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Tearing Of The Veil
Was 9/11 a metaphysical event?
This first item would have been great for yesterday, 9/11, but it only went up this morning:
In the comments under that entry, someone cites this speech by the late UK far-right figure Jonathan Bowden, about the extreme Right guru Julius Evola, in which Bowden posited that 9/11 was a metaphysical event. Note well that you do not have to endorse either Bowden or Evola — I do not! — to take this seriously. The key excerpt from the speech, with the key line highlighted by me:
It is essentially and in a very cardinal way a religious view of life, but also a metaphysically pessimistic and conservative view of life in a profound way that the conservatism of contemporary liberal Tories like Cameron would not even begin to understand. To a man like him, theories of Evola’s sort are lunacy, quite literally, the return to the Dark Ages, the return to the Middle Ages, quasi-justifications of slavery, quasi-justifications of the Waffen SS. This is what Cameron or his colleagues on the front bench and his even more liberal colleagues on the same front bench would say about these sorts of ideas.
But the irony is that 300 to 400 years ago, most civilized structures on Earth were based on these ideas. Even the modern ones that replaced them are based upon the contravention of these sorts of ideas, which means that they realized they were real enough to rebel against in the first instance. It’s also true that even in the high point of modernity, post-modernity, hypermodern reality, all the phrases that are used, when a war occurs, when the planes go into the towers in New York, when the helicopter gunships stream over Arabian sands, you suddenly see a slippage in the liberal verities and in the materialism and in some of the ideas which are used to justify these sorts of things. Not much of a slippage, but you suddenly see a slippage, what occultists and mystics call a “rending of the veil,” a ripping of the veil of illusion between life and death.
What is life really about? Is life really about shopping? Is life really about making more and more money? Is life really about bourgeois status when one already has enough to live on? Is life really about eating yourself to death? These are the sorts of things that Evola’s viewpoint pushes before people, which is why the majority will always push it away.
Well, ye who have been with me for a time know what I’m going to say next.
On 9/11/2002, I went to Ground Zero with a friend and neighbor, for the one-year memorial. Very strange and powerful wind arose at just the time when the first plane hit, and didn’t end until every name had been read at the site of the mass death. When my friend made it back to her apartment, she saw something that shocked and shook her, and rang me to come over at once. When I got there, she showed me hanging on her wall a Revolutionary War-era American flag, a small one, about the size of a sheet of paper, under a sealed frame. It was split from top to bottom. I asked her what the significance of this was.
She said she had had this flag for many years, after receiving it as a gift. It has hung on the wall of her home office in the many places she has lived since receiving it. This afternoon, having returned from Ground Zero, she noticed that it had torn. The frame was still sealed. Nobody had been in her apartment. She was visibly shocked.
We were both Christians. We knew the meaning of the tearing of the veil, in Biblical symbolism. I don’t know about her — and I lost contact with her many years ago, and wouldn’t know how to reach her if I wanted to — but I was filled with fear that it was a sign that America had lost God’s favor, and had fallen under judgment. But I banished that thought. We were preparing for war on Iraq, and I could not allow myself to think that it was going to end badly for us.
Over the years, I have come to believe that what my friend and I saw that day, in her apartment, was exactly what I thought it was: at its most basic level, confirmation of the spiritual and metaphysical meaning on 9/11. That is, a sign that the terrible events of that day had cosmic meaning. But what did they mean? I have never gone in my interpretation beyond the conclusion that in some real sense, God had removed His hand from America, and had given us over to our sins, as He had done in ages past with Biblical Israel. Of course I have no proof of that, but if you look at the trajectory of our country since that terrible September day, you will find ample evidence to confirm the thesis.
But what if I’m wrong in the specifics? I mean, what if it did not signify God’s particular judgment on the United States, but something broader? What could that be? It is surely no accident that the buildings attacked that day by Islamic berserkers were the greatest architectural monuments to the economic and military power of the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Had the one plane not been brought down over Pennsylvania by valorous passengers, the pre-eminent sign of political power, the White House, would likely also have been hit.
