5 July OS 2019 – Thursday of the Fifth Week of Matthew; St. Athanasios of Mt. Athos; St. Cyprian the New Martyr; St. Lampados; Uncovering of the Relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh; Holy New Righteous-Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth
In the daily Gospel reading assigned for today, the Lord Jesus reminds us to realize who our true relatives are:
At that time, while Jesus yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables. – Matthew 12:46-13:3
St. Theophan the Recluse, commenting on Our Lord’s words, discusses the meaning of spiritual kinship:
“For whosoever shall do the will of My Father Who is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother (Matt. 12:50).” By this the Lord gives us to understand that the spiritual kinship which He came to plant and raise up on the earth is not the same as fleshly kinship; although in the form of its relationships, the spiritual is identical to the fleshly. The spiritual also contains fathers and mothers – they are those who give birth to people with the word of truth, or the Gospel, as the Apostle Paul says. And it contains also brothers and sisters – those who are born spiritually from the same person and grow in one spirit. The bond between [spiritual] relatives is founded on the action of grace. It is not external, not superficial, but it is as deep and alive as the fleshly bond, only it has its place in another, much higher and more important sphere. This is why it predominates over the fleshly and, when necessary, offers the fleshly as a sacrifice to its spiritual interests without regret, in full certainty that this sacrifice is pleasing to God and is required by Him. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 140
Today, as we know, the natural, or traditional, human family is under attack as never before in mainstream society, to the point at which it is the exception rather than the rule. To see a happy family of faithful, once-married, loving father (a man) and obedient mother (a woman) with many happy, healthy children, surrounded by an extended family of caring grandparents and other relatives is like encountering a vision from a lost world, though such families predominated in our society within living memory. When the unhappy denizens of the present day dystopia – brainwashed, addicted, self-mutilated, fornicating, aborting, sodomizing, having children out of wedlock with various “partners,” confused about which biological sex they belong to, hooked on demonic music and demonic video, feminized men and masculinized women mentally and morally paralyzed by the basest passions and near-complete ignorance – encounter such a vision, they hardly know what they are looking at; they do not know where to place it in their understanding of reality. The age-old normal has become unfamiliar, even disturbing.
Living as we are surrounded by such a nightmare, it may seem rather hard to us for the Lord and His saints to call us not only to be traditional families but even to surpass the natural bonds of family and place greater value on our spiritual relationships. The truth of the matter, however, is that until we place our natural families in right order to our spiritual obligations and spiritual relationships, the natural family will continue to be lost. If God be not in first place, He shall consent to be in no place. If we do not subordinate even our traditional, natural, and praiseworthy earthly relationships to His holy will and holy plan for man, He will not wait obediently upon our fallen will as though He were merely an accessory, a deus ex machina to swoop in and conveniently fix the messes that we make, in order for us to live contented worldly lives according to the chimerical image of a 1950’s family television show.
Where do we start? Let Orthodox people who are married and have children construct their family life on the old pattern, as best they can: Daily family prayer, family meals, faithful Church attendance Saturday night and Sunday morning, and feast days as much as possible. Let father and mother with their children fast according to the Church’s laws, and practice frequent confession and Holy Communion. Let families prioritize according to the Gospel: Better to be poor and spend more time at Church and with your children, than for mother and father both to work 60 hours per week in order to afford things people do not need nor until recently even imagined that they needed. Turn off the media input and cut out all the extraneous activities, and make your home a happy, quiet, ordered holy place.
Let the single people earnestly seek God’s holy will for their lives and use their free time to serve the Church. The Lord will show them the way. He knows how hard it is to find a spouse nowadays: He would not have put them in this situation if it were not for their salvation. The main thing is to remain courageous and full of hope, based on faith.
All of the above, though it is actually just a starting point, may seem too much to most of us, surrounded by circumstances that seem to entrap us in a vicious cycle of worldly cares and compromised principles. But our situation is not hopeless, not at all. For – and here is the Good News – the Orthodox Faith is not a self-help program by which we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. It is the power of God working in our lives, based on the confession of the True Faith. This power, coming by grace, is experienced directly when we put spiritual things first. Has Orthodoxy failed us? Is it not so, rather, that we have failed Her?
When the Lord called us to “…be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” He meant it. We are failing all the time, and therefore we must live in repentance. Yes, the force of circumstances may be such that normal, much less spiritual, life seems unattainable at times. But let us, rather than living in alternating denial and rage, look at our circumstances straight in the eye, always tell the truth to ourselves and to others, and weep for our sins and the sins of the whole world! Let us constantly sorrow and grieve over so many souls being lost, and pray more earnestly, more energetically, more faithfully, with tears, to be delivered from the traps that surround us! “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” He will hear our prayer, and He will deliver us.
To support our own life of prayerful repentance and our own domestic discipline, we have the life of the Church! St. Theophan, in the passage above, speaks movingly of that special bond felt among spiritual siblings, the faithful who are born of the same spiritual father or mother. This is seen most clearly in the circles of the pious faithful who have been given new birth by a truly God-inspired monastic elder or eldress; how they see each other with new spiritual eyes and cherish each other. They experience family at a whole new level, and yet – if the elder be genuine and not a cult leader – this new experience transfigures and empowers the domestic church life of their natural families and does not denigrate it. Truly, as St. John of the Ladder writes: God is light to the angels, angels are a light to monks, and monks are a light to men.
Most of us, however, do not have access to such a monastic figure. We trust, however, in the grace that is in the Church. If our parish priest is pious and God-fearing, if he preaches Orthodoxy and ministers the Holy Mysteries with godly fear, if he patiently hears our confessions and gives us traditional advice based on the Fathers, we find new birth through him, in virtue of his office, which is from God and not from man. Increasingly we need for our scattered parishes to be true spiritual families, in which the parishioners strive spiritually together, loving and helping each other. The system under which the various parish churches are viewed only as buildings among which unaffiliated, uncommitted, and generally unsupportive Christians – whatever their outward show of piety – simply circulate to “light their candle,” and in which the clergy are merely cultic functionaries dispensing services on demand, no longer works (if it ever really worked!). Let us commit to our parish churches as our true families, love and respect our priests as fathers in Christ, and help one another!
Finally, we must speak of the role of the godparents. Time is long past when the godparent relationship may be allowed simply as a social tie ritualistically sealed by an obligatory baptism service grinned and giggled through as a sentimental cute-baby event. Sacramental kinship that is exploited to cement worldly relationships and build materially advantageous social networks is not only less than what it should be, but is positively displeasing to God, as being a perversion of that which is holy. Every prospective godfather or godmother must put spiritual things first, accept to baptize a child (or adult!) as a sacred duty, and do his best to pray for, encourage, enlighten, and edify his godchild with all fear of God and love. If this is in place, then the social side – financial help, companionship, etc. – will flow naturally from this, with discretion. How delightful for the soul of a child, when, in addition to his natural father and mother, he has godparents whose pious example and wise words elevate his innocent soul! All the earthly benefits they bestow – presents, outings, etc. – are transfigured by Faith. This is a taste, for the child, of Paradise on earth.
When all is submitted to the hierarchy of goods ordained by God, all is well. Let us take steps today, making a short list of those behaviors we do have control over and can change, and pray earnestly to the Lord to enlighten us regarding our spiritual families and our earthly families, that we may see all things in light of the Gospel, set good priorities, and experience the power of grace.
4 July 2019 OS: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of St. Matthew, St. Andrew of Crete, Holy Royal Martyrs of Russia
In today’s Gospel, the Lord warns us that after we repent, we must keep up our zeal and attentiveness, or we shall fall into worse things than those we had escaped:
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. – St. Matthew 12:38-45
St. Theophan the Recluse explains how a demon can return to an Orthodox Christian from whom he has been driven out, and make him worse than he was before:
In every person who lives unrepentant in sin, there lives a demon, as if in a house, who takes charge over everything within him. When by the grace of God such a sinner comes to contrition over his sins, repents, and ceases to sin – the demon is cast out from him. At first the demon does not disturb the one who has repented because, in the beginning, there is much fervor within him which burns demons like fire and repulses them like an arrow. But then, when fervor begins to grow cold, the demon approaches from afar with its suggestions, throws in memories about former pleasures, and calls the person to them. If the penitent does not take care, his sympathy will soon pass to a desire for sin. if he does not come to his senses and return to his former state of soberness, a fall is not far off. The inclination for sin and the decision to commit it are born from desire – the inner sin is ready, and the outward sin is only waiting for a convenient occasion. When an occasion presents itself, the sin will be accomplished. Then the demon will enter again and begin to drive a person from sin to sin even faster than before. The Lord illustrated this with the story about the return of the demon into the clean, swept house. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 139-140
St. Theophan is here writing about the case of an Orthodox Christian who has fallen into a life marked by the habitual practice of extremely serious sins – those that exclude one from Holy Communion, according to the canons – and then has repented and begun his Orthodox life afresh, but, sadly, goes back to his old, excommunicated way of life. He would not have written that the demon lives inside of the person – rather than the demon’s attacking from the outside – if this were not the case. Most of us are not in this position, but we would do well to heed Our Lord’s words and the saint’s commentary as a spur to acquire three habits of mind: sensibility – awareness – of our sinfulness, sorrow for sin, and prayerful attentiveness. If we lose or never acquire these, not only shall we not be able to fight the “small” daily sins, but also we are all quite capable of falling away so seriously that we can become the formerly swept house occupied by seven demons.
Awareness of our sinfulness – The Holy Fathers teach that the most dangerous state of soul is insensibility. We may not be committing great, obvious sins, but our general attitude is one of carelessness and spiritual lukewarmness. If we are not aware of any sinfulness on our part, we are out of touch with reality, living in a dream world. If one dies in such a condition, torment at the demonic tollhouses cannot be avoided, and the final outcome is doubtful. Only those who actively, frequently examine their consciences, see their sins of thought, word, and deed, and reproach themselves constantly, can prepare with regularity and profit for Holy Communion and therefore hope firmly to die in the grace-filled state of repentance. Sadly, insensibility is the normal state of the “mainstream,” that great mass of nominal Orthodox Christians, the realization of which fact helps us to understand Our Lord’s repeated assertions that few will be saved. Yet how simple it is to overcome this insensibility: We simply have to ask the Lord, fervently and repeatedly, to open our eyes, to enable us to acquire a lively awareness of our many daily sins of thought, word, and deed. This prayer is very pleasing to God, and He will give the grace!
Sorrow for sin – In addition to asking the Lord to open our eyes to our sins, let us implore Him to give us sorrow for sin. This sorrow is not a depressed remorse, a prideful frustration with our lack of improvement. (If this is our response to seeing our sins, this reveals to us how much pride lives within us, how much we rely only on ourselves and not on God’s gracious, all-efficacious help.) Rather, saving sorrow for sin is the bright sorrow of compunction. In this state of soul, we see the full depth, the full horror, of our sinfulness and separation from God, but simultaneously we receive the absolute, gracious assurance of His forgiveness. We grieve, mourn, and weep over our sins while at the same time experiencing joy of heart, Paradise within, an inner conviction of firm hope in our salvation. We begin to understand that God is worthy of all love for His own sake, and we receive the grace of holy zeal, the burning desire to do His holy will, not only to avoid the pains of hell and acquire the joys of heaven, but above all to please the Lord, because He is worthy of all love, and to love Him is the purpose of our existence.
Prayerful attentiveness – Even after we receive the graces of seeing our sins and acquiring holy compunction, we can still fall away, because of the changefulness of human nature. This remains true for everyone, even for Orthodox Christians who have acquired the grace of working miracles due to extreme holiness, until the very moment of death. Therefore it is critical that we be faithful to our daily prayers of morning and evening, and then, throughout the day, frequently repeat the Prayer of Jesus: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son, of God, have mercy on me a sinner!” We must beg the Lord for the grace of an attentive, sober state of mind, and not get caught up in the trivialities and passions of worldly life. Of course, we will be distracted a thousand times a day – that is normal – but then a thousand times a day we return to our Jesus Prayer. This is how a rock-like, firm state of mental and cordial (i.e. heartfelt) attention is acquired! Every time we return to attentiveness, we receive more grace! The Lord has designed us for this dynamic; it is the arena of a daily Christian life, nothing unusual. We have only to commit ourselves to it and then repeatedly force ourselves back to it. He will give us abundant grace to do this.
May Our gracious Lord ever bestow on us the grace to see our sins, acquired grace-filled compunction, and attend continually to the thoughts of our mind and the movements of our heart. Amen.
Introduction: With the introduction and rapid invasion of the television into nearly every American home, and then, gradually, homes throughout the world, in the late 1940’s and the 1950’s, the power that the movies gave to the global elite to brainwash entire populations increased immeasurably. Now, instead of having to leave one’s home, go to the “magic cave” of the “stereopticon,” and pay for a ticket, the average person simply sat down in his living room and with no effort and little expense absorbed the physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual poison of the Antichrist spirit for several hours every evening, or perhaps many hours every day, or in some cases even for the majority of his waking hours. We cannot begin to measure the destruction wrought thereby upon everyone – everyone’s mind and family, upon Church life, upon community and society. The physical destruction wrought by the criminal globalist elite during WWII – incinerating 100,000 human beings in one night in Dresden, for example – is nothing compared to it. For the spread of television enabled the elite, as never before, to destroy the soul.
