear and distrust abound, it seems, and so does increasing self-censorship.

One may recall that one test of real power—as distinct from mere formal power—is who controls what may be said, and what may not be said, in public.

As in the former Soviet Union, some things are so taboo that one may not even say that they are taboo.

François Furet, for example, once said that “modern democracy is dependent upon a hidden oligarchy which is contrary to its principles, but indispensable to its function.” That is to say, modern democracy is based on a deception. However, who would be able and allowed to discuss that matter in depth and openly? What would the oligarchs permit? And, specifically, who are they?

Solzhenitsyn urged us “not to live the lie” and also warned us “not to participate in the lie.”

Nekrich warns us to be careful about the destructive and abiding effects of too much and deceitful “self-censorship.” It is a form of living the lie. And the greatest effect of the lie is the breaking of trust—even the most intimate trusts. And once they are broken, they are so hard to repair and re-build.

For sure, Dr. Alexandr Moiseyevich Nekrich (1920-1993) has incipiently inspired us to consider more deeply the phenomenon of “atrophying self-censorship” and some of its formidable ramifications.

What is happening today, not just in the United States but throughout the world, even the manifestations of chaos and censorious “democratic despotism,” may be correctively helped along a little by Nekrich’s own illuminating experiences in the Soviet Union and his later insightful, articulate writings as a 1976 Russian emigre. He is a sobering guide for us, as his 1980 essay on “Rewriting History” will confirm.1 We should study and savor that compact 1980 essay further, and in the light of current and recurring events.

–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1https://marjoriefarquharson.blog/2020/03/31/rewriting-history-by-alexander-nekrich-1980/

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.

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)

Infecting Soft Targets: Biological Weapons and Fabian Forms of Indirect Grand Strategy — Some 20 Years Later

A 16 May 2020 Note from the Author: This 1999 strategic-cultural essay (below) was originally published on pages 108-117 of a searching and candid book of 233 pages, entitled Food and Agricultural Security: Guarding Against Natural Threats and Terrorist Attacks Affecting Health, National Food Supplies, and Agricultural Economics (New York, New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 894—December 1999)

December 1999

ROBERT D. HICKSON

Department of Philosophy and Fine Arts, U.S. Air Force Academy, 2354 Fairchild Drive, Suite 6K12, U. S. Air Force Academy, Colorado 80840-6238, USA. [Some twenty years later now, this 1999 address is no longer a valid address for the then-visiting professor, who is also the author here.]

*****

Underlying the exposition of subtle deception and strategic indirect warfare that follows is the theme of trust, to include: the grave personal and cultural consequences of intimately broken trust and how the intimate effects of broken trust may themselves be strategically and grand-strategically manipulated by a deft opponent. The greatest social consequence of the lie is that it breaks trust. And trust, once broken, is so hard to repair, even with forgiveness, even with graceful mercy and the healing of the memory. Such a poignancy—such a fragility and vulnerability—is one of the unmistakable themes of all the world’s great elegiac and tragic literature. It also pertains to the world of strategy and grand strategy, which also takes the longer view and goes to the roots of things.

As in a tragically fragmented family, a culture of broken trust, especially when it involves an intimately broken trust, is likewise self-sabotaging and often deeply destructive. Such a riven and wounded culture is thereby also more vulnerable to strategic exploitation and external maneuver by a subtle adversary. If, for example, an intelligent long-range adversary perceives the United States to be a “rogue superpower” and a “hectoring hegemon,” but also a “declining hegemon” marked by a loss of purpose, decadence, and broken trust, he will likely also perceive how an exploitable weakness has favorably manifested itself, even as a “provocative weakness”—“so weak that it is provocative to others” (in the memorably accented words of Dr. Fritz Kraemer). When, moreover, increasingly untrustful American citizens are fearful of the safety of their food and their water, to include the long-range safety of genetically modified foods; and when the military culture itself is increasingly untrustful of the limited or experimental vaccines they are dubiously obliged to receive, others will likely notice our “internal contradictions” and “exploitable weaknesses,” which all, at root, derive from a cumulative and innermost broken trust. Such adversaries, desiring to limit or to “level down” the United States, as well as Israel, for example, might well the “seize, retain, and exploit the initiative” strategically and grand-strategically, and thus further maneuver to subvert domestic trust.

Reality is that which doesn’t go away, even when you stop thinking about it. If somebody is at war with you, even if you don’t know it, you’re at war! Furthermore, every assessment of a threat is correlative to the vulnerability of the target—to include the “target culture” and the target’s vulnerable trust in its agriculture and sustainable agricultural infrastructure. All strategy and responsive counterstrategy must first be attentive to the “security of its base,” before it can also adequately achieve “mastery of the communications,” which is itself a strategic indispensability, as well as a part of the maneuvering “preparation for the strategic advantage” (or what the Chinese call shi’h).

The use of biological weapons to infect food supplies, blood supplies, vaccines, water and other “soft targets” would constitute a formidable challenge to our nation and political culture, especially if it were also to be intelligently harnessed to Fabian forms of indirect grand strategy. This conjunction is a terrible thing to think upon, and yet we must do so, because history shows that indirect grand strategy, with its use of surprise, delay, and psychological dislocation, has been used repeatedly and effectively against militarily more powerful adversaries.

Fabian strategy is named for the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus (d. 203 BC), who defeated Hannibal by avoiding direct conflict. His long-range strategic indirection and evasiveness countered Hannibal’s military genius and sapped the energy of his forces. (The Fabian Society, founded in nineteenth-century Britain, also adopted the strategy in an attempt to introduce socialism gradually and indirectly.)

If Fabian strategy were now to be used in intentionally incongruous and shocking combination with more immediately traumatic forms of bio-terrorism, this could rightly be understood as a new form of psychological or political warfare—for it specifically targets the human mind and the weakened or despairing will, especially of one’s vacillating political leadership or fractious allies. For the purposes of this paper, I will discuss this form of warfare not just as an effective weapons system (albeit without conventional fire-power), but as an even larger new phenomenon that is more fittingly called strategic psycho-biological warfare, which exploits current revolutions in molecular biology and genetic engineering while aiming to manipulate the fears, broken trust, and uprooted hope of a modern citizenry at the end of a dark century.

