The Holinshed Chronicles, first published in 1577, contain an account of the history of the British Isles from the division of the earth in three parts by Noah after the flood until the reign of Elisabeth I of England. One of the most expensive printed works of all times, the Holinshed Chronicles were first conceived as a comprehensive history and geography of the Globe. The project proved difficult and too large for a single book. The entrepreneurs had to settle for a history of the British Isles, mostly focused on its crowned heads.
Other world systems
A similar project was undertaken in France with the compilation of an Encyclopaedia that contains the sum total of human knowledge on all known topics. The very idea of encyclopaedic knowledge answered the need for an exhaustive system of interpreting the world in its entirety that arose around the time the notion of one globe emerged in the scientific imagination.
In Germany the efforts culminated in the introduction of the Humboldtian model of higher education, the university, as a place that promised to collect, transmit, and produce knowledge about the entire universe.
No matter which point of view we take the idea of one globe, one universe, one world ends up reflecting not the world, but the culture in which it originated. For the English intellectuals it was history and geography, for the French it was a linguistic nominal system, and for the Germans theory. Naturally other nations made similar attempts to organise the world in its totality, most recently the pioneering efforts of the United States and Russia to produce images of the earth from the cosmos.
Politicization of the Idea of the Globe
Early in the twentieth century a political philosopher, Carl Schmitt, also focused on the idea of one world. In his Nomos of the Earth introduced the notion of a global political order modelled on the British global empire that ended up fuelling the most sinister regimes humanity had ever known. His ideas continue to inspire dreams of global power realised by very irresponsible individuals with the monetary power to move masses of biological human material across the globe.
Unlike applications of Schmitt’s basic ideas that are less informed, unreflected, and not very well thought out, the original philosopher of the global order was aware that the establishment of a global power in the world would inevitably lead to permanent civil war in all countries. We are beginning to experience this painful reality in all of its cruelty and brutality.
A seemingly innocent idea that arose in Renaissance Europe that had served the production of knowledge, culture, and literature, has culminated in a dreadful dystopian political reality that we are just beginning to confront.
The Literary Globe
By contrast, the Globe in the literary imagination under the protection of the Crown, served as the occasion for the development of the richest and still operative theatrical legacies in the English-speaking world. The Globe Theatre is almost synonymous with Shakespearean theater.
Unlike Holinshed’s Chronicles, organised by the objective parameters of time and space, Shakespeare reflected the linguistic, cultural, psychological, ethical, and aesthetic reality of the English imagination. It’s not the Globe in its objectivity he aimed to reproduce, but the endless variety of the inner world of the English-speaking subject, which contains the world from the English point of view. Shakespeare was the beginning of modern literature. His works opened a door to an infinite world of marvellous poetry in prose and verse that continues to inspire to this day.
The New Mass and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb
But Shakespeare could not have achieved his status without the protection of the Crown, a symbolic rather than an instrumental power, that much like a wedding ring, serves as a token of an eternal bond between the people and their culture, between the people and the crowned head of the monarch, indeed between the people and the Globe. To understand a people we must understand the history of its crowned heads. The idea of organising the historical chronicles of power in one book originates in the Biblical narrative. The Bible is the origin of the idea of one world and must remain the reference point. The New Testament refocused the narrative on the idea of language as the only origin of the human world. It placed language in all of its manifold splendour at the center of human history and at the center of the human world.
The Christian Crown takes its symbolic power from the Biblical narrative recorded in the Book of Revelations where Christ the Saviour enters a matrimonial bond with the Church, his flock, and becomes its Crowned Head. All Christian Crowns follow this principle of marriage between the monarch and the flock. The Crown is the wedding band guaranteeing the preservation of a legacy like that of the British World, not a world for the world, but a world for the individual English speaker, today every subject in the vast Commonwealth and the United States.
Long live our Gracious Queen, keeper of the faith and protector of the nations of the Commonwealth!