The Twin Towers were ziggurats constructed for doing business: the World Trade Center. The Pentagon is not tall, but it is nonetheless the world’s largest office building, and it exists to house the bureaucracy overseeing the Empire’s war-making. Until that dread day, we of the Empire thought we were invulnerable, that we could extend our might all over the globe, and subdue its peoples into a New World Order, controlled by us. When the berserkers struck, and drew our army into the desert, one of our leader’s top advisors, later alleged to have been Karl Rove, boasted to a scribe :
“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Could there be a purer manifestation of hubris? Nemesis has been on us for two decades now, and it is not nearly finished with us yet. There is a line — winding, but still there — between the imperial hubris that declares that we are God, that we create reality, in a geopolitical and military sense, and the hubris that declares we are God, and we create biological realities, even to the point of nullifying male-female biology to impose our own will on it. It’s all hubris, and the myths of many civilizations teach that it will be punished.
Julius Evola was not a Christian (he called himself a “Catholic pagan”), nor was Jonathan Bowden, a man I knew nothing about till this morning, but who, I read, also considered himself to be a pagan, of the ancient Greek variety. But you don’t have to be a Christian to believe in metaphysics. You just have to open your eyes.
Do you believe 9/11 has spiritual or metaphysical meaning? Or was it just one of those things? Why or why not? Very interested to read your thoughts below. (I’m going to make this post today one of the rare ones I send to the entire list, even non-paying subscribers, but remember, only paid subscribers can comment. Why not consider subscribing? Only five dollars per month, for a minimum of five posts per week.
California: Time For Families To Get Out
Last week, the State Assembly voted 57-16 to approve AB 957, the Transgender, Gender-Diverse, and Intersex Youth Empowerment Act. This bill, if signed by Newsom, will make gender affirmation a factor in custody disputes. What that means, practically, is that parents who do not support their child’s supposed transition to the opposite gender may lose custody to another parent.
At the same time, [Attorney General Rob] Bonta has filed a lawsuit against the Chino Valley Unified School District to prevent what he called the “forced outing” of transgender students. Bonta is seeking a preliminary injunction on the school district’s policy that requires schools to tell parents if their children identify by a different gender or go by a different name at school.
Said Bonta, “It’s discriminatory, and it’s downright dangerous. It has no place in California, which is why we have moved in court to strike it down.” The state’s position now appears to be that parents must affirm their child’s gender identity but that they also have no right to know about this identity in the first place. This creates the dangerous possibility that a parent could lose custody of their child if a school staff member encourages the child to transition without the parent’s knowledge.
Not only are California’s policies lacking scientific evidence, but they also violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects parents’ rights to make decisions about their child’s education, medical care, and religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has, in multiple cases, decided that this clause allows parents to raise their children how they see fit.
Because the term “affirmation” is ill-defined in AB 957, it is likely that parents who even support their child using a new name or pronoun could lose custody for opposing early medical treatments. “We will be the first state in the nation to say that any parent who is not affirming their child’s gender identity, regardless of age…is abusive and is undeserving of their kids,” Erin Friday, a California Attorney and co-leader of Our Duty, a parent-lead support network, told Public.
Last year, Newsom signed a “sanctuary state” bill that allows minors from other states to seek gender-affirming care in California without parental permission. Under SB 107, California courts can assume jurisdiction over custody disputes from other states if the child is seeking transgender medical treatment. This means that a parent who wants to transition their child against the other parent’s wishes can kidnap the child to California and sign them up for medical treatments while being shielded from criminal or abuse investigations. The law makes California’s radical legislative efforts a national issue.