Psycho-biological warfare, with its technical manipulations, ethical equivocations, and purposive confusions, could take us, finally, to the foundations of what it means to be a human person, as distinct from a mere artifact to be experimentally engineered and impersonally discarded. This could compel us, as well, to answer some trenchant questions: “What is a human person?” and “What is a human person for?” For how we see human life and its moral purposes1 will profoundly affect the limits we set in warfare, especially in the fearsome and far-reaching realm of warfare considered here. Any adequate American grand strategy to counter psycho-biological warfare must first consider such moral limits; it must also consider the long-range aftermath of such warfare, which is so likely to stain the nature of the subsequent peace and have even deeper after-effects on civilization.

To appreciate these larger issues more fully, we must first turn to history and, specifically, to Israeli military history. When, in September 1949, the Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli Forces, General Yigael Yadin, wrote his strategical analysis of the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli War, he eloquently accentuated his understanding of and successful dependence on B. H. Liddell Hart’s theory of indirect strategy, especially its psychological subtlety and efficacy.2 What if, fifty years later, keen-minded anti-Israeli and anti-American strategic thinkers were to apply Liddell Hart’s strategic principles against Israel and America? That is to say, what if adversaries now applied the insights of Liddell Hart in order to produce, both in Israel and in the United States, strategic surprise, shock trauma, psychological dislocation, and paralysis, especially by manipulating the imagined or actual effects of bio-terrorism and longer-range biological warfare? The words of Liddell Hart should concentrate our attention: “It should be the aim of grand strategy to discover and pierce the Achilles’ heel of the opposing government’s power to make war.”3 In our own case, the aim could be to discover and pierce the Achilles’ heel of the U.S. government’s power to carry out what is sometimes perceived as its undefined, provocative, and increasingly resented “policy of engagement and enlargement” abroad. And indeed as with other great powers in history, the perception of our strategic policy as overbearing is likely to provoke “political jujitsu,” as Saul Alinsky called it, and other Fabian forms of indirect grand strategy against us, is it not?

That is to say, strategic thinkers opposed to Israel and the United States may by now have “grasped what the soldier, by his very profession, is less ready to recognize—that the military weapon is but one of the means that serve the purposes of war; one out of the assortment which grand strategy can employ.”4 Once this larger and more inclusive understanding is grasped by an adversary, “the military principle of ‘destroying the [enemy’s] main armed forces on the battlefield’…fits into its proper place along with the other instruments of grand strategy—which include the more oblique kinds of military action as well as economic pressure [or economic warfare], propaganda, and diplomacy [or what General Beaufre, as we shall see, called the mentally dislocating ‘exterior maneuver’].”5

In this view,

Instead of giving excessive emphasis to one means,…it is wiser to choose and combine whichever are the most suitable, most penetrative, and most conservative of effort —i.e., which will subdue the opposing will at the lowest war-cost and minimum injury to the post-war prospect. For the most decisive victory is of no value if a nation be bled white in gaining it.6

Liddell Hart also proposed a complementary insight: “[T]his decisive strategic victory…was rendered indecisive on the higher strategic plane [i.e., of grand strategy].” 7 Even an effective indirect approach to the enemy’s strategic rear, for example, may be nullified by a larger failure in grand strategy, to which lower, more physically decisive military strategy must always be subordinated, adds Liddell Hart:

For, if the government has decided upon a limited aim or “Fabian” grand strategy [i.e., one of protracted indirection, delay, and evasion], the general who, even within his strategic sphere, seeks to overthrow the enemy’s military power may do more harm than good to the government’s war policy.8

In the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens (431–404 BC), the Spartans initially had to face a kind of “Fabian” strategy and

were foiled by Pericles’s war policy, of refusing battle on land while using the superior Athenian navy to wear down the enemy’s will by devastating raids. Although the phrase “Periclean strategy” is almost as familiar as the “Fabian strategy” in a later [Roman] age, such a phrase narrows and confuses the significance of the course that war pursued [after the 430 BC Plague in Athens]. Clear-cut nomenclature is essential to clear thought, and the term “strategy” is best confined to its literal meaning of “generalship”—the actual direction of military force, as distinct from the policy governing its employment and combining it with other weapons: economic, political, psychological. Such policy is in application a higher-level strategy, for which the term “grand strategy” has been coined. In contrast to a strategy of indirect approach which seeks to dislocate the enemy’s balance in order to produce a decision, the Periclean plan was a grand strategy with the aim of gradually draining the enemy’s endurance in order to convince him that he could not gain a decision. Unluckily for Athens, the importation of plague tipped the scales against her in this moral and economic attrition campaign. Hence in 426 BC, the Periclean strategy was made to give place to the direct offensive strategy of Cleon and Demosthenes.9

He also adds that “through the exasperation and fear that this [Spartan counteroffensive strategy] generated [i.e., “by taking an economic objective,” the “Athenians’ ‘national’ lines of communication”], he [the enemy Spartan general, Lysander] was able, thereby, also to produce conditions favorable to surprise and to obtain a swift military decision.”10 Later, ironically, the altogether weaker city-state of Thebes was able, gradually, to “[release] herself from Sparta’s dominion by the method later christened Fabian, of refusing battle….”11 Is it not also reasonable to suppose that the U.S.’s adversaries today might have similar incentives to resort to Periclean or Fabian indirection?

It is also important to consider that “the strategy of Fabius [known, interestingly, as the “Cunctator,” or “Delayer”] was not merely an evasion of battle to gain time, but calculated for its effect on the morale of the enemy—and, still more, for its effect on their potential allies” and thus “was…primarily a matter of war-policy or grand strategy.”12 Says Liddell Hart:

The key condition of the strategy by which this grand strategy was carried out was that the Roman army should keep always to the hills, so as to nullify Hannibal’s decisive superiority in cavalry. Thus this phase became a duel between the Hannibalic and the Fabian forms of the indirect approach.13

To what extent will the United States, as well as Israel, now have to face Periclean, Hannibalic, or Fabian forms of the indirect approach—and other insidious forms of “asymmetrical” indirection that use biological agents to achieve an even more devastating psychological effect of subversion and dislocation on the citizenry and soldiery? To what extent will biological warfare (and bio-terrorism) on our own home front now be—or be perceived to be—the U.S.’s “Achilles heel” and perhaps become an asymmetrical form of retribution for our obtrusive policy of “engagement and enlargement”? Given our current form of government and Constitutional provisions, how can we discern and counteract an adversary with biological weapons who also possesses strategic “interior lines” on the “inner front” of our homeland, so as to infect such vulnerable soft targets as vaccines, water, and food and blood supplies? A good strategist must first reliably secure his own base and become “master of the communications,” especially the strategic lines of communication, both interior and exterior, the mass media, and the communications of his enemy. How will our defenses counter such subtle penetration?