The Spiritual Powers of Darkness and The Powers of Revelation
Laocoon Group, the Vatican: Contest between the Earthly Authority of Power and Beauty and the Spiritual Authority of the Power of Language (Prophecy)
As the news are causing many to grapple with the current shakeup and distribution of power in the world, it may be worthwhile to reflect on the notion of power we have inherited from the Gospel.
Everyone believes to understand the common sense truth that all earthly power is evil. The very concepts of earthly power and evil are far from simple and hardly unanimous. They possess a history and unfold in time as well as in the simple three-dimensional space of the physical order under the powers of earthly authority.
The Power of Classical Earthly Authority
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing discloses an important principle of distinction between the plastic arts and the poetic (linguistic) arts in his contemplation of the group statue of Laokoon that can be applied to the distinction between the powers of darkness and the powers of revelation. He composed his reflections on the statue of Laokoon in response to the intellectual trend of his time that attempted to restore the perfection and beauty of the presumed lost Greco-Roman civilisation known as neoclassicism.
In the eighteenth century great classists like Winckelmann, who laid the foundation of modern aesthetics after the Baroque failed to establish Christian aesthetics as mainstream practice, subordinated life on earth to the classical principles of proportion, beauty, and perfections he found in the visual arts of Antiquity. He even went as far as to subordinate language and poetry to the ideals of visual perfection.
Lessing was disturbed by this proposition. As a poet and dramatist he viewed language arts not only as superior, more demanding, and truer to life in all its dimensions and multiplicity than the plastic arts, but as a Christian he had a problem with the subordination of the word of God to anything, especially the earthly authority of classical beauty.
He illustrated his arguments in the form of an ekphrasis, a Greek practice of delivering a lengthy rhetorical argument through the observation and contemplation of a visual work of art. Lessing wrote a polemic on the ancient Rhodosian group statue Laokoon and his sons ensnared by the Serpents of Poseidon from 40 BC, which has been housed and curated in the Vatican since 1506 when it was found in the Esquiline Hill of Rome.
Laokoon was the Trojan prophet who warned his fellow citizens not to accept the gift of peace from the Greeks, the infamous Trojan Horse. Poseidon and Athena, the Greek gods of the sea and of war respectively, were on the Greek side, so they caused giant serpents to rise from the sea to punish Laokoon and his sons for warning the Trojans. His fellow citizens took that as a sign that his prophecy is false, accepted the Greek gift, and their city was leveled with the ground.
The statue, Lessing argued, depicts the moment of suffering, before the fate of the prophet and of the Trojan people was decided. It is a moment snatched from the claws of time, perfect and beautiful in its three-dimensional glory, and frozen for the memory of eternity. But this perfect moment lacks truth because it lacks the dimension of time. Only language and linguistic arts have the power to represent the truth of time. It is interesting that a tragic play by Sophocles titled “Laokoon” is purported to have existed but has been lost. Sophocles was the undisputed master of perfection in representing time through dialogue.
Laokoon’s story appears to be rather a polemic that could have strengthened Winckelmann and not Lessing, because the prophet, whose medium is language, had failed to persuade his fellow citizens and had been punished for telling the truth about the future by the gods themselves. Winckelmann loved the Laokoon group because it illustrated and justified his argument for neoclassicism. He argued that earthly beauty is all that matters, that language and prophecy must be subordinated to it. His proposition was ironically affirmed and dramatized by none other than the English Romantic poets.
But the story does not end with the demise of Laokoon and Troy. The founding of Rome by a survivor of the sack of Troy, Aeneas, carried forth the legacy of the ancient pearl of Greek civilization. From the ashes of Troy rose the most powerful eternal city, Rome, the cradle of Roman civilization and eventually of Christian civilization. Rome became the eternal city of God, one could argue, because it was born of the Word, of literature. Whatever the fate of Rome may be, Troy most certainly survived and lived on after death as it were.
It is interesting to note that the founding of Rome by a Trojan survivor is not a historical fact, but a literary fiction, Virgil’s “Aeneid,” the founding document of Roman civilization, the very heart of its identity. This fact underscores once again the superiority of language over the plastic arts. The question is not only about declaring a winner of the contest between physical beauty and poetic beauty, but the heart of the thematic that preoccupies us today, the nature of the relationship between the earthly power of beauty and the spiritual power of language. A chiasma opens between the two instances, that gives both equal shares in good and in evil.