Today, with Internet pornography addiction, social media addiction, and smartphone addiction destroying countless souls, worries about good old-fashioned television may seem outdated, even quaint. We’ll get around to the Internet and cellphones. But right now, in this session, let’s go back in time to Ye Olden Days of the Reign of Television, and look at this thing from the Orthodox point of view. Not only will the historical background help us, but also we have to realize that a lot of people still do spend a lot of time in front of bigger and bigger TV sets showing worse and worse content. This is especially true of the elderly and of the mothers, children, and unemployed and disabled members of poor and less educated families.
So many writers have written so much against television – so much that has never been refuted effectively by anyone – that today when we call it the Idiot Box and so forth, no one really objects. Everybody knows that this thing has made us into human beings who are significantly less intelligent and less active and less fruitful and less independent than our ancestors, has made us comparatively stupid and passive and unproductive and enslaved. Video games do indeed lessen attention span and reduce the capacity for rational thought, but television was doing it first, long before video games existed. The little screen of the smart phone is indeed a consuming goddess, but her older sister, the television set in the family room, prepared the way for the smart phone’s current career of worldwide mental and spiritual genocide.
People my age in America – the so-called Baby Boomers – are the last generation reared by parents who did not have a television when they were children. Our parents – the misnamed “Greatest Generation” – who had no idea of the great advantage they had in possessing minds not deformed by television in their formative years, eagerly embraced the new medium and rushed to buy the best television sets they could afford and watch them as much as they could, along with us, their children. And not only that, but they used the television to occupy us when they wished to be free of caring for us in order to do other things. So we are the first generation raised on the electronic babysitter, and it shows – the shallowness, selfishness, and stupidity of my generation of Americans are infamous throughout the world. We are the children of television. The societal mess we have bequeathed to our children and grandchildren is the direct result of the interior mess in our own TV-addled brains
Nothing of what I am saying is considered controversial by educated people on the right, center, or left of the political and cultural spectrum. Veterans of the television industry itself, far-left secularists, have written damning screeds against The Idiot Box for decades, and Hollywood has even made popular movies attacking it. Everyone knows what this thing has done to us. Then why do we not get rid of it? There are a lot of answers – the technology itself is physically addicting, it enables mental laziness, it relieves boredom, it satisfies vain curiosity, it caters to basic passions such as lust and anger by purveying illicit sexual imagery and unending physical violence, and on and on. I would like to offer an all-inclusive, very Orthodox answer: We don’t get rid of television because our enemy the devil has hypnotized us, using the very thing we need to get rid of. I mean that literally – we are the subjects of mass hypnosis. If you don’t think the demons want you to have a television set, just try getting rid of one you may already have – parents, relatives, and friends who come to your home and see that you are so “deprived” will offer to buy or give you one. As a friend once told me, “Never worry about buying a television set – the devil will make sure someone will give you one.”
The only answer, of course, is the simplest one: As they say, “Kill your television!” Just get rid of it. There are many other things to do with one’s time, such as prayer and reading. Frankly, it would be better to do absolutely nothing. Everyone knows this. What we lack is a firm resolve.
I know that some younger people may consider the this critique of TV per se as anachronistic. Many no longer own what could be called a television set, and many watch only selected videos on the Internet or spend all their screen time on social media. But we need to understand both what television has done to us in the past and how many of its destructive effects are still with us, some of which have now been exacerbated by the Internet and by smart phones. On the other hand, I think we can say, with cautious optimism, that video via Internet offers some genuine advantages over the old network or cable television, and that, used wisely, it may be of real help to us. We’ll leave that discussion to later, when we talk about the Internet. And I do have to admit that not only do I distribute these audio recordings on the Internet but, after some hesitation, I have agreed to film some short video talks. You can see our YouTube videos at the URL below – we’ve posted twelve so far, and I’m afraid that there are plans for many more. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQb5bdq0KYOcIzJl9dlUFZQ/playlists?view_as=subscriber
Now let’s get back to understanding television in the light of history while using our Orthodox lens: Let us recall that the Church’s concern is for the whole of man, not just his spiritual life as something somehow disconnected from the rest of his life. Nowadays some bishops and priests like to stick their heads in the sand, and they want to stick your heads there too: “Don’t worry about what goes on in society, just pray at home and in Church, but in society go with the flow!” One problem with that approach is that it has no precedent, for the Church has never done that. She has always been in the forefront of fighting for her children in every sphere – the spiritual, the intellectual, physical, social, political, you name it – because her care is for the whole person – soul and body – and not only for the whole person individually, but also for persons considered not as isolated individuals but as members of families, clans, and nations. She is the Mother and Teacher of the Nations, not an esoteric club for alienated misfits who want to “veg out” on some kind of private spiritual exercises. Another problem with this ostrich approach is that those who want to destroy us are not going to leave us in peace at home and in Church. The enemy is already within the gates. Nowadays it’s fight or die. There is no other choice.
So, then, our concern as the Orthodox Church being for the whole of the person, both in himself – his spirit, soul, mind, body – and as a member of a family, a community, and a historic nation – must we not subject to a severe critique anything that damages the soul and body, the family, the community, and the nation, on such a vast scale as television has done? Of course we must. So let us take a critical look at television. I cannot here say everything that is wrong with it. That would require a semester-long college course. But I would like to make a few points, and relate my critique to our Orthodox viewpoint.
Point 1: Television re-wired the brain. When the dominant visual medium was the movies, most people only watched two and a half hours per week – enough for one feature film and a few “shorts” like cartoons and newsreels. When the TV revolution overtook mass populations in the 1950’s, two things happened: 1. People were suddenly watching for many hours per week – say, at least, three hours of prime time television on weekdays, that’s fifteen hours, plus ten hours on weekends. And that is a minimum! 2. The dominant video medium technology was itself radically different. Movies are something outside of you – you really look at them. The cathode ray tube did the opposite – it projected the image into your brain. The addiction then went from only a psychological addiction to being both physical and psychological. And people’s brains became physically affected, re-wired. So many studies, after nearly 70 years of television, show that x number of hours of TV watching actually shrink the part of the brain used for reading and analytical thinking, that one must conclude, inescapably, that TV is being used to create a new kind of human being, one that cannot think for himself, that is easily manipulated by a rapid succession of incoherent visual images and non-rational sounds. As we pointed out much earlier in one of our OSC classes, the goal of the Anti-Christ elite is to “redefine what it means to be human.” Television technology has been used to advance this goal with terrible, catastrophic effectiveness. With this in mind, I cannot emphasize enough that, above all, small children should not watch television. Their neurological system is very malleable, still being formed, but by age six they are hard-wired. How do you want to hard-wire them? Every responsible parent should face this undeniable fact and make a conscientious decision. Some may argue that today’s LED technology is less dangerous than the CRT. I am not conversant in the research on this, but I think it behoves us to approach such claims with caution. I invite one or more of our listeners who may have read more on the subject to send me further information.
The Lord made our minds to know Him and to know His creation, and anything we do that really damages the mind, that we have consciously chosen and could have avoided, is a sin. Let us examine our use of the television and ask ourselves honestly where we stand in this regard, and what we need to do about it.
Point 2: Television isolated families in their homes and cut them off from their neighbors. I am from the American South, that region of our country most hated and vilified by the Antichrist New World Order, precisely because we hung on to our traditional, organic, and local cultures longer than other regions of the United States. Of course, the real old-fashioned South is a thing of the past, except in a few isolated and tiny pockets of our various, once-sovereign States, and today we have the New South, made possible by two technologies: air-conditioning and television. Air-conditioning made possible the industrialization of the South, destroying its traditional agrarian character, and it made people want to stay indoors all the time in order to escape the high temperatures and high humidity that dominate half of our year. Then, once air-conditioning drew people inside, the television hypnotized them, gluing them to their couches and keeping them inside. The formerly much-loved front porch with its big porch swing and rocking chairs, the gathering place for the extended family, the clan, and the neighborhood, that vast network of miniature public fora of American small-town and urban ethnic neighborhood life, was abandoned for the isolated and isolating cave of the darkened living room, illuminated only by the flickering light of the cathode ray tube and peopled by a few individuals who though bodily next to each other were mentally each locked in his or her own unreal world. Within one generation, the traditional social cohesion of Southern communities was weakened beyond recognition. And the South, of course, is only one, albeit a most dramatic, example. This terrible destruction of traditional social bonds was repeated everywhere television watching replaced the traditional social activities of ordinary folks’ leisure hours.
Ask yourself: How many hours – nay, how many minutes – of your week are spent talking to your neighbors? For most of us, the answer is little or none. People feel closer to some fictional character in their favorite sitcom or soap opera, or to some news anchor or talk show host, than they do to the man next door. A young fellow cannot imagine marrying the girl next door, because he has never met her. This destruction of normal social bonds, normal social psychology, is catastrophic. Our Lord commands us to love our neighbor. At one time, it was easy to say who that was – literally the folks next door. Now we have to try so hard to have semi-normal social bonds. At most, perhaps, we can feel close to our fellow parishioners once a week at Church. Outside of that, daily life is a social desert for most people. As Orthodox Christians and people trying to recover being normal human beings, we need to show an interest in, to be kind to, and ultimately to bring the Faith to the people right around us. We need to start thinking about ways to do this. Getting out of our video media cave is a start.
Point 3: Television made rapid cultural genocide possible. Cultural genocide means taking away people’s native language, folkways, arts, morals, faith, and, in sum, their very identity, and making them become someone else. Today it means being homogenized into the bland, sub-human, stupid, and meaningless identity of the new global anti-culture created by the Antichrist globalist elite. To get back to my example of the American South in the 1950’s and ’60’s: TV homogenized their minds, so that they no longer wanted to imitate old-fashioned Alabamians or Georgians like their parents and grandparents, but rather wanted to think and talk like Mr. Generic American Guy they saw on television. They even began to lose their beautiful regional accents, and everyone began to sound like Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. But this example of the South is just that: only one example. TV has done this to people all over the world. The tiny elite that controls the medium cook up a fake identity for this or that ethnic group or nation or cultural or religious group and they get them to swallow it, to identify with it. Then they blend that identity in with some “multicultural” (i.e. monocultural) identity they have up their sleeves, to make them into “global citizens” of the One World Order. Of course, this Anti-Christ One World thing is as old as the Tower of Babel, and in modern times it goes back at least to the plans of the Illuminati and related groups in the 18th century, and at that time they used print media to advance their agenda. Later, radio and cinema made more rapid cultural homogenization possible, of course. But television put the process “on steroids,” as the saying goes – it advanced not by steps but by quantum leaps. Today, of course, we are worried about something even more radical than cultural homogenization – we now face the destruction of the human race itself, with abortion, contraception, the LGBT agenda, transgenderism, and so forth: the total disappearance of every characteristic of what it means to be human. But this disappearance process started much earlier, with the homogenization of cultures, nations, and races. And television made it possible.
True unity in the Orthodox Church is most certainly not a destruction of racial, national, and regional identities and cultures. The Apostles were sent forth to baptize the nations, not destroy them. Indeed, the Church has given birth to many nations, and under her tutelage, they have acquired quite distinctive and varied characters while yet sharing the same Faith and the same ontological bond in the Holy Mysteries, in the One Body of Christ. The destruction of these varied characters is not the goal of the Church but of those who are against the Church, not of Christ but of the Anti-Christ. Let us ask ourselves: How much of our own character, our own culture, the culture in our homes, is a product of the Faith and of organic Christian culture, and how much does it actually reflect the manufactured anti-culture of the mass media? Let’s be honest, and let’s take steps to recover our true selves.
Point 4: Television greatly increased the power of advertising. The entire advertising industry is inherently evil, because it exists to manufacture superfluous desires and therefore exacerbate sinful passions. To justify advertising, people say that it is a public service, because it puts people in touch with things they need. This, however, is ridiculous. People were able to find what they really needed without the modern advertising industry for thousands of years. The entire purpose of advertising is to create false needs, to create new desires, not point out actual, already-existing needs. Advertising existed before television, of course, but television increased its power and reach immeasurably. Remember, the goal of the AntiChrist elite is to create a “new kind of human being.” The human being created by an endless barrage of TV advertising is someone with perpetually new and ever increasing desires for things he does not need.
As Orthodox Christians, we know that spiritual life, salvation itself, is not possible if we cannot acquire the virtue of temperance, if we cannot curb our desires. Someone immersed in watching commercial television, no matter how well-intentioned, exposes himself to the constant, purposeful inflammation of the most basic illnesses of the soul, the bodily passions, along with pleonexia – greediness, the desire for superfluity, for things one does not need. In such a state, genuine spiritual life is impossible.
Point 5: Television shows and “news” reduce thought to sound-bytes and make people arrogant. Both in television fiction and “reality” shows (which themselves are fictional, because no one behaves normally when being filmed), and in television journalism – news and talk shows – sustained and careful thought is made impossible. Problems are identified and solved in two minutes or less on talk shows, in one half hour in some TV series, and one hour in others. And TV watchers acquire a certain arrogance, a certain pseudo-intellectual swagger about them. They feel very sure of themselves when they have mastered the mindless jargon of television and Internet media journalism and can mouth the latest pronouncement of their favorite talk show host or solve another person’s problems by imitating the make-believe hero of a television drama. After awhile, no one has his own personality – everyone is an imitation television character. We imitate that which we admire, and to know what you admire, ask yourself how many hours you spend watching the phony people on television and how many hours you spend reading about the Life of a Saint, or even about the life of a genuine patriotic hero, or the careful and deep thought of a great writer, or about the history of the great deeds of your own historical culture or nation? You become that which you admire by imitation. That’s the way we’re made. As Orthodox Christians, we are called upon primarily to admire and imitate Christ, the Mother of God, and the Saints, and secondarily to admire and imitate those people and those things that are best, noblest, and highest in secular culture. Is that in fact what you and I are doing on a daily basis?