We can gain insight into these questions from a noted French military strategist, General André Beaufre, writing in 1963 on indirect strategy and the psychological factor in war. His thoughts have trenchant implications for our situation in America today. Learning from the humiliations he had known both as a Frenchman and as a combatant commanding officer, he warned and instructed us about the insidious methods of indirect strategy.14 America has much to learn from him.

Beaufre says that even though strategy can be played two ways, directly and indirectly—like the major and minor keys in music—the object of strategy remains the same: “a struggle for…freedom of action” leading to “a decision arrived at through the psychological surrender of the enemy,” The object is “to produce a climax—the point at which the enemy’s morale cracks.” When, according to Beaufre, one is able “to strike terror, to paralyze, and to surprise” one’s adversary—“and all these objects are psychological”—then one can limit or remove his freedom of action and his security, often by seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative and by “the strategy of guile.” But, always in strategy, “the touchstone is freedom of action,” especially when, as is usually the case, “psychological action must precede military action” and prepare for military action by a psychological “artillery barrage,” which includes diversion and deception.

What is our own strategic freedom of action today in the United States, both psychologically and militarily, against foreign and domestic threats of bio-terrorism and longer-range psycho-biological warfare? How might our adversaries, at home and abroad, be preparing to distract and dislocate us, physically and psychologically? Since, according to Beaufre, strategy is “a thought process” and “the art of the dialectic of [at least] two opposing wills” in order to “reach the other’s vitals by a preparatory process,” how might U.S. strategists anticipate the use of biological weapons by such preparatory and insidious indirection?

Beaufre uses the forceful metaphor of “an incubator war,” such as “the lethal but insidious infections of the Cold War or ‘war in peacetime’ (la Paix-Guerre).” He says that “in an incubator war, psychological infection [including the infection of panic] is not unlike that produced by biological warfare,” for, “once launched, it is difficult to control,” just as “the virus of Bolshevism rebounded upon her” after Germany enabled Lenin to arrive in 1917 at Finland Station in St. Petersburg to start his revolution. Beaufre proposes that the Soviet’s revolutionary dialectic of dissolution against its enemies was, like biological warfare, “a method of slow creeping diffusion of chaos under the umbrella of an insidious threat.” By using “psychological technology…partly camouflaged by an anesthetizing propaganda campaign,” and by using Alinsky’s “political jujitsu,” the indirect strategy of the Soviets, says Beaufre, aimed “to disorganize the enemy by disrupting…[mental] cohesion…[and] loosening…moral ties.” This strategic “enervation or erosion method,” a part of the “new style of war,” says Beaufre, is itself like “the creeping infection of an illness”—a gradual titration and permeation of an infection. Beaufre’s metaphors are even more forceful when applied to the modern realm of psycho-biological warfare.

Against psycho-biological forms of warfare, as well as against new forms of Marxist or Gramscian revolutionary warfare (as seen for example in the Trans-National Radical Party in Europe today), there is a grave need for what Beaufre calls “inoculation and counter-infection,” because they are part of a new battle for the mind. In the context of our vulnerable democratic culture, the challenges in forming an integrated defense-in-depth against psycho-biological warfare are great indeed.

In forming such a defense, it is important to note that even the best of tactics or operations (i.e., “the sum total of the dispositions and maneuvers”) are “rendered nugatory,” says Beaufre, “if used to further an erroneous strategy.” Tactics “must be the servant of strategy,” but the “choice of tactics is, in fact, strategy,” as when deciding, for example, “whether to use force or subversion” as a subordinate part of one’s own larger or grand “strategy of guile.” As Beaufre says, “how total [i.e., how inclusive] the art of strategy must be”—because it involves politics, economics, finance, and psychology, among other things. “The strategic priority” must always be “to decide how great the freedom of action is for oneself and what is available to the enemy.” In the face of biological weapons today, how would we ourselves make this decision?

We must also answer such questions as these: Who is the enemy? What (or whom) are we trying to protect? And why? The amount of access to our “interior lines” (i.e., to our interior dispositions, communications, and maneuver room) that is unwittingly provided to our adversaries, including trans-national criminal syndicates, is very great.

In my experience over the last three years, all too many people, when considering bio-terrorism and indirect biological warfare, have been cynically (or flippantly) inclined either to a kind of “pre-emptive futility” or to various forms of denial, both of which already constitute “pre-emptive psychological surrender”! “What can we do?” was the question put to me often enough. However, those whose special duty of leadership it is to provide for the common defense are called to a higher standard of foresight and determination.

It has been with these considerations of duty in mind that Dr. Thomas Frazier has worked so selflessly and indefatigably, despite discouragement and disincentives, to bring so many scientists, specialists, analysts, and thinkers together for candid discourse and a call to action. For merely passive forms of defense against psycho-biological weapons will likely be insufficient and perhaps even ruinous.

But, as to our response policy, should U.S. counter-initiatives be immediate and proportionate, like the well-known counter-initiatives of Israel? Would this be self-defeating for the U.S., exacerbating or only dissipating, given our diverse and vulnerable extensions abroad as well as our cultural politics at home?

One of the reasons, therefore, I am focusing our attention on Fabian forms of indirect grand strategy to make psychological use of bio-agents and bio-technologies is to make us more aware of the dangers of over-reaction, which might not only increase our vulnerability, but could even help unite additional hostile elements against us. That is to say, in the gathering disillusionment and resentment against the United States, many are likely to say “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The consideration of Fabian indirection will also likely make us more vigilant to the rash and reductive “terrible simplifiers,” those who might wish to use the pretext of a biological threat to implement Emergency Executive Orders or new “global arrangements” favorable to essentially unaccountable international oligarchies or NGOs (non-governmental organizations), but potentially unfavorable to national or local authority. I make this contention on the premise that a humane and proportionate scale—or scope of command—must be maintained when trying to deal with the threatened or actual conduct of psycho-biological warfare, because it specifically tries to destroy intimate trust, both in a community and in the individual mind.