The authorities that destroyed Laokoon and Troy not only proved him wrong, but also brought about the resurrection of Troy in Rome. His prophecy had been limited to the earthly events surrounding the fate of Troy, much like the statue depicts a moment in time and not the entire story. Laokoon’s prophecy was fulfilled only within the limited time-frame of earthly mortality. It doesn’t look beyond the horizon of physical transience and has no knowledge of the resurrection and recreation of Troy in Rome. In a sense, the statue preserves his existence beyond the grave and despite his linguistic work, his prophecy.
The resurrection of Troy in Rome is not carried out in a visual medium, however, but in the very medium of Laokoon’s prophecy, language. Nevertheless, Virgil’s “Aeneid” powered actual historical events. A literary masterpiece became the highest expression and emblem of Roman identity and though the empire itself was doomed, the city lived on. Virgil’s epic is the only dimension within which Troy survives and thrives. Literary creation, which, unlike visual creation, exists only in the temporally multi-layered dimension of language, is neither earthly nor mortal nor bound to the laws that structure reality and order on earth, but becomes the cradle and justification of history, reality, and authority.
A similar truth unfolds in the Bible. Contrary to popular misconception, the adversary of God’s children is not simple earthly mortality, as Laokoon also assumes, but “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” In Ephesians 6 we read:
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Mary presenting Jesus at the Temple, Cranach the Younger, Wittenberg Cathedral
The Power of the Order of the Snake
Simple understanding attributes the powers of darkness to sin or evil in the world. The ten commandments and the slew of regulations recorded in the Old Testament were intended to maintain order in the carnal body and in the body politic of the people of God and sealed the premise that evil resides in sin.
The design of the law is to maintain harmony with the order of the Creator. Yet the law was never meant to represent a conclusive stage of human history nor the ultimate order of human existence. The law is a stage in human development, the stage at which what was good in the garden Eden became evil and what was bad, the temptation by the Snake to know good and evil, became good.
We are told that the wages of sin are death. The law was introduced to increase the power of sin in the world, that is, the power of mortality, which is not natural among humans, but became so after the fall. Fallen nature, the natural body after the Fall and expulsion from Eden, is the body ruled by the Snake, symbol of the forbidden knowledge of good and evil, sin and virtue.
Adam and Eve were never simple creatures like the rest of creation. They were endowed with language from the beginning. The power to name and organize all creation crowned them rulers of all creation. Adam and Eve were co-creators of the world by virtue of their possession of language.
But their fall also caused nature and all their creation to fall. Fallen nature, human and animal alike, is of the order of the Snake in the Biblical narrative, which is why the Snake is so important to Moses. Not all knowledge was declared evil, only the knowledge of shame and sin, the knowledge of the law.
Those who did not know the law were not free from it, but are not held accountable before God. Likewise, those who received knowledge of the law from Moses were held accountable and every sin caused them to perish for all eternity.
Since the Greeks and Romans had no knowledge of the law, their co-creation of the world was spared and the later Kingdom of Christ preserved their knowledge, whereas those who had received the law left no trace of their works and perished definitively.
Language is authority. Language is human responsibility for all creation. Through language God gave us the authority to rule the world. The Gospel clearly states that flesh and blood is not the enemy, refuting any claim that the pure creaturely state of being, the world, is inherently evil. It does state, however, that evil resides in authority, not all authority, but that which is governed by the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” in the very knowledge of evil.
All human authority, all systems of governance that regulate human justice are powers of darkness. They belong to the order of the builders in Psalm 118 who rejected the boulder that will become the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God. Christ tells his disciples repeatedly that He begins where human knowledge fails, not all human knowledge, but the very knowledge of the law and of justice.