A Suggestion for Reading: To convince any doubters in the audience that I am not a right-wing nutcase (well, at least not merely a right-wing nutcase), I want to recommend a book written by a secular Jewish left-wing activist named Jerry Mander. He published it in 1978, it is called Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, and it is still considered a classic collection of arguments not simply for limiting TV watching but for eliminating television altogether – literally. Of course, he argues from his leftist-activist viewpoint and ’60’s hippie cultural critique. When he is concerned about television’s effect on religion and culture, it is all about the religions and cultures that hippies care about – Far Eastern pagan religion and rainforest savages and so forth. He pretends that the International Money Power – the IMF, World Bank, the big corporations, et al – fund only “conservative” causes and not his left-wing causes, which is of course ridiculous. But the essence of his argument – that television destroys the body, the mind, thought, culture, and religion, and that the medium is essentially irreformable – is still valid. You can find used copies all over the place for a very low cost. Also, an Orthodox Christian named George Karras wrote an article based on a summary of Mander’s arguments, and you can find it on the popular orthodoxinfo.com website: http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/four-arguments-for-the-elimination-of-television.aspx In one place Karras seems to indicate that he believes in evolutionism, which of course is strange, but on the whole it is an excellent article.
If we are, to a greater or lesser extent, worshippers of the goddess Television, let us cast down our idol and apply our minds and hearts to the knowledge and love of Christ our God. Amen.
Two Important Announcements
As I said above, we now have a little YouTube channel featuring short videos on the Orthodox Faith. The name of our channel is Seventy TimesSeven (we had to elide the second two words to avoid copying another channel’s name), and its purpose is to present successive series of seven short videos on seven topics of Orthodox life: Dogma, Spiritual Life, Worship, Family Life, Morality, History and Current Events, and Today’s Struggle for Orthodoxy (current events in the Orthodox world proper). Go to our playlist at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQb5bdq0KYOcIzJl9dlUFZQ/playlists?view_as=subscriber
Another new venture you may be interested in is the St. John of Damascus Orthodox Education Initiative, a new program sponsored by our North American eparchy of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece, whose purpose is to provide online courses to Orthodox high school and middle school students whose parents are either homeschooling them, are starting a parish schooling cooperative, or who want to provide an enrichment and corrective to mainstream schooling. Read all about it at our new website: https://orthodoxlearninggoc.com/
is no nearness or kinship equal to that of the soul with God, and God
with souls. He placed in the soul understanding, will, a sovereign
mind. And He enthroned in the soul yet another great refinement,
and made it easily moved, light-winged, indefatigable, granting it to
come and go in a single instant and in thought to serve Him, when the
Spirit wishes. In a word, He created it so that it might become a
bride and companion of Him, as has been said: “He that is joined
unto the Lord is one spirit” with the Lord (I Cor. 6:17) – from
“The Teaching of St. Macarius the Great,” by I.M.
Word, Vol. 10, no. 3,
I wanted to start with this beautiful patristic wisdom about the soul to remind us of why we are talking about so many terrible and dreary things. It’s not because Orthodox Christians want to be curious about bad things – the Holy Fathers teach us not to indulge such curiosity. It’s because these bad things are already influencing us – they are already on our doorstep, in our homes, in our souls. And it is the soul that we are concerned about, the salvation of the soul, the union of the soul with God. When we read beautiful passages like the one above, we are recalled to ourselves. We remember for what we were made, and how pure and beautiful we can become. Yet we also know that we allow so many dirty influences into our lives – so much worldliness, falsehood, impurity, and degradation! The purpose of our “Survival Course” is not to wallow in the bad things, to talk about them endlessly, which is what a lot of well-meaning people do nowadays. The purpose of our course is to help us to recognize and abjure the false, the evil, and the ugly, and turn to the true, the good, and the beautiful. As it says in Psalm 33, we must “turn from evil and do good.” If we must study evil – and, sadly, we must – it is not an end in itself, but a preliminary step to doing good. To do good to others, we must cleanse our own souls first from the delusions planted in them by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Our current topic is the world of Hollywood – cinema, the movies. Last time we pointed out how even in the “good old days” of “wholesome” movies the cinema was a mighty tool for brainwashing the masses into becoming not simply post-Christian people but even “post-human humans” through the destruction of the family, of traditional community, life, traditional morality, and so forth. Hollywood is a giant delusion machine. Once you start living in the world it portrays, you are no longer in reality – you are living in a hall of mirrors. If you are serious about your spiritual life, if you realize that to be saved you must cleanse your soul of illusion, of delusion, then you come to the conclusion that movie-watching, TV watching, etc, must be done very carefully, if at all. Frankly, our lives would be much richer if we never watched any video and used that time to read, sing, tell stories, take walks, and do a lot of other things people used to do in their spare time. Whatever enrichment comes from the screen is so little and outweighed so much by other, more traditional activities, that in the balance we would gain a great deal by abjuring the cinema and television altogether, except perhaps for serious instructional videos or good musical performances. I know, however, that most of us simply are not going to do this, and I want at least to give an Orthodox interpretation of “what’s out there” in order to help us at least be on our guard, be selective of what we watch, and be highly critical of it. In this session, I’d like to cover five topics: Subliminal messages, predictive programming, the normalization of the obscene, the brainwashing of children, the destruction of rational thought and attention span, and initiation into the occult.
A. Subliminal messages are real: Let’s return to the thought we began with tonight: Nothing is more precious than the soul, nothing more urgent than guarding the soul. Yet movies not only deliver false messages and evil and ugly images to our conscious minds, they also contain subliminal messages. I had heard about subliminal advertising as a young man in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, and we were told that it was something tried back in the 1950’s but then outlawed, and that it did not happen any more. Then one evening I was watching a movie in a theater, and at one point the projector malfunctioned and slowed down. Suddenly, instead of the movie one saw a young woman immodestly dressed, smiling seductively while holding a bag of popcorn and a soft drink. Pavlovian conditioning at work! So this is real: You really have no idea what kind of commercial or political or social engineering images or messages are being slipped into the movies you are watching, messages that are completely under the “radar screen” of your consciousness. This alone should make one highly cautious about movie-watching.
B. Predictive programming: We know that the occult global elite – the “cryptocracy” – is creating the “new humanity” that will embrace the disordered social order of the Antichrist. This institutionalized disorder is coming into being all around us. At each stage of the process, the cryptocracy acts secretly at first, but then, when they believe that the masses are ready to accept their message, they reveal what they have been up to, what they have already done to us. This gives them a malicious feeling of satisfaction (and, remember, they are demonized and therefore have the sadistic minds of demons) and also serves a practical function in the Revolution – it creates “predictive programming,” that is, it “programs” the minds of the masses to accept that this or that social change may be something unpleasant or even evil, but that it is inevitable and, therefore, though one may cheer the cinema hero who fights the evil, one sees the evil as a normal part of life, not something utterly bizarre, unthinkable, or outlandish. One accepts it as part of the “ying-yang” of an amoral universe.
One example of this “predictive programming” is the series of movies based on a character called Jason Bourne, a CIA assassin whose memory and identity have been destroyed by brainwashing, and who has been programmed to kill people upon being “activated” by certain “triggers.” The frightening reality is that the CIA had (and has?) just such a program, called MK-Ultra, which did (does?) precisely this. The mass of moviegoers watching these movies don’t really care about the horrendous social implications of such a revelation. They are just cheering on the heroes, Jason Bourne and his allies as they try to recover their real identities and atone for their past crimes by exposing the big, bad guy, the CIA. What the moviegoers don’t realize is that they are being programmed too, not to accept that the CIA are the “good guys,” but that this kind of thing, though it may be distasteful, is normal, that it is part of life.
The Matrix is probably the most paradigmatic example of predictive programming, the one that has become what is called a “cultural icon.” It depicts a future world in which super-intelligent machines have reduced all of humanity to inert, completely passive beings hooked up to serve the machines as an energy source and kept entertained by having an illusory world projected into their brains. A few people escape the “Matrix” and try to fight back, and this forms the basis of the plot. Again, even if the audience cheers those fighting the Matrix, as they cheered Jason Bourne fighting the CIA, the world depicted in the movie is normalized. It is, of course, an image of what has already been done to everyone, of the reduction of vast masses of potentially creative and intelligent – not to mention religious – people to “couch potatoes” or screen “junkies.”
the Bourne movies and The
Matrix, and other movies
like it, do identify the Cryptocracy, the evil power structure, as
evil, but both do so in the context of a dualistic, ultimately
meaningless and endless universe, in which the lonely hero is doomed
to fight forever. There is no ultimate hope and no ultimate
C. The normalization of the obscene: In earlier classes, we have talked about the concept of the obscene. The term does not necessarily denote something dirty or even negative; rather it means something so sacred or so profane that it should not be seen or spoken of in public. It is to be kept literally ob scena, “away from the stage,” whether the stage of the theater or the stage of life. The entire media machine, the entire “Great Stereopticon” we have been describing, starting with the newspapers, has done catastrophic damage to formerly Christian peoples’ understanding of the obscene. I am not speaking only of explicitly sexual subject matter, though that is included, of course. Another subject considered by the ancients to be obscene is any kind of extreme human suffering, the depiction of which was banned altogether or handled very delicately in Greek drama. Now we have thousands of movies, usually around two hours’ long, that depict human suffering – both physical and psychological – in excruciating detail, that wallow in it. This is horrible – it does not create compassion in the viewers but rather the opposite: it coarsens them. Someone else’s suffering, whether real or fictional, should never be a source of entertainment but rather should always be held in reverence. Another obscene subject was the dead human body – traditionally the body is handled with great decorum and reverence, and it is shown in public only within carefully regulated and traditional rituals. Yet now we have thousands of hours of movies and TV shows in which dead bodies are shown in every conceivable state of degradation, and examined callously by police investigators, forensic investigators, and so forth. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized – it is the breaking down of a very sacred, very ancient barrier, a transgression that is profoundly evil, that makes something “snap” inside of people, leading them to a lower level of humanity. This is no joke. And obviously the vortex of filthy language and filthy sexual behavior in the “average” movie long ago transgressed the traditional boundaries of the obscene.
All of this transgression of the boundaries of the obscene has so coarsened the “average” person that converting non-Orthodox people (or Orthodox people to repentance and conscious spiritual life) has become incalculably more difficult, for the most fundamental healthy human reactions to essential human experiences – suffering, death, language, sexual behavior – have been destroyed.
D. The brainwashing of children: In 1989, after a hiatus of many years in which they had produced no feature length animated movies, Disney Studios premiered their re-interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. In Andersen’s original telling of the story, the Little Mermaid is punished for her unnatural desire to become a human being. She does not win the man she loves and becomes something neither mermaid nor woman, but a bodiless spirit floating on the wind, a fitting metaphor for someone who has rejected his God-given nature. In the Disney version, however the Little Mermaid rejects her father’s authority, rejects her nature, makes a deal with a witch to change her into a human being, and after a bit of scary trouble in order to give the story some dramatic tension, gets away with it! The message is clear: Disobey your father, deny your God-given nature, obey your passions, and thrive! Since that time, Disney has produced one movie after another featuring headstrong girls who transgress traditional boundaries and come out on top. The occult and feminist message – the message of witchcraft, of “the goddess” who is stronger than traditional patriarchal authority by means of her magical powers – could not be clearer. Normally, of course, in the “cute,” Disney style, the heroine does not hate or destroy her father, who is usually a lovable bumbler, impotent not evil – she may in fact rescue him or at least be reconciled to him. But it is clear who is in charge. And this series of beloved movies, stretching back thirty years now, seen by millions of children – and their parents, partners in crime with the studio – is only one example of the ceaseless barrage of brainwashing aimed at children seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.
If you want your children to save their souls, you have to understand the real message of what they are watching…and take action!
Destruction of rational thought and attention span:
Even when a two hour movie has a serious plot and rational dialogue,
it disarranges one’s idea of the normal: after all, life’s problems
are not solved in two hours. But increasingly we now have movies
and television shows which have little or no plot or dialogue, but
rather consist of very short scenes often – depending on the genre –
consisting of or at least assisted by outlandish computer generated
images and special effects, often only a few seconds in length,
depicting some kind of violence or bizarre behavior, perhaps with a
few telegraphic, disjointed utterances by the characters involved.
The viewer’s mind is assaulted with a rapid, endless succession of
violent, disturbing imagery, and there is simply no room for rational
thought or the development of a real story or real ideas. The
universe presented in these movies is not a “cosmos” – an
ordered world – but a chaotic and meaningless world of disconnected,
rapid sense experiences. This is part of the campaign to destroy
linear, rational thinking and replace it with “thinking” in
visual images and feelings, thus vastly increasing people’s
susceptibility to being conditioned and manipulated.