In light of some fundamental axioms of strategy and grand strategy that will now be further elucidated by Liddell Hart, we will be able to consider more concretely how grand-strategic Fabian bio-warfare might operate and have its psychologically dislocating and paralyzing effects. Let us assume that an adversary or coalition of adversaries might wish to “revive the art and effect of strategy”15—especially long-range indirect grand strategy. The culture of China, for example, with its remarkable cultural cohesiveness over time and space, might be especially adept at grand-strategic deception. Certain European governments and Euro-socialists wishing for the diminishment of U.S. influence and enhancement of the euro as an international reserve currency might indirectly co-operate with China and others to add to America’s discomfiture, by omission at least if not by commission. In the London Mail, for example, Allan Piper and Richard Grant write:

The introduction of the Euro in January [1999] threatens to trigger the worst global economic crisis since the Second World War. It could even signal the breakdown of the global financial system, according to the City’s [London’s financial district’s] most respected economist. Stephen Lewis, who provides daily advice to the Square Mile’s leading institutions, blames the advent of the Euro for the present turmoil in world markets, and warns that massive currency movements created by its introduction will make matters worse. He predicts that, because European governments are determined to break the power of the U.S. dollar, it will encourage a worldwide proliferation of nationalistic policies, force widespread introduction of currency exchange controls, and lead to a sharp slowdown in global economic growth… . Lewis’ remarks follow an announcement from Beijing last week that the Chinese government wants to offload dollars from its $140 billion foreign currency reserve to buy the Euro… . Lewis warns: “One of the reasons there is a crisis at all is that the governments sponsoring the Euro are seeking to overturn the dollar’s supremacy. They do not want the dollar to survive as the world’s leading currency. A large part of the global economic problem over the past year has arisen from attempts by policy-makers to assert the Euro’s role in the scheme of things. This challenge is the biggest since 1945.” Last week, Wang Jian, economist of China’s State Development Planning commission, said that the country’s government would cut the proportion of dollar holdings to 40% so that it could build Euro holdings to the same level… . He [Stephen Lewis] said: “The movement of capital will devalue the dollar sharply and cause economic recession in the U.S. The significant point about Wang’s comment is that it came days after German bankers had been in Beijing seeking to persuade the authorities to shift their reserves from the dollar to the Euro.” (Emphasis added.)16

In this context, additional disruptions from the use of actual or feigned bio-agents could be traumatic and dislocating. With this example in mind, Liddell Hart’s axioms become even more cogent and sobering as we consider the Fabian use of biological weapons.

Liddell Hart is fundamentally opposed to two theses: (1) that “battle is the only means to the strategical end” and (2) that “in war every other consideration should be subordinated to the aim of fighting decisive battles.”17 He thinks it wise, instead, often “to enjoin a strategy of limited aim”18 and especially “a limited aim or ‘Fabian’ grand strategy.”19

He says:

The more usual reason for adopting a strategy of limited aim is that of awaiting a change in the balance of force—a change often sought and achieved by draining the enemy’s force, weakening him by pricks instead of risking blows. The essential condition of such a strategy is that the drain on him [e.g., the U.S.] should be disproportionately greater than on oneself. The object may be sought by raiding [or infecting] his supplies;…by luring him into unprofitable attacks [i.e., “lure and trap” or “mystify, mislead, surprise”]; by causing an excessively wide distribution [or centrifugal overextension] of his force; and, not least, by exhausting his moral and physical energy.20

When strategy, from its etymology, is considered as “generalship,” it is “the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy” (as well as the ends of grand strategy) by “the movement of forces” and “its effect,” particularly when “the effect was [or will be] insidiously harmful.”21 The purpose of strategy, as well as grand strategy, is “to diminish the possibility of resistance” and “to fulfill this purpose by exploiting the elements of movement and surprise.”22 Says Liddell Hart:

The role of grand strategy—higher strategy—is to co-ordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the attainment of the political object…the goal defined by fundamental policy. Grand strategy should both calculate and develop the economic resources and man-power of nations… . Also the moral resources—for to foster a people’s willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power…. Moreover, fighting power is but one of the instruments of grand strategy—which should take account of and apply the power of financial pressure, of diplomatic pressure, of commercial pressure, and, not least, of ethical pressure, to weaken the opponent’s will.23

Even when it pertains to the lower level of strategy, Liddell Hart argues—and our new adversaries may have listened to him—that “strategy not only stops on the frontier [of the province of fighting], but has for its purpose the reduction of fighting to the slenderest possible proportions” and, if fighting is unavoidable, “to bring about battle under the most advantageous circumstances.”24 And sometimes, as in the case of the Greek Byzantine general, Belisarius, in Syria, “the national object” was fulfilled by “pure strategy,” for, “in this case, the psychological action was so effective that the enemy surrendered his purpose without any physical action at all being required.”25 Liddell Hart comments:

While such bloodless victories have been exceptional, their rarity enhances rather than detracts from their value—as an indication of latent possibilities, in strategy and grand strategy. Despite many centuries’ experience of war, we have hardly begun to explore the field of psychological warfare.26

With respect to the military strategist or grand strategist, Liddell Hart says, by way of summary:

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.27

Now, with reference to those who would use biological weapons to effect “psychological action,” we must remember that “dislocation is the aim of strategy” and the intended sequel is “the enemy’s dissolution or his easier disruption in battle.”28 But “how is the strategic [or grand strategic] dislocation produced?”—by, for example, “a move directed towards the enemy’s rear,” “a menace to its [interior] line of communication,” or seeking to gain “a decisive advantage previous to battle.”29 It may also be produced by “menacing [or ambushing] the enemy’s [or the “first-responder’s”] line of retreat,” “menacing the equilibrium of his dispositions,” or “menacing [or contaminating] his local supplies [including his medical supplies].”30

The proper strategic intention is not so much to produce strain, but rather to produce shock—suddenness and surprise. “Psychological dislocation fundamentally springs from the sense of being trapped.”31 Also, the “strategy of an indirect approach [is] calculated to dislocate the opponent’s balance,” physically or logistically but, especially, mentally. In fact, “paralyzing the enemy’s action” is “what constitutes a strategic indirect approach,” which is itself “preceded by distraction [i.e., “to draw asunder” the opponent], so as “to deprive the enemy of his freedom of action” and to give him the sense of being trapped. Such a preparatory distraction also seeks “the distention” and “the diversion” of the opponent’s forces, with the result that they are “too widely distributed and committed elsewhere”32 so as not to be able to regroup and effectively concentrate against one’s own forces—that is to say, “not giving your opponent freedom [of action] and time to concentrate to meet your concentration.”33

Given modern conditions and mobile weaponry, says Liddell Hart, “the need for [preparatory] distraction” has grown. The “most economic method of distraction” is to force on one’s enemy a choice of disconcerting “alternate objectives” along a single line of operations—striving to constantly “[put] the enemy on the horns of a dilemma” (as Sherman did in his “deep strategic penetration” of Georgia).34 Citing the two correlative principles of “concentration of strength against weakness” and “dispersion of the opponent’s strength,” Liddell Hart emphasizes that “true concentration is the fruit of calculated dispersion.”35