Literary creation and, historically, the Christian crown and scepter, are the only exceptions to the rule that the authority of the builders is spiritual darkness, because they exist in a world beyond good and evil and beyond and above authoritative systems of knowledge. The power of literature and of the Christian crown is good when it seeks eternity. Their power does not perish, whereas the authoritative systems of knowledge define the boundaries and horizons of transient existence. The power of death resides in the power of evil. The truth of eternal goodness is the telos of the Old Testament that was doubly revealed in the Gospel when we were freed of the power of the law and instructed to become slaves of righteousness.
The Gospel was written for simple farmers, slaves, fishermen and fairly uneducated folk. Only the Roman centurion (Matt 8:5-13) understood that the power of Christ is beyond the physical and temporal limitations of the created world and accepted His Word as the ultimate “spiritual” authority. Two thousand years later we have a number of sophisticated signification systems like the scientific-technological complex at our disposal that require ever new translations and reinterpretations of the Gospel, even as its simple truth remains unequivocal.
The most convincing philosophical system to date that placed language at the origin of being is the linguistic ontologist Martin Heidegger’s (Derrida followed in his footsteps), but it suffered the limitations of a classicist, Winckelmannian definition of both language and technology. What the simple mind perceives as “spiritual” is nothing other than the power of language to determine being at a latent, fundamental level of signification that is not immediately available in unidimensional sign systems, but unfolds in the process of philosophical linguistic contemplation. Goethe called it unfolding, Heidegger unconcealment, Derrida deconstruction , the Bible simply revelation.
Though paradisiac man possessed language and though we now understand spirituality to be the concealed creative power of the living Word, language itself is not beyond good and evil. In its function of naming fallen, mortal creation, which constitutes all systems of knowledge, it is in fact evil, as the myth of the Fall of Adam and Eve also tells us. In the service of pure knowledge language is at the core of the spiritual powers of darkness and evil.
Moses was the first prophet to recognize this. Hence he organized the system of the law to mirror the order of the Snake and commanded his followers to stare at the Snake to be saved from its mortal bite. (Please see illustration above: we see the temple of the Snake depicted in Cranach’s interpretation of Mary’s presentation of the infant Christ.) Of course, no human was able to obey the law Moses commanded and all perished.
Moses understood his power, symbolically represented by the snake become scepter, to reside in the order of fallen creation. But Moses also prophesied the arrival of the Messiah who would deliver all creation from slavery to evil — fallen nature — much as God had delivered his followers from slavery to the Egyptians by parting the Red Sea and thus defeating the earthly, authoritative laws of nature.
When we are told to submit to slavery not to the law, but to righteousness, we are encouraged to commit to the fundamental, essential, latent power of language to bring being into existence. Language that operates at the level of eternity is filled with grace, kindness, and forgiveness, because it knows itself to constitute the imperishable power of the only good and the only virtuous authority in the world. We are encouraged to submit our lives to eternal language, the spiritual powers of goodness and beauty. This “righteousness” is not opposed to the spiritual powers of darkness — knowledge of the law: knowledge of good and evil — but it is free from darkness even as it includes all shadows in the greater grace of Christ’s kingdom.
In nature there’s no blemish but the mind
None can be call’d deform’d but the unkind
Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Authentic American Pop subordinated the plastic arts to poetic arts
America is Doconstruction, America is Revelation
To understand the historical role of the United States in the linguistic evolution of the people of God, we must understand that it was not of the order of the builders, which are governed by the spiritual powers of darkness, but of the order of the boulder the builders left behind (Psalm 118). The boulder the builders rejected represents the power of deconstructive language.
Socialism put the United States on the path of the builders. The nation is at a crossroads and must decide whether it will follow the earthly authorities and their powers of darkness or the authority of goodness and the revelatory powers of eternal language.
The world woke up this week to devastating news of tumult in the house of the world’s most powerful warlords in Washington DC and the possibility of another war in the Middle East. The chaos followed the President’s meeting with Islamic states of head.