Initiation into the occult: We
have earlier discussed theater as an initiation into the Dionysian
spirit. It’s very important to remember that all drama has a ritual
character. You may think
you are simply being
“entertained,” but in fact you are being initiated ritually
into some kind of transformative mystery, a life-changing crisis and
resolution, in which “higher powers” of some kind play a
part. This is true, in general, of all drama – it’s the origin and
rationale of drama, as we have discussed earlier. But there are some
movies – perhaps a large number – whose creators have purposely
constructed in order to brainwash the audience with occult symbolism
and occult messages. Sometimes this is overt, though usually it is
hidden in some way, under the surface of the story. This should not
surprise us, since we know that the movie industry is controlled by
an anti-Christian power structure that is deeply involved in the
occult. A remarkably intelligent young man, an American convert to
Orthodoxy named Jay Dyer, has written two books on this subject.
I’ve been asked by some of our listeners to comment on Mr. Dyer’s
work, since he is very popular now with the younger “conservative”
or “traditionalist” Internet audience, including many
First of all, we have to separate Dyer’s substance from his style. I would suggest that one read some of the articles on his website first, and especially the ones having little to do with movies or conspiracies or politics. Rather, read his articles on philosophy and theology, which are for the most part quite good, even, in some places, I would venture to say brilliant. In particular, for Roman Catholics considering converting to Orthodoxy, his exposition of the errors in Roman Catholic theology are extremely good.
Mr. Dyer’s style in his videos is often silly and vulgar, and in some places he uses language unacceptable for an Orthodox Christian. In street parlance, he is what is called a “shock jock,” a media personality who attracts attention through coarseness of expression. He also wastes a lot of time on silliness, but that, along with the vulgarity, is, I suppose, what appeals to a lot of people today. I venture to say that he has developed this onscreen persona to convey that he is “for real,” that he is not a fake, not a phony pseudo-intellectual snob, but a down to earth guy with a real message for the “millennial” generation that is fed up with the quite real hypocrisy and emptiness of their “Baby Boomer” parents. Unfortunately, the result is that a mature person with any refinement of mind can take Dyer either only in small doses or, if he perseveres for the sake of the often excellent content, with frequent inner revulsion at the presentation. A young Orthodox man who is a “Millennial” once tried watching him on my recommendation, and he turned the video off after five minutes, because the style was so crude.
So…what about Jay Dyer and the occult messages in the movies? I hate to tell you not to buy his two books on the subject, because that is part of his income, and one never wants to take the bread out of another man’s mouth. However, as a priest and spiritual father, I really can’t recommend that one wallow in the occult for very long. Try reading some of his articles on his website in which he demonstrates the occult nature of various “mainstream” movies, and I think you’ll get the picture (no pun intended!) after a few articles. He certainly has convinced me – not that I needed much convincing – that Hollywood is a giant cabal of occultists initiating the masses into demonic experiences and thought patterns, and, moreover, doing this in cooperation with certain agencies of the United States government. I’ll leave it at that.
Hello, everyone. Before
moving on to Class 38 of our Orthodox Survival Course, I thought Holy
Pascha to be a good time to do something a little different. First
of all, I want to greet everyone on this Radiant Feast of Feasts,
whose joy should remind us that all of these worrisome problems and
scary developments we’ve been talking about are temporary and,
really, nothing, compared to God’s goodness and love for us. He
has already conquered sin, the devil, death, and hell, and in Holy
Baptism, He has already given us His Eternal Kingdom. Therefore, as
St. Paul says in the Apostolos
we read on Palm Sunday,
“Rejoice, and again I say rejoice… the Lord is at hand.”
We have only to be faithful for a short time, and he that endures
to the end shall be saved.
ask your forgiveness for not having sent out a new lecture since
before Holy Week. As most of you know, Great and Holy Week is kind
of a blur for any clergyman, and then Renewal Week/Bright Week is
spent in a state of near-comatose exhaustion. But here we are, back
in the saddle, at least for this week. Today, April 25th on the
Orthodox calendar, is Wednesday of Thomas Week and the Feast of St.
Mark the Evangelist. This coming Monday of Myrrhbearers’ Week, I’ll
be going out of the country on some family business for ten days, and
so I have to beg your pardon for yet another hiatus. I’m not one of
those Internet celebrities that can traverse the globe talking into
his smart phone (I don’t even have a smart phone) to record and send
forth his wisdom urbi et
orbi, so to speak, to an
admiring public dying for the latest word. I have to sit here at
my little wooden desk in our little wooden house in our little town
of poor white folks in rural mid-America, and, with the help of
morning and evening prayers and reading the Hours, and feeding my
chickens, and so forth, try to say something useful every so often
and hope it’s enough. I hope you don’t mind, but that’s the best I
can do. If I tried to do this kind of thing on the hop, it would be
we’ve said many times, the point of our Survival Course is to
construct an Orthodox lens to view history and to view our own times,
in order to make prudent decisions to survive spiritually in the 21st
century. Today I thought we would put the construction project on
hold and actually use the lens we’ve been constructing to examine a
recent event. Call it a homework exercise, like a math assignment
in which you use a new formula you’ve learned to solve a sample
problem, or, to use a more apt metaphor, a project in shop class to
practice using a new tool the teacher has introduced. I want to
talk about the fire that substantially destroyed the great Roman
Catholic cathedral of the Mother of God in Paris during the week
before Palm Sunday, and, in order to accompany and deepen our
reflections on this portentous disaster, to meditate on the Feast of
the Theotokos of the Life-Giving Spring, which we celebrated on
Friday of Bright Week. Using the Orthodox lens we’ve been
constructing, we may be able tentatively to approximate a useful
lesson from the former and, of course, we can always securely and
precisely acquire edification from the latter.
a preliminary note, I’d like to say that I don’t want to get into the
habit of discussing current events with you, for several reasons: 1.
Constantly thinking about “the news” and forming opinions
about it is like junk food – once you get into the habit of eating
it, you don’t want what’s better for you, even though you know the
real food is better. 2. The goal of our course is to see
everything sub specie
aeternitatis, from the
point of view of eternity, to take the long view. But if we are
always jumping into the stream of ongoing events, we won’t be able,
after awhile, to get back onto the bank and look at the stream from
that secure perspective. We’ll just flail around and eventually
drown. 3. Current events are boring and tiresome, and most of the
time no one knows what they really meant, anyway, till everyone alive
at the time they occurred is dead. So we’ll examine a current event
now and then, in order to demonstrate how to use our Orthodox lens,
but only now and then. Of course, we need to be able to read “the
signs of the times,” as Our Lord commanded us, but my job is to
give you tools to do that, not do it for you. I don’t want to
become one of those poor enslaved Internet gurus who feel constrained
daily to pontificate on the latest idiotic epiphenomenon of human
vanity. Also, keep in mind that one is not required to have an
opinion about everything that goes on, which, besides making one look
stupid, is a terrible burden, after all, isn’t it?
The Fire at Notre Dame – Just
about everyone knows that on Monday evening of the Roman Catholic
Holy Week – the last week of the Orthodox Great Lent – a great fire
substantially ruined the great cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. In
light of the ongoing campaign of violence against Catholic churches
in France, it would be fatuous in the extreme to accept uncritically
the predictable official explanation that what happened was an
accident. Everyone suspects deep down that someone committed arson
here, and we know that the anti-Christian Revolutionary elite, using
their well-paid agents in the soi-disant
French government, will
try to use the occasion to transform the ruined church into some kind
of grotesque mockery of a church, an accursed fane for the
ecumenistic worship of the Anti-Christ. They are talking about
sticking a Mohammedan minaret on it and so forth. So the
reconstructed building could end up being not only blasphemous but
hideously ugly. It is their usual modus
operandi – one is no
longer surprised. (It’s like “9/11” – they had the
“response” all ready to go before the event occurred).
And “Pope Francis” and the comically effete official
“Catholic bishops” in France may very well go along with,
or perhaps even cheer on, the whole thing, since they are, after all,
fellow travelers of the Masonic 1789 Revolution, as one can easily
see in the documents of Vatican II, in their new worship, and their
new theology. Well, we’ll see.
do not propose, however, to spend our time speculating on who did
this thing and what the next step in the desecration is going to be.
Whether it was accident or arson, God allowed this historic
disaster, it has become part of His plan for our salvation, and we
can use our Orthodox survival wisdom to reflect on its meaning. We
can learn from it. By now you know that I like short lists. Let us
make two observations.
One: The Gothic cathedral symbolizes the departure of the West from
few keenly anti-Latin Orthodox zealots, especially those of Greek
background, may feel a kind of Schadenfreude
(happiness in another’s
misfortune) about Notre Dame’s destruction – “You Franks
plundered us back in the Crusades, and what goes around comes
around,” and that sort of thing. This response, however,
besides manifesting a sinful passion, is simply misplaced. The few
remaining old-fashioned kind of Catholics in France, who are grieving
over this terrible blow against their historic identity, are no
longer effective or serious enemies as were their ancestors. It
really does not do to pour salt on their wounds. On the other hand,
we do not, cannot, and should not feel and think as they do about
this event, because this great building dramatically, powerfully,
Christianity. Remember: It was fundamentally not
a church, but a secular
building dedicated to a powerful religious ideology that replaced the
revealed Faith, an organization that killed the living organism of
the Church in the Western lands. In the image evoked by Romano
Guardini in The End of
the Modern World, the
pointed Gothic spire, in replacing the Byzantine dome, replaced the
image of God coming down to man with the image of man’s finger
thrusting up to heaven to pierce the heart of God – an essentially
Promethean enterprise. In the words of the Roman Catholic historian
Christopher Dawson, a great Gothic cathedral is no longer even a
building but a machine,
for it is never at rest,
its structural integrity depending on the ceaseless tension of
pointed arch and flying buttress. This instability, tension, and
restlessness as embodied in such a breathtaking engineering marvel of
surpassing – really, heartbreaking – but earthly
beauty, demonstrates in stone and glass the instability, tension, and
restlessness of the new, man-made theology that in the West replaced
the solid, secure, and unchanging, true, revealed Faith of the
Scriptures and Holy Fathers in the course of the 12th and 13th
centuries, something we discussed at length in Classes Eleven through
Fourteen. As you are pondering the meaning of the Notre Dame
disaster, you need first of all to ponder with an Orthodox mind the
deeper meaning of this great building, and I suggest that you go back
and read the notes and listen to the audio recordings of these four
now, after seven centuries of the inevitable degeneration from the
starting point of the anti-Orthodox revolution of the 12th and 13th
centuries, this corruptible, earthly thing – the post-Orthodox
synthesis of the Western High Middle Ages – has run its course.
It’s done, finished. It was manmade to begin with, and, like all
manmade things, it was temporary, corruptible, and doomed to die.
The end of Notre Dame symbolizes the end, the last gasp of
post-Orthodox Western Christian culture. It’s over with. Only
Orthodoxy offers a solid foundation, a reliable spiritual
architecture, so to speak, on which to build a new Christian Europe,
which, after all, was never an end in itself but the byproduct of
conversion to the Gospel. Our part to play as Orthodox Christians,
in this drama of the destruction of Notre Dame, is to witness to our
Faith, and to pray that, through the intercessions of Notre
Dame – Our Lady the
Mother of God – her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of history,
will use this occasion as a wake-up call to advance the cause of
reconversion to Orthodoxy of His beloved First Daughter of the
Western Church, la belle
France. Through the
prayers of St. Martin and All the Saints of Gaul, may this be so.
Two: The destruction of Notre Dame reminds us that the Revolution of
1789 continues today.
let’s “fast-forward,” as they say, from Classes Eleven
through Fourteen, to Classes 21 through 23, in which we discussed the
French Revolution. If you have the time, I suggest you go back and
study these classes through the notes and podcasts, and also read the
enlightening articles by Archimandrite Luke and the Novi Stjenik
sisterhood that I cite, as well as Lecture Six of Fr. Seraphim’s
Survival Course. If you combine this study with the study of the
High Middle Ages in Classes Eleven through Fourteen, you will have a
more accurate understanding of what the destruction of Notre Dame
means than all the media “experts” put together.
France today, you don’t have a secular nationalist republican
government and an effective Catholic Royalist opposition, as they had
in the 19th century. What you have are phony republicans like Macron
who are really just criminal agents running the government on behalf
of the global Money Power, and, opposed to them, real republican
nationalists like Marine Le Pen and the National Rally, and the
republican rabble in the form of the “Yellow Vest” revolt,
with a few powerless Catholic royalists off in the corner wishing for
the good times to return. So no matter which way you look – whether
you have Macron spouting the empty “ideals” of La
Republique but actually
serving the real criminal conspiracy behind the fraud of 1789, or Le
Pen, who mistakenly but sincerely believes in some kind of French
nationalism that incorporates the nonsensical republican ideology of
1789, or the Yellow Vests who are just sad, de-Christianized,
materialistic proletariat angry at the criminal government for
stealing their wine and cheese to give to the miserable Hagarenes,
and who stupidly equate Macron with the King, whereas it was the
conspiracy that employs Macron who murdered the King and created
their meaningless proletarian existence to begin with – no matter
which way you look today, all you have are secularists and
materialists, not a principled Catholic royalist opposition with any
real clout. 1789 rules the day. The destruction of Notre Dame is
simply the continuation of the Masonic conspiracy of the French
Revolution. We don’t need to establish which if any “conspiracy
theory” is correct in order to formulate our Orthodox
understanding of the meaning of this event. Demons, with or without
the help of men, destroyed this great monument to the glory of
as a continuation of the
work they began in 1789.
keep in mind: all of this is part of the age-old drama of spiritual
warfare. All of this is being used by the All-Wise God to bring
about our salvation. Even the demons are forever chained by God’s
sovereignty and omnipotence. Ultimately, the destruction of this
building was designed or at least allowed by the Providence of God,
for our salvation. We are not subject to the slavery to external
forces imagined by the materialist fairy tale version of history – we
are secure in the Ark of Salvation, the Church. We have nothing to
fear. It is with the security, courage, and compassion born of true
Faith that we should reach out to the non-Orthodox Christians shaken
by this event, and wisely use the occasion to witness to Orthodoxy.