Liddell Hart thinks it essential to “adjust your end to your means,” after a sober assessment of one’s means, and to “think what it is least probable that he [i.e., the enemy] will foresee and forestall.”36 Since “a single objective is usually futile,” he says, it is important to “take a line of operations which offers alternative objectives.” This is also “the basis of infiltration tactics,”37 which today could include biological weapons, to exploit the opponent’s confusion, mental dislocation, disorganization, and demoralization—and to exploit them before he or his society can recover. However, certain cautious and unstrategic minds, inordinately focused on tactics, tend to promote “the common indecisiveness of warfare,” to “obscure the psychological element,” and “to foster a cult of soundness rather than of surprise.”38

One must bear in mind “the necessity of making the enemy do something wrong” and, “by compelling [his] mistakes,” to “find in the unexpected the key to a decision.”39 For “a man unnerved is a highly infectious carrier of fear, capable of spreading an epidemic of panic.”40 Although strategy “should seek to penetrate a joint [or critical communications node] in the harness [or networks] of the opposing forces,” Liddell Hart emphasizes that “a strategist should think in terms of paralysis, not killing.”41 But again, a “decisive strategic victory” can be “rendered indecisive on the higher strategic plane” of grand strategy.

Given the new face of terrorism, as seen for example in the Aum Shinrikyo cult, there is, it seems, a growing “fanaticism unmixed with acquisitiveness” and “infused with the courage of desperation.”42 This new enemy seeks only to destroy, not to conquer —and biological weapons will serve him well.

By taking the measure, in the larger grand-strategic context, of both the capacities of biological weapons today (actual and potential) and the resentful intentions of terrorists or transnational criminal syndicates, our judgments and responses will be more disciplined and wiser, more prudent and proportioned. We must not think of biological weapons or bio-terrorism in merely tactical or operational terms, or in isolation. We must anticipate and consider them in the context of Fabian forms of indirect grand strategy, which may subtly employ new biotechnologies and discoveries from neuroscience, such as psychotropic and neuro-tropic bio-agents, to infect the human mind and weakened will. Such subtle forms of strategic indirection against “soft targets” aim to subvert trust, the most intimate forms of trust, thereby producing, if not our despair and desolation, then, at least, our demoralization and strategic paralysis.

(Address correspondence to [not anymore valid as of May 2020]: Dr. Robert Hickson, Department of Philosophy and Fine Arts, HQ USAFA/DFEG Hickson, 2354 Fairchild Drive, Suite 6K12, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado 80840-6238; Telephone: 719-333-8716; Fax: 719-333-7137. )

REFERENCES [43 Footnotes]:

1. HARRIS, J., 1992. In Wonderwoman and Superman: The Ethics of Human Biotechnology. P. Singer, Ed. Oxford University Press. New York.

2. LIDDELL HART, B.H. 1967. Strategy. 2nd edit. Meridian Books. New York.

3. Ibid. p. 212.

4. Ibid. pp. 211-212.

5. Ibid. pp. 211-212.

6. Ibid. p. 212.

7. Ibid. p. 237.

8. Ibid. p. 321.

9. Ibid. p. 10.

10. Ibid. p. 13.

11. Ibid. pp. 13-14.

12. Ibid. p. 26.

13. Ibid. p. 27

14. BEAUFRE, A. 1965. An Introduction to Strategy, Praeger. New York. Quoted text from pages 1, 23-24, 30, 34-35, 42, 47, 55-57, 59, 80, 83, 86, 99, 100, 102-104, 108-110, 121-122, 127-128, 133, 135, 137-138.

15. LIDDELL HART, op. cit. p. 332.

16. PIPER, A. & R. GRANT.1998. London Mail (6 Sept.): 1.

17. LIDDELL HART, op. cit. p. 319.

18. Ibid. p. 320.

19. Ibid. p. 321.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid. pp. 321, 319.

22. Ibid. p. 323.

23. Ibid. p. 322.

24. Ibid. p. 324.

25. Ibid. p. 325.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid. p. 326.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid. p. 328.

33. Ibid. p. 334.

34. Ibid. p. 339.

35. Ibid. p. 334.

36. Ibid. p. 335.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid. p. 336.

39. Ibid. p. 336 (Emphasis added).

40. Ibid. p. 212.

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid. p. 359.

Finis

 

Josef Pieper’s Further Insights on Silence and Purity and Incipient Contemplation: From His 1985 Anthology and Lesebuch

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                      5 May 2020

Pope Saint Pius V (d. 1572)

Epigraphs

“Leisure…is a form of silence. Leisure amounts to that precise way of being silent which is a prerequisite for listening in order to hear; for only the listener is able to hear. Leisure implies an attitude of total receptivity toward, and willing immersion in, reality; an openness of the soul, through which alone may come about those great and blessed insights that no amount of ‘mental labor’ can ever achieve.” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology-Lesebuch (1985), page 140—my emphasis added)

***

“I wonder whether, in his relationship to the Church, the contemporary intellectual has not been offered a unique opportunity [as of 1985, and under the reflective Pope John Paul II] to employ and to give full play to all his potentialities, his special propensities, and liberties and even weaknesses?

“For example, could not the intellectual manifest his nonconformity by expressing his disagreement with those criticisms of the Church [such as her resisting permissive marital issues and disallowing artificial forms of birth-prevention] which are now being shouted from every roof-top? By the way, the source of the word ‘nonconformity’ is Scripture: nolite conformari huic saeculo, “And be not conformed to the world” (Romans 12:2)!….But how would it be, for a change, if an intellectual chose to defend publicly, with imagination and verbal skill, the thesis that purity is integral to the proper functioning of a human being?….

“But above all, has there ever existed such a challenging opportunity for the intellectual to exercise his noblest office, truly his nobile officium, as this: To take up the lance of the provocative word and to fight to defend her who is despised by all the world—namely the Church?” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (1985), pages 132-133—my emphasis added)

***

“Nothing else can confront us with one indispensable challenge, the challenge contained in the following question:

“After we have accomplished, with an admirable amount of intelligence and hard work, all that is necessary, after we have provided for the basic needs of life, produced the essential foodstuff, protected the realm of life itself—after all this, what is the meaning of the life itself that we have made possible? How do we define a truly human life?