The last recent war in Syria was the gateway that unleashed the current demographic, discursive, and political crisis. This war itself had been the work of several decades of progressivist political agenda that was proposed by some of the darkest heirs of twentieth century totalitarian systems and rested on a world populist racial animosity against Christian Europeans who have been vilified in every university disciplinary narrative as the only source of woe on planet earth. The intellectual limitations of the argument need no further elaboration.
The university systems of the West and all public institutions corroborated and advanced a narrative inspired by totalitarian power that unleashed a migrant crisis of unprecedented proportions putting an impossible burden not only on the countries targeted by migrants, but above all on migrant populations themselves. The end result is a very poorly managed, miserable global populace pushed beyond the limits of peaceful existence and forced into a permanent state of conflict and war. The inhumanity and primitivism of the current global system is showing and something must be done to stop it.
The Essence of War: Language
Today’s news should perhaps give us a chance to pause and think about the very essence of war. War is the process whereby historical change takes place and it involves every public institution engaged in the building, distribution, and maintenance of all pubic circulation systems. Cynicism has it that only banks benefit from war, but the truth is all institutions of circulation are involved in the making, build up, and mop up of war.
Wars require technological advances and often deploy new technologies that require the populations involved to adapt. Wars change the very essence of humanity, since our essence is determined by technology. Technical superiority also includes the most advanced linguistic forms. Language is not only the rhetoric and arguments for war, but also its level of sophistication and state of the art products. Language may be said to be the most important factor in a war effort. Heidegger taught us that language, especially poetry, is the most essential part of technology.
But where is our English language today? The need to accommodate newcomers has greatly reduced its features and vocabulary. Shakespeare represents to this date the most advanced form of the English language, consisting of the largest vocabulary, philosophical dramatisations, psychological reflections, and the greatest number of idiomatic expressions. Have we regressed 1616?
Hollywood and American pop, the mass deployment of new media, alongside the older developments in modern protestant German idealism and literature challenged the English language to change and advance philosophically, an effort that was largely led by university researchers on both sides of the Atlantic until the early nineties of last century. The efforts remained on top of new developments and guaranteed the superiority of the English language in the world.
In the mid-nineties university discourses in English-speaking countries were drafted in the service of a global war that continues to this day. This reduced the capacities of linguistic research greatly since it was demoted from the theoretical sophistication of supra-disciplinary work to the drudgery of maintaining ideological arguments for the war on European Christianity.
Today, the English language is indeed in a very dilapidated shape and our researchers have no knowledge of the linguistic capacity of any of the potential “enemies,” because neglecting one’s own language inevitably leads to an impoverished understanding of other languages.
Of War and Imminence
In Christian thought imminence is reserved for the will of God, which manifests itself in the language of prophets and poets who speak in tongues. Imminence in language had led the development of the most advanced civilization known to humanity, Christian civilization, which was able to conquer most of the world over the past five centuries and left indelible, positive, constructive, and life-affirming traces in the cultures of the world. It preserved local heritage and introduced state of the art technologies that saved and improved the quality of life worldwide.
The historical system based on the imminence of war is directly opposed to the Christian system based on the imminence of the Trinity: God, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christianity is the first humanist system known to man that put human existence at the center of public life, because it included the Son of Man as a crucial dimension of the Trinity. All other definitions of the human in contemporary English are derived from the Biblical definition of the Son of Man. A language that loses touch with its linguistic foundation in the Bible cannot develop further.
Not only are the military historical system and the Christian system of being diametrically opposed, but historically the latter has already won and will continue to win over the first. It already conquered all primitive systems based on military history and pushed the capacity for spreading peace, knowledge, and cultural sophistication beyond anything the pre-Christian world could imagine.
We can’t win with war alone! The imminence of the Trinity is the superior power to the power of war.
We can only win with poetry, as Shakespeare also knew! The British empire only proved him right until the more primitive powers of the totalitarian twentieth century ended its fragile advantage over the systems of darkness.
But is it over? Language, the medium of God and His Children, has the last word. We don’t obey commandments and weapons, we write poetry to win over time. For the weapons and laws of tomorrow will have made our own laughably obsolete. What remains is the laurels of memory: the poetic arts of Christian languages.