The Feast of the Theotokos the “Life-Giving Spring” –
Eighteen days after the fire at
Notre Dame, the Orthodox Church celebrated a feast of Our Lady the
Mother of God, as She does on every Friday of Bright Week – the Feast
of the Life-Giving Spring.
can read the Synaxarion of this Feast here:
I’d like to read it now, for you, though I won’t reproduce the
whole thing in the notes – if you like, you can go to the link and
print it for yourself.
what do we see here? The Most Holy Theotokos gives to all successive
Christian generations until now Her miraculous spring, which has
worked and still does work countless miracles, in response to one act
of Orthodox lovingkindness – the agape
by the future emperor to a poor blind man. How wonderful! And how
appropriate: You see, the greater miracle is not the physical
healing, but the love itself, and it is that love and faith and hope
in God that brings about the outward miracles, as a byproduct, you
might say. It is the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love that bring
about the magnificent churches built by the kings and mighty of the
earth, and not the buildings that create the virtues. The buildings
come and go, as this Church of the Life Giving Spring has come and
gone and come again, and been partially destroyed, but is still
there, and may be rebuilt again one day in its former glory, and so
forth and so on. But the humble little Spring is still there, just
as the Faith of Christians under persecution is still there, even
when they must flee to the “dens and caves of the earth.”
1955, it was God Who allowed the Turks to destroy the large church
that, in the 19th century, God had used a Turkish Sultan to build.
Was this not a sign from God that the venerable Ecumenical
Patriarchate should turn from its recent career of self-destruction
through its heresy and apostasy, and return to Orthodoxy? But, alas,
this did not and still does not occur. Their eyes are closed. What
new disasters await as a result? What further judgment of God hangs
over them? One shudders to think. But the humble little Spring is
still there, the healings still occur – Notre
Lady, is still caring for us. Let us have recourse to prayer more
fervently, that the living Spring of God’s grace may fill our hearts,
and that we may become living stones in the Temple Not Made by Hands,
the Body of Christ.
come and go. God remains. This is enough for us.
Today I posted this message at our parish website, saint-irene.com.
great and most sacred Pascha, Christ; O Wisdom and Word and Powerof God! Grant that we
partake of Thee fully in the unwaning day of Thy Kingdom.
the Paschal Canon by St. John of Damascus
When we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we proclaim it as the center of all history. By His Death and Resurrection, the Lord re-creates His work of Creation that was done at the beginning of the world, and He inaugurates the eternal Kingdom that will be fully manifested at the end of the world.
The curricula that dominate history education brainwash students with the idea that man’s history is a beginning-less and endless story of “progress” from ignorance and superstition into a “liberated” state of “freedom” and “prosperity” brought about by “science.” This view classes Christ’s resurrection along with countless other fabricated myths that people can believe, if they want, but which must not be allowed to interfere in the “march of history” towards a bright and unlimited future of global unity and materialistic happiness under a benevolent and all-powerful government.
A Christian stands in absolute opposition to this view of the world. God created this world to have a beginning and an end, and this world is not an end in itself. It is, rather, an arena in which man works out his salvation. Each man’s life is a short and intense race which he conducts according to Christ and in Christ – or not. The purpose of each man’s life individually, and the purpose of every event in human history, is to prepare for God’s Judgment.
Our Savior’s Resurrection is not simply a miracle that demonstrates His Divinity, though it certainly does that. It is the destruction of death, the final and totally efficacious rescue of His creation from the corruption that the devil and sin brought into the world. He has already definitively triumphed over sin, death, the devil, and hell. All that remains now is for men to unite themselves to the Risen Christ or not, to join His Body the Church or not, to fight for Him or against Him. When He returns in glory at the end of the world, to judge all the living and the dead from the beginning of the world, the only thing that will matter is that we find favor in His sight. On that day, all the empty promises of a secular salvation and man’s progress will be revealed as the lies that they are.
Today, right now, it is critical for our spiritual lives not to fall back into a worldly and anxious way of living and thinking, but rather to nourish and sustain the spiritual vision we acquired during Great Lent and Holy Week. By staying faithful to prayer and spiritual reading, we can maintain the Paschal vision of our life, by which we interpret our daily activities not as part of some meaningless struggle for existence, not as a restless, neurotic escape from being trampled by the march of “progress,” but as our advancing in hope “from glory to glory,” as we strive to arrive at the final vision of the face of our Beloved Bridegroom, Who shall reward every one of us who will have remained faithful to Him.
Christ is Risen!
Concerning the Resurrection
For if there is no resurrection, let us eat and drink: let us pursue a life of pleasure and enjoyment. If there is no resurrection, wherein do we differ from the irrational brutes? If there is no resurrection, let us hold the wild beasts of the field happy who have a life free from sorrow. If there is no resurrection, neither is there any God nor Providence, but all things are driven and borne along of themselves. For observe how we see most righteous men suffering hunger and injustice and receiving no help in the present life, while sinners and unrighteous men abound in riches and every delight. And who in his senses would take this for the work of a righteous judgment or a wise providence? There must be, therefore, there must be, a resurrection. For God is just and is the rewarder of those who submit patiently to Him. Wherefore if it is the soul alone that engages in the contests of virtue, it is also the soul alone that will receive the crown. And if it were the soul alone that revels in pleasures, it would also be the soul alone that would be justly punished. But since the soul does not pursue either virtue or vice separate from the body, both together will obtain that which is their just due.
We shall therefore rise again, our souls being once more united with our bodies, now made incorruptible and having put off corruption, and we shall stand beside the awful judgment-seat of Christ: and the devil and his demons and the man that is his, that is the Antichrist and the impious and the sinful, will be given over to everlasting fire: not material fire like our fire, but such fire as God would know. But those who have done good will shine forth as the sun with the angels into life eternal, with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him and being in His sight and deriving unceasing joy from Him, praising Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit throughout the limitless ages of ages. Amen.
– from TheExact
Exposition of the Orthodox Faithby St. John of
Damascus, Book IV, c. 27.
Going through a pile of CD’s
at home a few years ago, I found a collection of songs sung by Judy
Garland, an American movie actress best known for her role as Dorothy
in The Wizard of Oz, the
one actress more than any other whose onscreen persona typified 20th
century America’s image of “the girl next door.” The
program notes summarized her biography and ended with the words, “She
lived the dream we all want to live.” The curious thing is
that the previous paragraph had ended with relating the circumstances
of Garland’s death at age 47 from a drug overdose, and that the
mini-biography had not omitted tragic details of her personal life
from the time she became an “asset” of MGM as a young
teenager: self-loathing, drug addiction, multiple failed marriages,
and so forth. When one does a little further reading, one also
finds adultery and abortion at an early age. We do not know if Judy
Garland intended to kill herself the night she died – it seems to
have been an unintentional overdose. But she certainly killed
herself, first spiritually and finally physically, by the way she
chose to live. But that’s all right. After all, she “lived
the dream we all want to live.” What more could one want?
the opening premise of this entire section of our course: The goal
of the global elite is to create a new kind of human being, to
“redefine what it means to be human.” Cinema, the
defining art form of the 20th century, literally a “Great
Stereopticon,” has by now so radically reshaped – that is,
deformed – the average person’s idea of normality, of morality, of
humanity, of the very purpose and meaning of life, that one could say
that this goal of redefining humanity has more or less been
accomplished in the minds of the overwhelming majority of people
living in the “developed world.” To most of the people
living around us, what goes on in movies or television shows or
YouTube videos is the really real – it is more real and more
interesting than their own lives, far more compelling than the true
good of the people they claim they love. They may not like or agree
with everything they see on the screen, but they cannot pull
themselves away. It is a Fatal Attraction.
of course, wields far more power than the newspapers or the radio.
It retains the newspaper’s appeal of vulgarity and superficial
thought masquerading as wisdom, and it retains the power of radio,
the power of the spoken voice. It also projects the primordial power
of theater, the Dionysian mystagogy we talked about last time. And,
added to all this, taking the power of all of these things we’ve
already talked about quantum leaps higher to a level never seen
before, cinema overwhelms the mind with stunning, captivating and
enthralling visual images, along with powerful music and sound
effects. It constitutes a rich ensemble of so many different art
forms, combined with so much power and effect, that one can say with
great confidence that never before was there anything like this. And
with few exceptions, the virtually irresistible might of this
impossibly, heartbreakingly attractive thing, this pancratic
psychological super-weapon that enslaves millions of souls over one
weekend without anyone firing a shot – the power of this awesome
thing has always been, and remains, for the most part, under the
domination of men who hate God, hate Christ, hate the Church, hate
us, and want to destroy us – men who serve the Devil as their god.
If we don’t understand this, we don’t understand what the movie
industry is all about.
point, I need to disclose something. Probably like most of you
listening to me right now, I like movies, especially older movies
with absolutely no computer generated graphics, and with good writing
and good acting, and in particular cinematic presentations of
intelligent stage dramas or screenplays based on great literature.
But because I like it so much, because it leaves such a deep
impression on me, I rarely indulge in it, and when I do, it is for
the most part with a very short list of plays or movies that are
fairly innocent, or, if they depict evil, render a genuinely moral
judgment, and that I have watched repeatedly over many years, because
I am really afraid to venture out and watch anything else. It is
precisely because we like it so much, because it leaves such a deep
impression on us, that we must be so careful.
point in saying all this is that I am not standing on some Orthodox
version of an Olympus of hopelessly untouchable perfection, hurling
down thunderbolts and saying, “If you ever
watch a movie, you are
evil, and you are doomed!” That would be hypocritical, and,
worse, it would be a mistake, because it would not motivate you to
take realistic survival steps to deal with this powerful thing, and
survival is what we are all about here. Let’s all recall that
Orthodox spiritual life is about reality. We are supposed to be
cleansing our minds and hearts of delusion and seeing things as they
really are. How much time do we spend cleansing our minds of
delusion, and how much time do we spend luxuriating in delusions?
Yes, we are not consecrated hesychasts, and there is room for art in
life, and great art can lift us above the banality of daily life and
pierce our hearts with the joy of what is universally good, true, and
beautiful. It can lead us to God. But how much theater, cinema,
television, and so forth is really this kind of art? How much prayer
and thought do we really put into discerning which selections of this
mental food truly help us and our loved ones, which of them are at
best a waste of time, and which are spiritually poisonous? Let’s be
do an entire “Survival Course” just about movies. Maybe
we should at some time in future. In this short lecture, I can only
hope to cover a few sub-topics relating to cinema and offer a few
practical suggestions. My approach in this lecture is to examine
cinema in the “good old days” of the heyday of the “Silver
Screen” and not address the problems with the medium that have
developed since then. We might think that the problems with movies
started with the cultural revolution of the 1960’s, when drugs, sex,
and rock n’ roll took over American – and then world – culture, and
that all the movies from the “good old days” are innocent,
but this is not true. To understand any new historical development,
including an art form, one must start at the beginning, and usually
the dominant and permanent characteristics of any enduring historical
reality are present at the beginning and easiest to observe at that
point. We cannot begin to develop our Orthodox lens to understand
cinema by starting with movies produced in this decade of the 21st
century. They are too close to us, and the problems are both extreme
and constantly changing. Our reaction would be just that – a
reaction – to a kaleidoscopic and incomprehensible barrage of
fragmentary impressions flung at us by extremely advanced media
technology. Let’s go back in time to the 1920’s through the 1950’s
and try to understand the underlying nature of cinema in order to
create the understanding we need to deal with it as it exists today.
I am going to talk about cinema from an American point of view, not
only because I am in the United States and most of our audience are
Americans, but also because cinema, like a lot of 20th century
cultural movements, was basically cooked up in the laboratory of 20th
century America and then spewed out to the rest of the world. Movie
culture is the phony culture that replaced historic American culture
and then became the world culture.