To ask this challenging question in the midst of all our accomplishments as [they] establish ourselves in the world, to keep this question alive through honest and precise reasoning: this is the fundamental task of philosophy, its specific contribution to the common good—even though, by itself, it is unable to provide the complete answer.” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (1985), page 111—my emphasis added)

***

“The time has come to speak of the contemplative mode of seeing the things of the Creation. I am referring to things which are perceptible to the senses, and to the kind of seeing we do with our eyes. It would be impossible to exaggerate the concreteness of this vision. If a person has been terribly thirsty for a long time and then finally drinks, feels the refreshment deep down inside and says, ‘What a glorious thing fresh, cold water is!’—then whether he knows it or not, he may have taken one step toward that beholding of the beloved wherein contemplation consists.” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (1985), pages 145-146—my emphasis added)

***

When one reads anew his refreshing, often-challenging, 1985 authorial-selected anthology, Josef Pieper’s incisive, unexpected citation of the French writer André Gide will also lead us to consider afresh the distinctions and interrelations between the active life and the contemplative life, as well as the purpose of politics and the nature of earthly contemplation itself.

Such reflections, for which we are again especially grateful to Dr. Pieper, might also be helpfully illuminating and consoling for us now, amidst the current constrictions and imponderables in society, to include religious societies and their forms of public worship and indispensable penance during a pestilence which is both patent and latent and of uncertain protractedness.

We may see now how Josef Pieper approaches Gide’s own candid insights:

But practice [such as the phenomenon of “politics”] does become meaningless the moment it sees itself as an end in itself. For this means converting what is by nature a servant into a master—with the inevitable result that it no longer serves any useful purpose. The absurdity and the profound dangers of this procedure cannot, in the long run, remain hidden. André Gide writes in his Journals: “The truth is that as soon as we are no longer obliged to earn our living, we no longer know what to do with our life and recklessly squander it.” Here, with his usual acuteness, Gide has described the deadly emptiness and endless ennui which bounds the realm of the exclusively practical like a belt of lunar landscape. This is the destruction which results from destruction of the vita contemplativa [the contemplative life]. In light of such a recognition, we suddenly see new and forceful validity in the old principle [as expressed by a young Thomas Aquinas]: “It is requisite for the good of the human community that there should be persons who devote themselves to the life of contemplation.” For it is contemplation which preserves in the midst of society the truth that is at one and the same time useless and the yardstick [or standard] of every possible use; so it is also contemplation which keeps the true end in sight, gives meaning to every practical act of life. (122—123—my emphasis added)1

To understand better the hierarchy and proper subordinations between the active and contemplative lives, Josef Pieper offers a clarification about the traditional notion of hierarchy, lest it be misunderstood, as is often the case:

We do not mean…to scorn or decry practical life [the vita activa]….And here it seems proper to put in a word about the nature of hierarchical thinking. The hierarchical point of view admits no doubt about difference in levels and their location; but it also never despises lower levels [of subsidiarity or subordination] in the hierarchy. Thus the inherent dignity of practice (as opposed to theoria [i.e.,contemplatio” in Latin]) is in no way denied. It is taken for granted that practice is not only meaningful but indispensable; that it rightly fills out man’s weekday life; that without it a truly human existence is inconceivable. Without it [the realm of varied active practice], indeed, the vita contemplativa [the contemplative life] is unthinkable. (122—my emphasis added)

In a three-page section of his anthology entitled “The Purpose of Politics” (121-123), Dr. Pieper begins his reflections with the following elucidating paragraph about the nature, limits, and inherent disposition of the active life:

All practical activity, from practice of the ethical virtues to gaining the means of livelihood, serves something other than itself. And this other thing is not practical activity. It is having what is sought after, while we rest content in the results of our active efforts. Precisely that is the meaning of the old adage that the vita activa is fulfilled in the vita contemplativa. To be sure, the active life contains a felicity of its own; it lies, says Thomas [Aquinas], principally in the practice of prudence [the first cardinal virtue], in the perfect art of the conduct of life. But ultimate repose cannot be found in this kind of felicity. Vita activa est dispositio ad contemplativam; the ultimate meaning of the active life is to make possible the happiness of contemplation [especially unto “contemplation of the truth” (122)]. (121—my emphasis added)

For the rest of this essay, we shall attempt to present Josef Pieper’s essential understanding of “Earthly Contemplation” (143-148) and its deep nourishment, also as a foretaste (praegustatum) of a possible, but not yet a certain and indefectible, final fulfillment in Vita Aeterna.

Over the years—lest there be sinful presumption (one of the two sins against hope, and thus also one form of hopelessness), and yet being very aware of the scope and mystery of human liberty— Dr. Pieper would frequently, but modestly say: “Up until the moment of our death, we retain the permanent possibility of voluntary defection.” (He also knowingly spoke of our supportive need for the Donum Timoris: the Gift of Fear.)

We turn now to his other connected insights coming from Tradition, indeed from a long-tested and much-challenged Catholic Sacred Tradition:

The great thinkers of the Western tradition regard as a self-evident and inviolable truth the idea that the ultimate satiation of our desires awaits us only on the other side of death, and that this beatitude will take the form of seeing. However, this eschatological assertion concerning the perfection which ultimately lies in store for us has always, at the same time, been interpreted as a commentary on the earthly existence of man in the world. It has in fact been interpreted to mean: not only in the life to come, but also in his material existence in history, man is, to the very roots of his being, a creature designed for and desiring vision; and this is true to such a degree that the extent of a man’s happiness is only as great as his capacity for contemplation. (143—my emphasis added)

Dr. Pieper quite assuredly knows and shows us that this above-expressed theory of contemplation “appears so remote from the contemporary view of man” (144), so remote that it seems to be even “absurd” (144). However, he says that responding to this set of insufficient perceptions will be, in part “the subject of my discourse,” for, he adds:

The concept of contemplation which I have just outlined implies and presupposes several things which are not immediately apparent. For example, in the first place that man in this world is capable of visionary knowledge, that this means of ascertaining the nature of reality are not exclusively mental, i.e., do not consist solely of working with concepts and of intellectual exertion. It implies and presupposes the celebration of the simple act of looking at things. Anyone who disputes the possibility of such a celebration [as conveyed in a “loving gaze”] cannot accept the thesis of the joy of contemplation….

Our theory of contemplation also presupposes something else: namely, the fact that not only does the act of vision beyond death exist in a rudimentary, inchoate, premonitory form in this life, but also that the object of the beatific vision can be glimpsed, however imperfectly, by means of earthly contemplation….