Lawmakers are also now considering AB 665, which critics fear will allow children ages 12 to 17 to seek mental health treatment in residential care facilities if their parents do not socially or medically affirm their gender identity. Although AB 957 will only apply to divorces and custody battles for now, it opens the door for the state to remove children from parents who are still together. If a refusal to“affirm” is considered to be abuse under the law, parents could be subject to investigations by Child Protective Services.
California parents may soon face a disturbing dilemma: either consent to transgender medical care for their child or risk losing their child to the state.
What more is left to say here? The handwriting is clearly — clearly — on the wall. As far as I have seen — and trust me, I would be delighted to be corrected — there is no significant movement in the state to fight these evil laws. If there is no prospect of doing so, then families had better get out while they can. The State of California is on the verge of establishing the rights of minor children to have the state seize them from their parents, for the sake of sexually mutilating them. It is doing this while at the same time turning its public schools into factories for brainwashing children into potentially abandoning their biological sex, and doing so without the knowledge of parents.
This is tyranny. Not even the Soviets went so far. If someone had told you on 9/11/2001 that in twenty-two years’ time, some American states, including California, would be aggressively facilitating child sex changes, and cutting parents out of the loop, you would have been hard-pressed to believe it. (And if that person had told you that by the same year, the Pope would be pro-gay rights, in a limited but utterly unprecedented way, and that his favorite American priest would be promoting a new book citing the Lazarus resurrection story as a metaphor for LGBT coming-out, you would have thought you were talking to either fundamentalist pamphleteer Jack Chick, or a demon.)
Is there any real chance of resisting these laws in California? A court may one day strike them down, but do you really want your family to be the test case? California already has a trans “sanctuary state” law that says any trans minor who makes it to California cannot be returned by courts to their parents in another state. California has thereby declared war on families nationwide. It’s a national issue. You may not be interested in what California does to families and children, but California is definitely interested in you and your family.
These abominable things are happening in California, and in other states, but what are the Christian churches doing about it? Nothing, at least not in any meaningful numbers, not that I can see. That too is a sign of the times.
Douglas Wilson, Part II
As you might have seen, the bumptious Idaho pastor Douglas Wilson invited me to come to his town of Idaho to visit him and his community — this, in the wake of a sideways criticism of him in my review of The Boniface Option by his young disciple, Andrew Isker. Isker is a pastor based in Minnesota, but he considers Wilson to be a spiritual father, and certainly his aggressive, even histrionic, rhetorical style echoes Wilson’s. In my review, I said early on:
Because this review is mostly critical, I want to go on record here affirming that broadly speaking, I share Andrew Isker’s disgust with the world as it is. What sets us apart is mostly what to do about it. I say “mostly” because even I, on my angriest days, can’t come close to mustering the rage Isker brings to nearly every page in this book.
Isker is a sharp writer, but an undisciplined one. The choleric contempt suffusing The Boniface Option — henceforth, the Bon Op — is ultimately alienating. For most of the book, I found myself nodding along, saying, “Yeah, he’s right about that.” But over and over, Isker — a young Minnesota pastor who was trained by the ever-combative Douglas Wilson — undermines his case by responding with febrile intensity. Here’s a typical line: "Men with the spirit of holy war within them will be what brings down the idols of this fetid, corpulent, repulsive world."
Gosh. There’s a lot of that in the pages of this short book. The word “disgusting” appears eleven times. The phrase “disgusting world of filth,” three times; the word “hate,” thirty-nine times. You get the feeling that Isker wrote this with trembling fingers, two tics away from a gran mal seizure, and had to summon everything he had to keep himself from agonizing over threats to our precious bodily fluids.
In The Benedict Option, to which The Boniface Option is meant to be a response, I write about how Christians have to resist the disorders of the world as much as we can. I praise the late Czech Christian lay leader Vaclav Benda and his wife Kamila for their anti-communist activism, at a time when other Christians were keeping their heads down. But what happens when and if we lose? The Bendas lived in a world in which good and decent people, religious and otherwise, had no political power. They had to come up with ways of keeping the life of the church alive, and of living in truth amid a world of lies. What then? I offer a number of concrete suggestions. That is what The Benedict Option is about, and not what people who have never read the book think it’s about: heading for the hills and living quietly, hoping the dark angels will pass on by.