This really is the Great Stereopticon
guiding image of the “Great Stereopticon,” that apt
expression borrowed from Richard Weaver, refers to the traveling
“magic lantern” shows of 19th century America, in which a
projectionist could transport simple, rural people to faraway times
and places by the “magic” of colorful images thrown on a
wall accompanied by a captivating story line. The cinema is, of
course, the magic lantern “on steroids.” We are so jaded
today with television, movies, and Internet video – YouTube and so
forth at the touch of a finger on a personal “device” – we
cannot imagine how overwhelmed people were in the 1920’s or 1930’s,
sitting in a large, darkened auditorium and looking at a vast screen
on which impossibly attractive – or impossibly repulsive – people
far larger than life-size engaged in various adventures of violence
and romance, or sang or told jokes. Probably the only way to
understand how they felt is if you went off to a monastery for a
year, a strict monastery that limited communications media to a
telephone and a computer in the abbot’s office, and where all you did
for weeks was pray, worship, do manual labor, read, have simple
conversations, and deal with plants and animals. Then, when the
year was up, you would come back to the “real” (i.e.,
unreal) world and go on a video binge, watching movies and TV shows
on a giant screen all day on the very first day you came back. The
shock would, perhaps, approximate what those people felt back when
movies first came out. You would be overwhelmed; the attraction of
the thing, no matter how much disgust you felt, would feel
irresistible. You would realize, perhaps for the first time, how
powerful it really is, and how its unreality posing as reality can so
rapidly replace the
real things in your mind and soul that you had acquired and treasured
up during your year in the monastery. This is more or less what
movies did to our forbears in the first half of the twentieth
century. A false vision of life replaced the examples of normal
life, much less the examples of a holy life, as their paradigm for
how to think, talk, and behave.
Creating the New Normal
its beginning, the movie industry set out to create a new self-image
for the American people. Today, of course, what is presented as
normal in the movies is often unbelievably bizarre, utterly inhuman,
and overtly demonic, far beyond anything seen in the 1930’s. But
the old movies did enormous damage to the American character from the
beginning, by convincing ordinary people that their received way of
life, based on church, family, ethnicity, and local community, was
uninteresting and contemptible, and that to be “someone”
they must start imitating the kind of character and the kind of
society glorified on the screen. Sometimes the attack on traditional
culture was overt. More often it was disguised: the “good old
ways” are presented in a sentimental, superficial fashion that
seems to praise them but subtly trivializes them, and the hero or
heroine transcends the old life by breaking old ties and embarking on
a new, more exciting way of life. There are numerous themes that we
could explore here, but I’ll address three of them: big city life as
the new normal, the revolution in domestic mores, and the fascination
World War II, most Americans still lived in small towns or farming
communities, and most lived as members of extended families and local
cultures that were, by today’s standards, almost unbelievably
homogeneous in race, language, and religion. Even in the big
cities, immigrant communities lived in tight-knit neighborhoods
conceived on a human scale, centered on family life and, most often,
Roman Catholic parish institutions – church, school, and social
organizations – designed to preserve both religious and ethnic
visitor from “another planet,” as the expression goes,
learned about 1930’s America only from watching movies, however, he
would conclude that the paradigmatic American was a deracinated,
lonely, irreligious, restless, iconoclastic, fast-talking, and
fast-living denizen of New York or Chicago, and that his life
consisted of the pursuit of money, power, and love affairs. He would
deduce that nearly all American women are impossibly beautiful, that
they all dress and comport themselves as prostitutes, and that they
all smoke cigarettes. He would observe that the small town or the
old ethnic neighborhood, and family life, when they are portrayed,
are presented – even when they are depicted lovingly – as a situation
to be escaped from or grown out of, in order to live the cosmopolitan
life of the big city, and to live for oneself or for one’s romantic
that one can excessively idealize small town and rural life – of
course they were never perfect in any nation, including Orthodox
nations, because everyone is sinful. Real life is always beset by
the passions of those who are living that life, and by the demons. We
all know that. But it is also undeniable that God’s plan for the
temporal social order, in order to make man’s eternal purpose more
attainable for ordinary people, is based on the life of the nuclear
and extended families, and of small, local, stable, communities of
people sharing one faith, one language, one ethnicity, and one
culture, who are born, live, and die in the same place, often on the
same piece of land, even in the same house. This is just normal
human life; this is what enables the stability and wholeness of the
psyche that forms the best starting point for the life of the spirit.
(The fact that my simply saying this in 2019 can get me accused –
even, sad to say, by some Orthodox people – of intolerance,
“racism,” and a variety of other ideological
thought-crimes, shows how completely insane our life has become.)
normal human life in the small town or on the farm is lived at a slow
pace, and it does not encourage competition or aggression, and
therefore it creates a patient, gentle character not inclined to
arrogance or boasting, and generally open to the goodness of life.
The cosmopolitan life, on the other hand, lived in an atmosphere of
hurry and aggression, of endless competition, creates a nervous,
unstable “smart aleck” character given to wisecracking
remarks, arrogance, and cynicism. (We can see a comic caricature of
this in the “Three Stooges” characters, for example.) In
general, we can say that the big city life makes for a hardening and
coarsening of character, even in people who intend to be moral and
good. It lowers the tone of life and deflects man from his proper
temporal purposes and, above all, from his eternal destiny.
small town American watching a movie in the 1930’s saw this lower,
coarser kind of life presented as glamorous and desirable. It
created in his mind a “new normal”. And along with the
big city life presented as normal, came, of course, the sexual
revolution. Even when an old fashioned romantic movie ends in a
wedding, usually the hero and heroine have already behaved in ways
that, to be polite, fall short of the standards of the Church.
Also, the emphasis is not at all on marriage as a sacred or social
institution involving duty and self-sacrifice, but on marriage as a
form of romantic love affair with constant sexual overtones. This by
itself, even if actual fornication or adultery are never condoned in
a given story, is a fatal derogation from the traditional paradigm of
marriage regarded primarily as the essential social institution,
involving sacred social and intergenerational moral and legal
obligations, not even to mention a derogation from the higher and
distinctly ascetic demands of the Church’s sacramental marriage.
back to poor Judy Garland: One of her lesser known movies presents a
perfect stereotype for the purely romantic marriage as the cinematic
norm. It’s called The
it would be called a “chick flick,” and to our jaded 21st
century sensibilities it could appear as hopelessly charming and
innocent. It is not innocent, however; it is terrible. It
depicts just about everything I’ve talked about: marriage seen
almost entirely as a romantic adventure, the unnatural speed of city
of life, deracination, a condescending sentimentalization of family
life and religion, and so forth. You can read the plot summary at
the Wikipedia article (yes, I think we can trust Wikipedia this far,
to summarize absurd movie plots) at
what do we see here? Two strangers (in New York, of course) meet
and get married within 48 hours. There is a nod to family life – the
milkman and his wife are a “normal” foil to the main
characters’ fevered instability. There is a nod to “religion”
– the heroine wants to kneel in a church and recite their vows again
to “feel married.” The sentimental churchgoer who wants
to feel good about enjoying the movie can say, “You see, those
good old movies showed people who ‘believe in God’!” But
obviously the movie presents an anarchic and dangerous understanding
of marriage. The protagonists are completely severed from
traditional loyalties and act as isolated individuals, little lost
souls clinging to each other in the impersonal world of cosmopolitan
modernity. They make this incredibly important decision based on
sexual attraction and romantic emotion without any reference to their
parents, to religious or social duty, or the long-term consequences
of their decision. And this entire modern big city fairy tale also
carries the sanction of the “Good War,” for by 1945
Americans have been brainwashed to believe that their country’s part
in World War II was some kind of holy crusade, and, more importantly,
that the social havoc created by the war and the new kind of society
that emerged from it was also “holy,” was a progression to
something higher and better than that Mom and Pop life before the
great social experiment the war somehow justified. Before the war, a
teenage Judy Garland, playing opposite Mickey Rooney in the Andy
Hardy movies, typified the “girl next door” of small town
life and loves. Now Judy – and America – have “grown up”
in that great social engineering experiment known as World War II,
and she is the girl next door no more, but the completely chimerical
and insubstantial glamor girl of the “Greatest Generation”
– someone who is attractive precisely because she is not familiar but
foreign. The small town young woman says, “I want to be like
that!” and the small town young man says, “I want a girl
like that!” This is the generation that gave birth to and
raised the Baby Boomers, my generation – arguably the most selfish
and despicable generation in American history. Our parents, who
were the young people watching The
in 1945 down at the main street movie theater, still believed in
faithful love and marriage, and having children, and going to church,
and being involved in a law-abiding community. But their image of
all these things was profoundly deformed by Hollywood, and this false
image seriously damaged their lives and affected how they reared
creating a false idea of family and marriage, Hollywood also
glamorized criminal behavior. In his The
Crisis of Our Age, Pitirim
Sorokin points to the rise in the genre of crime literature – cops
and robbers tales, detective stories, and so forth – as a mark of a
corrupt, dying culture. Movies took this and ran with it. Even
when the gangster characters played by James Cagney or Edgar G.
Robinson “get what’s coming to them” in the end, they still
seem somehow attractive in their very villainousness, they are more
real, more alive, somehow, than one’s law abiding parents or teachers
or pastor. The criminal subculture plays an inherent role in the
very attractiveness of big city life – its fevered pace, the feeling
of “living on the edge,” the seduction of danger.
go on and on, of course. Perhaps we should continue this subject of
the movies in our next talk. But for now, what about some “survival
tips”? Here is a short list.
Constantly remind yourself that movies are very
if you must watch them, be very careful about what you choose, and be
very critical of what you see. An Orthodox Christian should never
just run down to the video store or go to the theater to watch the
latest offering “just because.”
Don’t immerse yourself in movie or TV culture. It should be an
occasional diversion, not a daily aspect of life.
Dignified cinematic productions based on truly great literature or
classic drama are to be preferred.
Let’s live real lives, and not try to “live the dream”!
are going to continue painting our picture of the “Great
Stereopticon” – the “media machine” that creates the
false reality now believed by “mainstream” society,
enabling the masses of people to be manipulated by the Antichrist
global elite. We have discussed the newspapers and the radio; our
remaining subjects within this sub-topic are the cinema, television,
the Internet, video games, and “virtual reality” devices.
But before we go on to examine these specific media, I would like to
use this class to examine from an Orthodox standpoint the older art
form of which cinema and television are a development, which is
received some helpful responses this past week to our last class, two
of which fill in some gaps in our knowledge about two things we
talked about last week: Plato’s views on speech vs. writing, and Fr.
Justin Popovich’s referring to Oswald Spengler about the future of
Orthodoxy and civilization.
Plato’s views on speech and writing: You will recall that last week
I spoke of Plato mentioning somewhere that speech was somehow more
primordial and more sacred than writing, and that writing was
invented because men had become less intelligent and less
trustworthy. I brought this up in relation to the power of the
radio, as a medium to broadcast the spoken word to vast multitudes of
people, to society at large. Two of our fellow students wrote back
to inform me that the passage I had in mind was in the dialogue
of these respondents wrote me very thoughtfully, at some length, to
point out that Plato did not in fact have Socrates say what I thought
he said – that writing was invented because men had become less
honest and less intelligent – but rather that he simply articulated a
critique of writing as less useful than speech for philosophical
if we agree with this correction, however, my main purpose was not to
be concerned about theories or myths about he origins of writing, but
rather to point to the peculiar power speech has: we instinctively
regard the spoken word as simultaneously more intimate and more
sacred than the written word. If a stranger breaks a written
contract, we have legal grounds against him, and we may be angry, but
it does not damage us in the depths of the soul. If a friend breaks
his word to us, however, we suffer a far deeper wound. I remember
translating a speech of Cicero when I was in high school. It was a
court case in which his client, a farmer, was suing a businessman who
had reneged on an oral contract. Cicero likened his client to the
“men of old” – or “old fashioned men” – who were
both innocent and trustworthy, whose “word was their bond.”
Operating on the level of the spoken word, on the handshake,
indicates a relationship that is both more pure and simpler – more
innocent – than that which depends on written agreements, which are
made necessary by a degeneration of men into being both complicated
and dishonest. This relates also to written political constitutions
and the uncontrolled multiplication of written laws as opposed to
operating on the basis of organic moral and legal traditions. The
philosopher Isocrates says that the multiplication of laws always
accompanies the degeneration of morals. This should be obvious.
power of the spoken word. As I said last week: the radio was so
powerful because the “man behind the microphone” was no
longer a stranger but a guest in your living room, a “friend of
the family.” That was my main point. And today so many people
have their favorite television or radio “talk show host,”
and they take everything he says as a kind of sacred truth, and if
you question him (or her), you are like a “heretic.” This
stranger on the screen or coming over the airwaves is both an
authority and a friend to them; or, rather, has greater authority
because he is perceived as their friend, or at least a friendly
acquaintance, in a way that a writer of an article or essay on the
same topic is not.
Fr. Justin Popovich and Spengler: The same respondent, who in fact
has read Spengler, informed me that nowhere in The
Fall of the West
does Oswald Spengler write that Orthodoxy is the future of Western
civilization, as Fr. Justin Popovich seemed to think. He also
pointed out to me that Orthodox Christians, for the most part, should
not be spending time reading Spengler, and I agree, unless you are a
specialist who has the responsibility, the time, and the training to
go through stuff like this, understand what it is worth, and pull out
what is useful. My respondent, however, did find a 1922 speech of
Spengler’s which he believes is
source for Fr. Justin’s statement. Here Spengler says that
Dostoevsky’s vision for the future of Russia – which, as we know, is
informed by Orthodoxy and “Slavophilism” – will win out
over Tolstoy’s secular, “Western” way of thinking. This
may have led to someone telling Fr. Justin Popovich (who, I would
conjecture, may never have actually read Spengler) something very
general like “Spengler prophesied Orthodoxy as the future of
important thing here, however, is that, in a roundabout way, Spengler
– as non-Christian as he was – had a real moment of insight here.