Only the vision of something we love makes us happy, and thus it is integral to the concept of contemplation that it represents a vision kindled by the act of turning towards something [or someone!] in love and affirmation. (144—my emphasis)

After his varied preparation, only a part of which I have introduced, Dr. Pieper modestly says:

It is now possible for us to formulate a more complete definition of the essential meaning of contemplation. If we direct our power of affirmation, i.e., our love toward the infinite and divine source of satiation which flows through all reality from its ultimate fount, and if this beloved source reveals itself to the gaze of the soul in a totally unmediated and utterly serene visioneven if the vision persists for no more than a split second—then and only then does there occur what can, in an absolute sense, be called contemplation.

But perhaps it is more important to express this thought in positive terms and to say when the aforementioned conditions are fulfilled, contemplation always occurs. For what seems to me particularly significant in the traditional theory of contemplation is the fact that this blessed awareness of the divine satiation of all desire can be kindled by any event, by the most trivial cause. Contemplation is by no means confined to the cloister and the monastic cell. The element crucial to contemplation [as with poets and other artists] can be attained by someone who [like Hilaire Belloc afoot in the Alps or upon the sea!] does not even know the name for what is happening to him. Thus in all likelihood, contemplation occurs far more frequently than one would be led to believe by the prevailing image of modern man.

Not only do these inconspicuous forms of contemplation deserve more attention, more thought; they also deserve to be encouraged….We also need corroboration and confirmation of the fact that we are right to interpret and accept the beatitude of such experiences for what it truly is: the foretaste [“praegustatum”] and beginning of perfect joy. (145—my emphasis added)

Later in Josef Pieper’s essay, after his worthy and hopefully still to-be-savored discussion of the arts, he concludes with the following words of refreshment:

The indispensable nature of art [poetry, music, painting, sculpture, architecture and the like], its status as a basic necessity of human life, results above all from the fact that it prevents the contemplation of the Creation [or, gazing with love, Our Contemplation of the Passion of the Lord] from sinking into oblivion, and ensures [even under a grave, protracted quarantine and isolation] that it [contemplation] remains a living force in our lives. (146-147—my emphasis added)

–Finis–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985—first published in German in 1981 and then in a second edition in 1984), pages 122-123—my emphasis added. All future page references are to this English edition, and will be placed above henceforth in parentheses in the main body of this essay.

Josef Pieper on the Purity of Heart and the Perception of Beauty

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                20 April 2020

Saint Agnes of Montepulciano (d. 1313)

Epigraphs

“A new depth here opens to our view: purity is not only the fruit of purification; it implies at the same time readiness to accept God’s purifying intervention, terrible and fatal though it might be; to accept it with the bold candor of a trustful heart.” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), page 83—my emphasis added.)

***

“Only a chaste sensuality can realize the specifically human faculty of perceiving sensual beauty…and to enjoy it for its own sake,…undeterred and unsullied by the self-centered [i.e., selfish] will to pleasure. It has been said that only the pure of heart can laugh freely and liberatingly. It is no less true that only those who look at the world with pure eyes can experience its beauty.” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology, 1989, page 81—my emphasis added.)

***

“It is in such an asceticism of cognition alone that he may preserve or regain that which actually constitutes man’s vital existence: the perception of the reality of God and His creation, and the possibility of shaping himself and the world according to this truth, which reveals itself only in silence.” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology, 1989, page 87—my emphasis added.)

***

In the following considerations, I wish to present and discuss briefly some of Josef Pieper’s insights into the matter of purity and beauty, and their interrelations.

First in 1981, Josef Pieper published in Munich, Germany his own authorial anthology by which he personally selected and editorially arranged from all of his writings a fitting representation of much of his deepest thoughts down the years.

In 1984, Dr. Pieper, upon request, then published a second and more ample German edition, also with Kösel Verlag in Munich, and still entitled Josef Pieper: Lesebuch. From this second edition came the 1989 English translation, Josef Pieper: An Anthology,1 a portion of which we shall now consider. On pages 80-87, we shall find these four chapter subtitles sequentially (27-30), as follows:

Only the Pure of Heart Can Perceive Beauty; The Fruit of Purity; Temperance [as the Fourth Cardinal Virtue] Creates Beauty; and “Concupiscence of the Eyes” [1 John 2: 16; 5:19, for example, as a disorder].

Let us now follow the sequence of some of Josef Pieper’s insights and affirmations:

Christian doctrine does not exclude sensual enjoyment from the realm of the morally good (as against [as distinct from being the realm of] the merely “permissible”). But that this [sensual] enjoyment should be made possible only by the virtue of temperance and [disciplined] moderation—that, indeed, is a surprising thought. Yet this is what we read in the Summa theologica [of Thomas Aquinas], in the first question [quaestio] of his tractate on temperance—even if more between and behind the lines than in what is said directly….

Man, by contrast [to a lion, for example], is able to enjoy what is seen or heard for the sensual “appropriateness” alone which appeals to the eye and the ear….For intemperance (like temperance) is something exclusively human….Keeping this distinction in mind the [this] sentence becomes meaningful: unchaste lust has the tendency to relate the whole complex of the sensual world, and particularly of sensual beauty, to sexual pleasure exclusively. Therefore only a chaste sensuality can realize the specifically human faculty of perceiving sensual beauty, such as that of the human body, as beauty, and to enjoy it for its own sake,…undeterred and unsullied by the self-centered will to pleasure. (80-81—my emphasis added)

Thus, Josef Pieper would especially want to convince us now that: “Temperance is liberating and purifying. This above all: temperance effects purification.” (82—my emphasis added) And we recall, as well, his earlier words that “only the pure of heart can laugh freely and liberatingly” and “only those who look at the world [or another sudden person] with pure eyes can experience its [or her or his] beauty.” (81—my emphasis added)

Moreover, says Pieper:

If one approaches the difficult concept of purity…and begins to understand purity as the fruit of purification, the confusing and discordant sounds, which…move it dangerously close to Manichaeism, are silenced. From this [fresh] approach the full and unrestricted concept [and reality!] of purity…comes into view.