The Boniface Option doesn’t have much to offer other than to counsel its readers to get mad as hell at the evil, evil world. From my review:
It’s easy to see the appeal of this, especially when so many priests and pastors today shrink from any conflict, preferring to keep the peace above anything else. I admired it a couple of years ago when some of the Wilsonworld folks in Moscow, Idaho, got themselves arrested in Idaho for praying the Psalms in public during 2020’s Covid lockdown (the city paid $300,000 to settle their lawsuit). The church in America needs a lot more of that kind of spirit.
Yet it is striking how over and over, Isker exhorts his readers to cultivate hate. Literally, he does this. “The need of the hour is to teach especially Christians to hate the fake and gay globohomo cinematic universe,” he writes. Of the “fake and gay world,” Isker says, “in order for Christendom to return, it is a world you must learn to hate.” And: “You must teach your children to love the things you love and hate the things you hate. You must overcome your aversion to hate.”
This stuff is poison. In Live Not By Lies, I quote Alexander Ogorodnikov, a Russian Christian who suffered torment of years in a Soviet prison for his faith, saying that people need “something to live for, a conception of hope. You can’t simply be against everything bad. You have to be for something good. Otherwise, you can get really dark and crazy.”
The Boniface Option is a pretty good example of this.
Anyway, Douglas Wilson posted a review yesterday, in which he included more remarks about me. First, his take on the book. Excerpt:
The strength of the book, and the thing that put Rod Dreher off his feed, was that Isker treats abominations as though they actually are abominable. He sees them for what they are, and gives them the treatment.
I’m glad Wilson said this. You would never know from Wilson’s take that I explicitly agreed with Isker that these things are abominable. Wilson finds it incomprehensible that one can find something abominable while at the same time working to prevent abomination from conquering one’s soul. More Wilson:
The real concern is not that so many people are attracted to this kind of writing. The real concern, at least to me, is that the left has been so bizarre, absurd, and demanding, that the revolt, when it comes, will overshoot. Although Dreher thought he saw that kind of thing in this book, thankfully, I did not. And I was also happy that the Jews made no appearance here.
Why do you think Pastor Wilson is “happy” that Isker doesn’t talk about the Jooz? Maybe because of lines like this, from a 2022 Isker essay:
Modern Jews are not “Old Testament-only pre-Christians.” Judaism today is a modern LARP religion, no different than guys who dress up and howl out in the woods to Odin and Thor.
To his credit, Wilson has publicly dissented from the take Isker and his co-author Andrew Torba have on Jews in their book on Christian nationalism. Torba is the founder of Gab. He is also a Jew-hater. He posted this the other day on his Gab account:
He has defended hating Jews as his right as a Christian:
This is vile stuff — and it’s not just incidental to Andrew Isker’s public ministry. Torba is his co-author. Isker is a spiritual son of Douglas Wilson. That’s not an accusation; that’s an observation. Isker trained as a pastor in Moscow, Idaho. That does not make Wilson responsible for everything Isker believes and says, but there is a clear connection at the very least with Isker’s rhetorical style, and Wilson’s trademark obstreperous cleverness, and all-consuming desire to provoke.
By the way, you should know that in the Christian nation that Wilson and his allies want to bring about, there wouldn’t be much space for Christians like me to operate. He told the Washington Post that
while leaders would strive to ‘maximize religious liberty for everyone,’ Catholics are unlikely to feel welcome — ‘I think it has to be a pan-Protestant project,’ he said — nor would Christians who disagree with his stridently patriarchal social norms. … Asked to explain where liberal Christians fit into his theoretical Christian society, Wilson said they would be excluded from holding office, later noting similar prohibitions in early American Colonial settlements such as the Massachusetts Bay Colony. When it was pointed out that Puritans executed Boston Quakers, Wilson said he would not “defend” the hanging of Quakers, but then argued it was important to understand the context of the time.