He understood, from his own neopagan point of view, that the bland,
insipid, bourgeois morality of Tolstoy – Christian morals without
Christ – had no spiritual power, and that his “nice” world
of “progressive Christianity” was passing away, never to
return. Dostoevsky’s Orthodoxy, on the other hand, Spengler could
respect, even if he did not believe in it, for, as a disciple of
Goethe and Nietzsche, he had a pessimistic view of human nature and
understood that only some kind of supernatural or mythic power could
rescue man, through some kind of primordial process of destruction
and rebirth. In other words, while Tolstoy is a dreamer,
Dostoevsky is looking at things the way they are, looking evil in the
face, and pointing out the truth: only God can save us.
Today’s Topic: The Power of Theater
mentioned in our last class, radio, cinema, and television carry with
them the power of a much older art form, the theater. What is
theater? I think that a reflection on this will form a useful
introduction to our discussion of TV, the movies, and the Internet.
As I pointed out in our last class, the art of theater in our civilization, as we all know, has its origins in ancient Greece, and it was conceived of, produced as, and experienced as a sacred ritual. The great annual presentation of various dramas in Athens, at which playwrights vied for the laurels of best drama of that year, was called the Great (or City) Dionysia, for it was a festival in honor of the god Dionysus. This connection to Dionysus is, of course, essential for understanding what drama is. People in the ancient world did not dedicate specific activities to specific gods for no reason: the story of the god – his personality, his adventures, the role he plays in one’s life – reveals the nature of the activity dedicated to the god. In these great, classical art forms, there is always some logos, some reason behind what they are doing – it’s not “random.” So I shall recur to this connection with Dionysus as we go along.
power of theater is not simply that it is “entertainment.”
When people say, “Well that movie or play is ‘just
entertainment,’ [ i.e., a way of distracting oneself and relaxing
from the cares of life],” they are usually quite mistaken. The
power of theater comes from its addressing very deep needs of the
human soul, for transcendence, deliverance from destruction, and
rebirth and immortality.
– As I watch a play, I vicariously transcend my ordinary,
day-to-day life and enter another world, a world of the imagination.
Simply to call this “escape” or “escapism” is
not adequate. Our hearts carry within us the memory of Paradise, of
our prelapsarian state. Because of this, we have a restless,
ineradicable need to go beyond our daily existence to something other
that is more exciting or fulfilling or enriching. Of course,
because of sin, this other is usually either mostly evil or at
best mostly good but mixed with evil, because, apart from grace and
revelation, apart from the life in the Church, when fallen man does
transcend visible, physical reality, he is not entering Paradise or
the realm of the good angels, but that part of the invisible universe
ruled by the demons. This is why the more powerful an art form is,
the more dangerous it is. It could be that in one’s life, great
pagan literature or drama can be part of someone’s way to God, and
that God’s grace shelters the person as he goes through this lower,
demonic pseudo-transcendence on the way to true transcendence, which
is salvation in Christ. But too often people get stuck in the
demonic pseudo-transcendence, and they don’t want to leave that stage
because it gratifies their passions while simultaneously feeling like
from destruction – In the paradigmatic dramatic formula, a hero
with many talents and virtues is nonetheless threatened with
destruction because of his hubris, his pride in opposing Fate
or the will of the gods. Sometimes the play ends with his
destruction, but sometimes a deux ex machina, a god or a
messenger from the gods, miraculously intervenes and he is saved.
As I watch the play, I vicariously experience the hero’s great
adventure of danger and deliverance, I can enjoy the excitement
without actually facing the danger, and I am reassured that my own
mistakes and sins need not destroy me – there is a power from above
that can save me.
and immortality – By vicariously going through the hero’s
destruction and restoration, I have had, at least in my imagination,
what is called a liminal experience – from the Latin limen
or threshold, thus a “threshold experience.” I have to
pass over this threshold of the ultimate, primordial, existential
danger – death to my old life – in order to stay alive. I cannot go
back to my old way of living, cannot return to the womb, so to speak.
I can only go forward. As I imaginatively identify with the hero in
the drama, I take the risk of facing death and destruction, I
courageously cross the threshold with him, and with him I attain
rebirth and a happy immortality.
drama in its essence is an initiatory mystagogy. I am sure that by
now, as you listen to this, you are saying, “It’s like Holy
Week, isn’t it? Our Lord is the ultimate, the only real Hero, He
goes through the threshold of death, and He conquers death and in His
Person gives the human nature He shares with us final deliverance,
rebirth, and immortality. ” That’s right: the pagan drama with
its hero-figure – insofar as it reveals truth free from the twists
and delusions thrown in by the demons – in parallel with the truly
divine – and therefore completely trustworthy and non-demonic,
un-deluded – revelation of the Old Testament – foreshadows the Real
Thing, the Economy of the Incarnate Word, the Great Adventure of the
world-saving exploit of the God-Man, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The
differences are that Our Lord’s drama really happened, He is the real
and true God Who became a Man, He did not need a deus ex machina
but rather raised Himself by His own divine power, and that by
being initiated into His death and resurrection, we receive real
rebirth and immortality, not the imaginary rebirth and immortality of
pagan initiation through dramatic theater or mystery rites like those
at Eleusis and so forth.
let’s get back to Dionysus. Dionysus is the god of viticulture –
the art of making wine – and therefore also of drinking wine. But
he is much more than that. More than any other god of the ancient
Greek religion, Dionysos represents – and, in the perceived
experience of his followers, actually bestows – man’s power to
transcend his mundane existence and attain a heroic, godlike status,
either for good or for evil. Along with Demeter, the goddess of
grain, and her mystery cult at Eleusis, Dionysos is the god that was
closest to the real needs and real aspirations of ordinary people –
their respective cults were the closest thing in the Greco-Roman
world to our experience of Baptism and the Eucharist, to the
sacramental life. Dionysos is the god who dies and rises again –
he is torn to bits by the Titans but gets put back together again and
comes to life, just as the vine in the fall seems to die, and it has
to be pruned, but it comes back to life in the spring. Demeter’s
daughter Persephone has to go down to Hades every fall but returns to
the surface of the earth every spring. She also personifies the
created world’s annual cycle of death and resurrection. And what two
elemental foods are they associated with? Bread and wine – the
offerings of Melchizedek that prefigure the True Offering of the
Our Savior, however, the All-Good God-man Who really did die and
really did come back to life by His own power, Dionysos has a dark
side, and this dark side is not avoided but made explicit in his
mythology and in his rites. Remember that apart from Divine
Revelation, the human mind can only conceive of man’s fate as an
eternal cycle of co-equal light and darkness, a dualism of good and
evil. And, naturally, the demons reinforce this delusion. The
dark side of Dionysos, is, of course, the base passions unleashed by
drunkenness – sex, violence, the whole nine yards. It is
pseudo-transcendence that feels good while you are doing it,
but it always destroys you in the end. The Latin name of Dionysus is
Bacchus, and thus our words “bacchanal” and “bacchanalian,”
denoting disgusting orgies of drunkenness and illicit sexual
behavior. Today we just call this the “party scene,”
lot of pagan and mythic heroes, Dionysus has “familiars,”
little preternatural friends that he hangs out with and that project
his power onto the people around him. Dionysus’s “little
friends” are not nice people. They are the Maenads, wild women
who go into a frenzy and tear men to pieces and eat their flesh. Not
nice! It’s pretty easy to see how all of this can exercise a dark
fascination, a “Fatal Attraction” on unwary souls,
especially those unprotected by grace and by the Church’s teaching.
They are simultaneously telling you, “Hey, you are special, you
are transcending the humdrum daily life of all the ‘losers’
out there, ” and “By the way, you can be a transcendent
superman and enjoy getting high on certain substances and
having a lot of sexual pleasure” with wild women and so forth.
Of course, there’s the price to pay at the end. It’s easy to see how
this relates to our post ’60’s culture of “drugs, sex, and rock
to theater: So ancient Greek theater is a cult of Dionysus. The
great dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides are, of course,
not coarse or disgusting depictions of actual orgies and so forth.
Such activities are considered obscene, in the original sense, things
that are ob-scena – i.e, things that must be shielded from
public view, literally “offstage.” One purpose of this
great art was to sublimate man’s lower needs and integrate them into
a philosophic and pious life of balance and moderation, of humble
submission to the dictates of Fate, so that one does not fall prey to
hubris. But, again, without grace, without Divine Revelation,
without the Church, very few men could ever maintain this balance,
and even when they did, it was not eternally salvific, but a
temporary truce with the passions, which still resided within. And
the vast majority of men will not take this philosophic route,
anyway, but rather they fall prey to the dark side of the Dionysian
mystery. Either way, apart from Christ, man’s condition is slavery
to the power and the delusions of the demons.
So, at most, even the very best drama, the highest examples, say Aeschylus or Shakespeare, promise only a shadow, an intimation, of true salvation and eternal life. They offer only a partial and potentially confusing explanation of universal needs and universal sorrows and joys. But because the need for drama is hardwired into our minds, just by our being human, great drama is naturally attractive to better minds, and low, coarse drama is attractive to bestial minds, which are the majority, especially today. We need to practice great discretion in what examples of theater, as well as fiction writing and so forth, that we expose to Christian minds, and how we interpret them. Old Dionysos and his Maenads are waiting in the wings to grab hold of us. Let’s keep this in mind.
Yesterday I posted this message on our parish website, saint-irene.com
Come, ye faithful, and let us serve the Master eagerly, for He gives riches to His servants. Each of us according to the measure that we have received – let us increase the talent of grace. Let one gain wisdom through good deeds; let another celebrate the Liturgy with beauty; let another share his faith by preaching to the uninstructed; let another give his wealth to the poor. So shall we increase what is entrusted to us, and as faithful stewards of His grace we shall be counted worthy of the Master’s joy. Bestow this joy upon us, Christ our God, in Thy love for mankind. –Matins Hymn for Holy Tuesday
most beloved, much desired, and most holy days of the Christian year
approach, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and each of us must
ask, “What can I do for the Lord?” Our Lord, of course, does not
need our prayers and good deeds, but He requires them of us for
our sake, for our salvation. The beautiful thing is
that each of us is given a “talent” from God, or many
talents, perhaps. We all have the ability to contribute to the life
of the Church through the various actions that express our Faith,
including our presence at Divine Services, our prayers at home,
helping with work around the church, visiting the sick and shut-ins,
helping someone in need, our financial support to our parish,
bringing a new person to Church, and in general re-ordering our
priorities to make our daily lives more Church-centered.
course, we can and should be doing these things all year round. But
Great Lent, and its goal, Great and Holy Week, are a special time to
make the greatest effort to show
our loyalty to Christ, Who was loyal to us even unto death on the
it is this loyalty that
gains us entry to Paradise. We must hold fast until the very end of
our lives on earth, and, despite our many failings and limitations,
never turn away from Christ. As society goes farther and farther
away from Christ and from Orthodoxy, this will naturally grow harder,
but God will give abundant grace to
those who remain steadfast. For those who have faith and
place their hope in God, their inner joy actually grows and abounds
precisely when their outward life grows more difficult.
kind of joy is the paradoxical paschal joy,the bright
sorrow which in this life was the spiritual state of the martyrs,
confessors, and strugglers for the Faith, whose amazing lives fill
the pages of our Synaxarion, the Prologue, and the service books.
They were not made of a different flesh and blood than ours, but they
made the good decision to remain
steadfast and loyal to Christ even in the midst of the greatest
difficulties, sorrows, and sufferings, and ultimately it was
this which made them inheritors of His Kingdom.
the remainder of this Great and Holy Fast of 2019 and the Great Holy
Week of Christ’s Passion, be a productive training period for us in
the practice of this loyalty, and may the Day of the Resurrection be
a foretaste of our eternal joy.
A blessed Resurrection!
Living for the True God
All-Holy Trinity we pious Orthodox Christians glorify and worship. He
is the true God, and all other so-called gods are demons. And it is
not we alone that believe, glorify, and worship the Holy Trinity, but
angels, archangels, and all the heavenly hosts, as numerous as the
stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea
unceasingly praise in hymns and worship and glorify this All-Holy
Trinity. Again, out of love for the Holy Trinity men and women as
numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of
the sea spilt their blood, and as many renounced the world and went
to the deserts and led a life of spiritual endeavor, and still as
many lived in the world with self-mastery and chastity, fasting,
prayer, almsgiving, and other practices; and all went to Paradise and
does Christ tell us to do? To think of our sins, of death, of Hell,
of Paradise, of our soul, which is more precious than the whole
world, to eat and drink as much as is sufficient for us, similarly to
have clothes that suffice, while the rest of our time we should spend
for our soul, to render it a bride of Christ. Then we should be
called men, and angels on earth. If, however, we concern ourselves
with eating and drinking and sinning…we should not be called men
but beasts. Therefore make your body a servant of the soul; then you
may be called men.
shall will continue to talk about the current, ongoing Luciferian
project of the global elite, to “redefine” humanity, or,
rather, to “create” a “new kind of human being”
through various means, a deformed human being – a “zombie”
– they can manipulate and control. We are now on the sub-topic of
the communications media; in our last class, we discussed the
newspapers, and today we shall speak about the radio.