This is the purity meant by John Cassian [circa 360-435 A.D.]. when he calls purity of heart the immanent purpose of temperance: “It is served by solitude, fasting, night watches, and penitence.” It is this wider concept of purity which is referred to in Saint Augustine’s statement that the virtue of temperance and moderation aims at preserving man uninjured and undefiled for God. (82—my emphasis added)

Dr. Pieper then asks us a question and answers it at once unexpectedly:

But what does this unrestricted concept of purity stand for? It stands for that crystal-clear, morning-fresh freedom from self-consciousness, for that selfless acceptance of the world which man experiences when the shock of a profound sorrow [like the death of one’s child] carries one to the brink of existence or when he is touched by the shadow of death. It is said in the Scriptures: “Grave illness sobers the soul” (Ecclesiasticus 31:2); this sobriety belongs to the essence of purity. (82—my emphasis added)

Further to clarify his nourishing, though complex, concept of purity, our author adds new insights from the related Greek tragic notion of “Catharsis” and an aspect of the infused “Gift of Fear”:

That most disputed statement of Aristotle: tragedy causes purification, catharsis, points in the same direction. Even the Holy Spirit’s gift of fear, which Saint Thomas assigns to temperantia, purifies the soul by causing it to experience, through grace, the innermost peril of man [i.e., the loss, finally, of Eternal Life, “Vita Aeterna”]. Its [that divine gift’s] fruit is that purity by dint [by means] of which the selfish and furtive search for spurious fulfillment is abandoned. Purity is the perfect unfolding of the whole nature from which alone could have come the words: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” (Luke 1:38) (82-83—my emphasis added)

After this preparation concerning the concept and reality of purity, our modest, though dedicated and resolute, guide will consider more fully the fourth cardinal virtue of temperantia and its inherently moderating discipline:

To the virtue of temperance as the preserving and defending realization of man’s inner order, the [additional] gift of beauty is particularly co-ordinated. Not only is temperance beautiful in itself, it also renders men beautiful. Beauty, however, must here be understood in its original meaning: as the glow of the truth and the good irradiating from every ordered state of being, and not in the patent significance of immediate sensual appeal. The beauty of temperance has a more spiritual, more austere, more virile aspect [and discipline]. It is of the essence of this beauty that it does not conflict with true virility, but rather has an affinity to it. Temperance as the wellspring and premise of fortitude [the third cardinal virtue], is the virtue of mature manliness.

The infantile disorder of intemperance, on the other hand, not only destroys beauty, it also makes man cowardly; intemperance more than any other thing renders man unable and unwilling to “take heart” against the wounding power of evil in the world. (83-84—my emphasis added)

How does one discern, especially from external manifestations, someone who is not just impatient but fundamentally intemperate and inwardly disordered, as we may now wonder about a certain character? But Josef Pieper will help us here again:

It is not easy to read on a man’s face whether he is just or unjust. Temperance or intemperance, however, loudly proclaim themselves in everything that manifests a personality: in the order or disorder of the features, in the attitude, the laugh, the handwriting. Temperance, as the inner order of man, can as little remain “purely interior” as the soul itself [i.e., “anima forma corporis”], and as all other life of the soul or mind. It is the nature of the soul to be the “form of the body.”

This fundamental principle of all Christian psychology [“anima forma corporis est”], not only states the in-forming of the body by the soul [the principle of natural life], but also the reference of the soul to the body….Temperance or intemperance of outward behavior and expression can have its strengthening or weakening repercussion on the inner order of man. It is from this point of view that all outward discipline….has its meaning, its justification, and its necessity. (84—my emphasis added)

Again on the premise that “contrast clarifies the mind,” we shall now conclude our reflections and presentations with Dr. Pieper’s own perceptions about the temptation and grave disorder of “the concupiscence [itching lust] of the eyes” (1 John 2:16).

Once again Pieper approaches his topic in a fresh way, though with some initial obscurity:

Studiositas, curiositas—by these are meant temperateness and intemperance, respectively, in the natural striving for knowledge; temperateness and intemperance, above all, in the indulgence of sensual perception of the manifold sensuous beauty of the world; temperateness and intemperance in the “desire for knowledge and experience,” as Saint Augustine puts it….The is no doubt that the will-to-knowledge, the noble power of the human being, requires a restraining wisdom, “in order that man may not strive immoderately for the knowledge of things.” (85—my emphasis added)

He promptly then asks: “But in what consists such immoderateness?”(85)… and then he adds: “The essential intemperateness of the urge for knowledge is ‘concupiscence of the eyes.’” (86)

Moreover, as Pieper now further proposes to teach us, there is much more to untangle, candidly and even bluntly:

There is a gratification in seeing that [both] reverses the original meaning of vision and works disorder in man himself. The true meaning of seeing is perception of reality. But “concupiscence of the eyes” does not aim to perceive reality, but to enjoy “seeing”….this is also true of curiositas. [According to Martin Heidegger, in his book Being and Time:] “What this [disordered or itching] seeing strives for is not to attain knowledge and to become cognizant of the truth, but [rather] for possibilities of relinquishing oneself to the world.”….

Accordingly, the degeneration into curiositas of the natural wish to see may [also] be much more than than a harmless confusion on the surface of the human being. It may be the sign of complete rootlessness. It may mean that man has lost his capacity for living with himself; that, in flight from himself, nauseated and bored by the void of an interior gutted by despair, he is seeking with selfish anxiety and on a thousand futile paths that which is given only to the noble stillness of the heart held ready for sacrifice…. (86—my emphasis added)

After an intervening four-paragraph presentation—sometimes quite harsh and glaring and coldly chilling—of the “destructive and eradicating power” (86) of the concupiscence of the eyes, along with cupiditas‘ “restlessness” (86), Pieper robustly disciplines his disgust and revulsion, and keenly says:

If such an illusory world [of “deafening noise” and “flimsy pomp” and such (87)] threatens to overgrow and smother the world of real things, then to restrain the natural wish to see takes on the character of a measure of self-protection and self-defense. Studiositas…primarily signifies that man should oppose this virtually inescapable seduction with all the force of selfless self-preservation; that he should hermetically close the inner room of his being against the intrusively boisterous pseudo-reality of empty shows and sounds. It is in such an asceticism of cognition alone that he may preserve or regain that which actually constitutes man’s vital existence: the perception of the reality of God and His creation, and the possibility of shaping himself and the world according to this truth, which reveals itself only in silence. (87—my emphasis added)

What a profound and eloquent selection Josef Pieper has made from the writings of his long life—even in 1984 when he was already eighty years of age. What a harvest and set of gleaning he has given to us here in his unique personal anthology. May his entire Anthology also be contemplated now.

–Finis–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1See Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989). All future references will be to this 1989 edition of varied but approved English translations, and placed above in parentheses in the main body of this short essay. We shall be concentrating on pages 80-87, the last part of the first main category, entitled “Human Authenticity.”