It’s gonna be fun to watch these old boys and the Catholic integralists go at each other, if either side can tear themselves away from their keyboards long enough to find their way to the field of battle.
Anyway, in his review, Wilson blesses the spitefulness of Isker’s culture-war vision, and leaves unremarked-upon my nuanced view, which is to generally agree with Isker’s abomination of the abominable, while finding his foaming rage both impotent (because unlike The Benedict Option, Isker’s book doesn’t really suggest concrete things you might do, other than get really, really mad), and extremely off-putting. Wilson faults me for finding Isker’s rhetoric alienating, but doesn’t address my substantive criticism of it.
However, for those who know Andrew Isker, he has to be one of the jolliest men I have ever met. And Dreher’s comment that there is “nothing in this volume,” emphasis his, to indicate that Isker’s household is a place of joy, is a comment that is wildly misplaced. There is page after page of such indications.
Keep in mind that this is a book whose most salient characteristic are many lines like, “Men with the spirit of holy war within them will be what brings down the idols of this fetid, corpulent, repulsive world.” Ain’t a lot of Chesterton in that. But I have no doubt that Pastor Wilson thinks that kind of thing is as sweet and delicious as lemonade on a hot summer’s day.
I said that there is “nothing in this volume” to indicate that Isker’s household is a place of joy because I know all too well from personal experience that one’s writing can be so forceful in its condemnation of bad things that it conceals the fact that one is not actually a raging hothead. It happens a fair amount that people who meet me express surprise that I’m actually pretty chill. This reflects failure on my part to convey the fullness of my vision, not just the jeremiad-proclaiming part. As you regular readers know, I struggle within myself all the time not to let my anger at the vile things of the world get the best of me (and often I fail, but one has to keep struggling). For all I know, Isker is a delightful quaffer of ale and teller of tales. I can only judge what I see on the page, and the only joy I see in this book is the joy of hating. Andrew Isker, like his mentor, is a superb hater.
I have been and can be that too. But it’s corrupting, as I confessed in my Bon Op review. Back in my Catholic days, the main reason I stayed away from the Latin mass communities where I lived at the time was that the kind of people it attracted were Christians who were marked by anger and bitterness. Heaven knows that they had much to be angry and bitter about! But you can’t live on that. Well, in fact you can, but it’s a kind of spiritual death. Even though I too was angry at the institutional Church, and normie Catholicism that didn’t take discipleship seriously, I knew my own weaknesses enough to understand that embedding myself in that kind of community would be the end of me. (I don’t say this to condemn all Latin mass communities; this is simply what I saw in a certain place and time.) I know it is possible to have a community of fervent, small-o orthodox Christian believers who are marked foremost by joy and confidence, not by anger and a desire to bully, because I’ve spent time among the Tipi Loschi (Catholic) and the Bruderhof (Anabaptist). Glory to God, it can be done!
So anyway, Wilson invited me to come visit Moscow, on his dime. I won’t do it, not because I think everybody in Moscow is bad — I don’t; I’ve met some folks from there, drank beer with them and talked, really enjoyed myself, and would have fun seeing those guys again. I won’t go because I do not trust Wilson to act in good faith. My impression of him is that he is happy to let his younger, feistier disciples run roughshod over critics, so he can play the now, now, boys paterfamilias, patting them on the head for, say, not abominating Jews. And he posted this yesterday:
Since that exchange, Rod Dreher—for some reason—posted this. I already commented on the fact that Dreher’s review of Isker’s book was far more problematic on the tone front than The Boniface Option was. And then this. I don’t know the details of Dreher’s departure from The American Conservative, but it seems to me that he could be going through some sort of crisis or crack-up, and somebody needs to throw him a rope. It would be one thing, and bad enough, to lose your temper with some inconsiderate fellow travelers. But to lose your temper, f-bomb them, and then post a transcript of the proceedings online? Something is not right.