Survival Reality Check – Remember last week’s little to-do list (end
of notes for Class 34)? How did you do? Let’s review them:
Limit your media. For example, turn all media devices off by 8 PM
and read books until it’s time for your night prayers. That’s
right: read books. They still exist! Get the family together and
read to each other. Try it; you will like it.
not engage in constant chatter or arguments about the latest
manufactured controversy dramatized in the media. We must develop a
way of looking at life sub specie aeternitatis, from the
viewpoint of eternity. The Orthodox mind sees everything in
perspective, from the viewpoint of the entirety of history and with
the purpose of history in mind, which is an eternal purpose. We
always remember that the sovereign God is in charge, that He loves
us, and that He is working out His purpose in history. This makes us
serene and confident, so that we can take meaningful, conscious
action and not just react to stimuli like Pavlov’s dogs. Remember
that all of these daily “news dramas” are phony; they are
the shadow puppet show that keeps you in the cave. Reality is much
real time with the real people around you and do the limited real
good you can do for them. The person next to you is so much more
important than a politician or a movie star or a pro athlete or a TV
commentator! Shut off the devices and talk. Get to know your
neighbors. For that matter, get to know your family! Spend as
much time in the real world as possible.
great quote sent by a listener: I have been gratified recently by
the response to my recent appeal to listeners to contribute to our
effort, not only by their financial help, but also by their comments
and contributions to our course content. In this regard: A long
distance parishioner of mine just this week sent me this quote from
Fr. Justin Popovich, which he saw on Facebook, in which Fr. Justin’s
words dovetail perfectly with the Orthodox interpretation of the last
thousand years of Western Christian history that we have been
presenting in our course: “The melancholic Slav prophets alone
foretold the fall of Europe (the West) before the First World War.
After the war, even some Europeans (Westerners) began to be aware of
this. The boldest and most frank of them was, undoubtedly,
Spengler, who alarmed the world after the First World War with his
book, Untergang des Abdenlandes (The
Fall of the West). He shows, by
all the means provided by European (Western) science, philosophy,
politics, technology, art, and religion, that the West is falling to
its destruction. It has, since the First World War, been in its
death rattle. Western, or Faustian, culture, according to Spengler,
began int he 10th century after Christ and is now decaying and
falling apart, and will disappear completely by the end of the 22nd
century. European (Western) culture concludes Spengler, will be
succeeded by the culture of Dostoevsky, of Orthodoxy.” That’s
all we have: I don’t know from which talk or article of Fr. Justin
this is taken from, and I don’t know where to find this opinion in
Spengler’s work, about Orthodox culture replacing Western European
culture. If anyone can help me locate this quote in Fr. Justin
Popovich’s work, and locate where Spengler says this in Fall
of the West, I would appreciate it.
But it is fascinating that Spengler would have had this opinion,
which concurs, quite independently, with Sorokin’s model, which
predicts that the current Sensate culture will end and be replaced by
an Ideational culture, which, if it is to be Christian, could only be
an Orthodox culture.
addendum to Class 34 – A followup to our discussion about the
newspaper. This week I was re-reading an article from the September
2018 issue of Chronicles
magazine, entitled “The Battle for America’s Mind” by Pedro
L. Gonzalez. His opening paragraph contains a fascinating insight:
the rise of the daily newspaper in 1831, French poet and politician
Alphonse de Lamartine declared journalism would emerge as “the
whole of human thought,” but that thought itself “will not
have time to ripen into the form of a book.” The book,
Lamartine proclaimed, “will arrive too late.”
de Lamartine, writing precisely at the time when the newspaper was
becoming the dominant medium for public discourse, is articulating
three insights that dovetail perfectly with what we have been saying
now in 2019:
“whole of human thought” is now contained in journalism,
which is the communications medium of politics. Remember the insight
about political thought (Age of Revolution) replacing philosophical
thought (Renaissance/Enlightenment) which replaced theological
thought (Age of Faith). In the Age of Revolution, all thought is
dominated by the political, and therefore the book is replaced by the
newspaper, which is the medium of daily change, turmoil, incomplete
information, careless opinions, and constant conflict.
“whole of human thought” bounded – limited – now by
politics and journalism is inherently incapable of maturation and
synthesis into a coherent whole, which is what he meant by saying
that it cannot “ripen into the form of a book.” It is a
constant stream of “rough drafts” that don’t come together
or get completed, but rather keep starting all over again in more and
more, and more various ways. It is a centrifugal, fragmenting
movement incapable of synthesis or maturity.
“…the book will arrive too late…” In other words, this
Revolutionary form of human discourse will prevent a new synthesis, a
new basis for human culture, being arrived at in time to prevent
civilizational catastrophe. This was borne out in the 20th century.
enough of the newspaper for now. Let us go on to another component
of the “Great Stereopticon,” the radio.
The Great Stereopticon, Session 2 – The Magical Voice of the Radio
is hard for us to imagine how astounding hearing someone’s voice over
the radio for the first time must have been to our recent ancestors
(my grandparents’ generation, most of whom were born in the 1890’s
and attained adulthood in the WWI era). The telephone was amazing
enough – the idea that once could transmit sound through wires. But
to transmit sound for thousands of miles through
the air. It really
partakes of the quality of magic. It bespeaks an awesome power and
commands authority in a way that even the mightiest newspaper cannot.
It is a “quantum leap” up in the ability of those who
“own the microphone” to dominate public opinion.
“golden age” of radio was a short period – the 1920’s
through the 1940’s – and gave way to the reign of television, which
we could date roughly from 1950 to 2000. From the beginning, a very
small group of people “owned the microphone.” The
financial and industrial elite who controlled the economy and
politics also controlled the media. There were few radio networks –
some of whose names are still familiar today, such as NBC and CBS –
they all told pretty much the same story about current events, and
they formed a uniform mindset among their listeners. So the power
of radio ratcheted up the power of the elite to control opinion, and
this in turn prepared the masses of people for being influenced by
the even greater power of television. Let’s look at some aspects of
Power of Speech – Somewhere Plato says that writing was a step down
in man’s intellectual and moral development – that the most ancient
men were both more intelligent and more honest than those who came
later, and that writing was a crutch they invented later, when they
were neither as smart or as virtuous as their ancestors. (If
someone could locate that in the Dialogues, I would appreciate it).
We sense this instinctively: If you can trust someone’s spoken
promise and don’t need a written contract, it’s because you think
more highly of his morality. If someone knows the Bible and can
recite it by heart in addition to being able to read it and write it,
you think of him as someone who is functioning at a higher level, who
owns the words that he is passing on to you. If I just tell
you something and expect you to believe me, that indicates a
closer bond, a higher level of trust. So speech is both more
personal and more sacred than writing. And being personal, there is
less distance. You can put a letter or an article away in a drawer
and think about it, or forget about it. If someone is “in your
face,” so to speak, you are more compelled to respond one way or
the other. Any stranger can send a letter to your mailbox, but only
a friend or relative or neighbor – someone you trust – is allowed to
come onto your front porch or into your living room to sit down and
talk to you.
I am, an ordinary person living in America, say, in the 1930’s, and
suddenly Franklin Roosevelt – this famous, great man, admired by
millions – is actually on my front porch or in my living room, by way
of his wonderful voice, both wonderful because the man really is a
great speaker, and because of the medium itself, which is simply
magical. If I were just reading his speech printed in the
newspaper, I could analyze it, think about, look at it from different
angles, agree or disagree, maybe just ignore it. But here he is,
the Great Man, and he has come to my home, to visit me! We have
suddenly become, if not friends, then at least good enough
acquaintances so that he is allowed to sit down with me and my
family, in my home, and give me his opinion. (By the way, FDR did
always begin his famous Fireside Chats with “My friends…”).
Any guest no matter how humble, commands deference. And this guest
is such an important person…I am very honored by his visit. How
can I not be impressed by his words?
the one hand, this radio technology creates a kind of “retro,”
traditional feel, the human touch – We can just “talk to each
other” rather than have to use the more formal medium of
writing. This creates trust and personal warmth. The problem is
that the trust and warmth are illusory, for there is not real
friendship here; both because it’s a one-way street, and because the
man behind the microphone only seems to be talking directly to
me. He actually does not know me, and his goal is to persuade
millions of people who actually don’t know him at all. The medium
of writing, as Plato notes, was invented for a reason, that
the later men were less trustworthy than the ancient men. But what
if later, untrustworthy men – and very powerful ones – jumped over
that defense mechanism of written communication and came at you
directly, commanding the reverence due the spoken word?
then, greatly increased the power of the few to control the opinions
of the many.
Advertising – If you have been watching the YouTube series on Edward
Bernays (“Century of the Self”) which I mentioned in Class
33, you have been learning about the creation and growth of
commercial advertising using 20th century technology. Of course,
radio was a great “leap forward” over printed advertising,
for some of the same reasons I have mentioned above in relation to
politics. The man with a friendly, trusting voice comes magically
over the airwaves into your home and says to buy this kind of laundry
soap, and if you do, your wife will be happy, and your children will
have cleaner clothes, and when you come home she will give you a big
kiss and have your favorite dinner ready for you, and your home will
be a better place, and so forth and so on. Why wouldn’t you trust
the friendly man? And, of course, all the learning that went into
developing radio advertising – script writing, acting, sound effects,
and so forth – will later be applied to advertising using the even
more powerful medium of television.
not forget: What we learn from studying Bernays is that, from the
outset, the longterm purpose of advertising is not merely to sell
soap – that is a short term goal. The longterm goal is to create
masses of human beings who will respond to massively broadcast
stimuli and then behave uniformly in a way desired by the people in
power. The longterm goal is what is today called “full
spectrum dominance” through social engineering. Advertising,
which manipulates the subject by arousing desire or envy or fear –
the lower passions – is a key element in this program.
course, print technology – newspapers, handbills, mailers,
billboards, and so forth – also served, and still serve – as
advertising technology. But the radio was a tremendous leap
Radio as Theater – Radio, along with the cinema and television,
carries with it the power of theater in a way completely unavailable
to printed media. Think about it – what is more powerful, more
compelling – to read the text of a play or to see it performed?
Radio does not have the visual aspect, of course, but a great reader
or actor or orator exerts tremendous power just using the voice. I
am going to speak more about theater when we cover the topic of the
cinema, but briefly now let’s recall that theater in our culture has
its historical roots in the religion of the pagan Greeks. It is a
religious activity: the actor steps out of his ordinary identity and
takes on a transcendent vocation as a messenger from the gods
teaching a moral lesson, examining a theme of universal significance,
going through an existential crisis, either overcoming or being
destroyed by some life or death problem that all men have in common.
The resolution of the crisis presented, whether tragic or comic –
i.e., whether there is a sad or a happy ending – takes on a canonical
character, demands acceptance, becomes, as it were, a moral
imperative. If are part of the audience, which is really a sacred
congregation of initiates, and you reject the meaning of the play,
you become a heretic, an outlaw from the moral community bound by its
going through the initiatory experience of the drama just presented.
theater is an initiatory ritual and we human beings are
“hard-wired” for it. It’s in our cultural “DNA.”
One way of looking at how radio – and even more powerfully, cinema
and TV – affects people is that it draws them into some kind of
drama, some kind of ritual experience of crisis, and then resolves
their crisis, giving them a new life. It could be something absurdly
trivial, like my wife’s laundry detergent making my white T-shirts
gray, and the divine/magical hero – Mr. Soap Man on the radio – being
the deus ex machina who solves our problem and enables us to
live happily ever after. Or it could be a real-life, vast drama on a
vast scale – the Japanese might be coming to bomb California
tomorrow, and I must trust the divine figure of FDR to save me.
Once I go through the crisis, “die” so to speak to my old
life, and am “resurrected” by the resolution of my
existential problem, I am a new person, bound to my “savior”
– Mr. Soap Man or FDR or whoever. It would be heresy and apostasy to
doubt them, to leave their fold.
theater in our later classes…Also music, which forms a large part
of the power of radio as well as TV and cinema. (Today we just
touched on the spoken word).
This Week’s Survival Tips
how can we apply some of the things we’ve talked about today to our
survival as Orthodox Christians. Here is a short list:
Remind ourselves of the sacredness of speech, of the power of the
tongue to do good or evil. Re-read chapter three of the Epistle of
St. James. Now think about how carelessly we listen to vast streams
of chatter from the radio, Internet, TV, etc., and how much we
imitate the emptiness and coarseness of this chatter in our own
communications. Let us repent and turn to quietness, and when we
speak, to employ speech that is elevated, thoughtful, and unhurried.
Remember that Our Lord said that we will answer for every careless
we do our daily Scripture reading, make it a practice always to read
aloud. Reading Holy Scripture and other sacred reading aloud, as
well as reading aloud the better and more refined kinds of secular
literature, will train us in higher and better patterns of speech and
thought, will help cure our misuse of the spoken word.
3. Turn off the radio during our driving time. Play sacred music or a good book. Or just pray. Don’t get sucked into the vortex of radio talk shows.
HELP OUR WORK: KEEP FR. STEVEN FREE TO DO IT.
There are three ways you can help:
Send a direct gift via PayPal to my account at email@example.com
If you want to receive a receipt at the end of the year for your taxes, send a check to St. Irene of Chrysovalantou Church, 745 Barclay Circle, Suite 355, Rochester Hills, MI 48307 USA, and earmark it “for Fr. Steven.”
Buy my new book, The Eternal Sacrifice at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen. It is available both as a paperback and an ebook. If you have already purchased a copy, buy a few for gifts for your Orthodox friends or those interested in Orthodoxy. And pass the word on through your own social media. Those of you who know a pastor or church bookstore manager – give them a gift copy and encourage them to stock it! Just write me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how.