The link takes you to my telling of a madcap story about my journey last week on a night train across Austria. A stout couple squeezed into the train compartment next to mine, and couldn’t get the door connecting our tiny rooms to lock. I asked them to quit opening the door. Then, at one point, the man yanked the door open with me sitting in my skivvies eating cheese. “Shut the f—king door!” I barked, in shock and embarrassment. The whole story was funny, I thought, which is why I told it, and why I appended an image of the hilariously hapless Larry David at the end, as my strangers-on-a-train situation reminded me of an episode from his great Curb Your Enthusiasm series.
Maybe Wilson didn’t think it was funny. Fine — I sometimes miss with my humor. But he cites it, and my parting ways with The American Conservative, as a sign that I’m having some sort of breakdown. The implication is that I rejected Isker’s book because I’m mentally unsound, and am in need of intervention.
Now, you tell me: why would I trust a guy like that? Why would I go out of my way to do him a solid? Why would I spend about 24 hours traveling (including three hours in a car) from Budapest to Moscow, and allow myself to be part of helping Wilson buff his public image? This, while some of the young men he’s trained, and will scarcely criticize ("I was also happy Jews made no appearance here”), advance a vulgar and malicious version of Christianity that seems to “OK-Boomer” the 70-year-old Wilson as it prepares for a militant succession when he passes from the scene.
All Christians who value classical schooling owe Wilson a great debt of gratitude, as he is primarily responsible for starting the movement that has gone far beyond his narrow Reformed circles, and is benefiting hundreds of thousands of families who might never have heard of Douglas Wilson. Thank you, Pastor! But these hotheaded boys, including the ones who spite Jews, and those who think that hatefulness is next to godliness, are also the legacy of Wilson, who taught them that extremism in the pursuit of what they take for virtue is no vice. I don’t know him, but it is not my impression that Wilson is a hateful man personally. Yet he has passed on to a generation below him a style of engagement, especially pastoral engagement, that revels in clever humiliation of opponents, in rage-stoking, in culture-warring, and in a Very Online machismo that LARPs as healthy masculinity.
In the Orthodox Church, we are, as I read and hear from Orthodox friends back in the US, having to deal with an influx of young men who are motivated by Very Online Orthobros who lead aimless and angry dudes to the doors of Orthodox parishes, thinking that they have found a “based” form of Christianity (“based” = “woke, but from the Right”) — especially one that is ethnically focused. I’m hearing that Orthodox pastors have to get these guys sorted, helping them to understand that Orthodoxy is not the Very Online Right At Prayer. Orthodoxy truly is a more masculine iteration of Christianity than most Americans are used to, but it is not at all macho. It activates the healthy desire within men to grapple with challenges, and directs it mostly toward self-overcoming.
Orthodoxy, properly lived, would stand up strongly to the evils of this world. I have been frustrated by some Orthodox clergy for their seeming desire to overspiritualize Orthodoxy, by ignoring the aggressive evil in the world today, and failing to help lay people understand how to deal with these things as Christians. That said, I also get how hard it must be to figure out how to handle angry young men who show up not wanting to convert and be discipled, but rather wanting to have their spite sanctified.
“You can’t simply be against everything bad. You have to be for something good. Otherwise, you can get really dark and crazy.” So said Alexander Ogorodnikov to me, when I interviewed him in Moscow, Russia. If he could go to the American Moscow with the same message, it might do some good. I have a strong feeling that there are many people within the broader Christian community in Wilson’s church who are not Christians-and-mad-as-hell-about-it. I hope they prevail, somehow. Because looking in from the outside, the ripest current fruits of Wilson’s ministry are mighty bitter.