From Artisan to Artist-Art in the Modern Culture - RR261C6
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There are very obvious and great differences between the art of the middle ages and the art in the enlightenment. The art of the middle ages was very obviously God centered, and its purpose was to further the worship of God, and the contemplation of God. The art of the enlightenment had as its function the exaltation of man and was man centered to the core.
In spite of this there were some startling similarities. A common theme in medieval art for example was the ascension, or the trinity reigning in heaven. This theme reappears in enlightenment art but is now transferred to man. We have pictures of the Apotheosis of Venus, of various queens and monarchs, now exalted to the place of God and Christ, or paintings for example of Louis the 14th in which the echoes of Jupiter as well as medieval depictions of God are very clearly echoed. Man appears in art beginning with the enlightenment, earlier with the renaissance, but very clearly in the enlightenment, as the new God; proudly, confidently, ruling on earth. Certain of all things, feeling totally untroubled and totally the master.
Now as we come to the present, we find that modern art has drastically changed. The last paragraph of Kenneth Clarks new study The Romantic Rebellion, Romantic Versus Classic Art has this to say and I quote: “Painters and sculptors will continue to do work that can be called romantic, but they will not draw on those motifs that had originated in the earlier 19th century, and change so little in almost a hundred years. To use the body as a means of expressing the anguish of the human soul is no longer a possible enterprise. We do not know how to represent the body, and do not believe in the existence of the soul. As for the imagery of fear which occupied the earlier chapters of this book, it has become part of our ordinary life, accessible to millions every day on their television screens. Bad money drives out good, and our present diffusion of horror makes the gape of hell a common place part of our daily life” [00:03:23]
What has happened is that as modern man as a result...
What has happened is that as modern man as a result of modern philosophy has destroyed meaning in the outer world, denied God, denied the possibility of any kind of essence established in his life apart from his own will, his broken meaning in the world and in himself. As a result, no serious artist of any stature in our world today is painting portraits and nudes as was commonplace a century ago. For the truly serious artist who is part of the modern move it is impossible to portray meaning, significance in either a portrait or even a nude. Man has rendered himself meaningless, so that as Clark says so tellingly: “He finds no meaning in the body and he does not believe in the existence of the soul.” As a result he paints just meaningless marks, figurations of color, the cover of this book gives an example of modern art. Now the title of the book is itself very meaningful, very significant. Katherine Kuh is the author, Breakup, the Core of Modern Art. She has this to say in the very first paragraph: “The art of our century has been characterized by shattered surfaces, broken color, segmented compositions, dissolving forms and shredded images. Curiously insistent is this consistent emphasis on breakup. However, disillusion does not necessarily mean lack of discipline, it can also mean a new kind if discipline, for disintegration is often followed by reconstruction. The artist deliberately smashing his material only to reassemble it in new and unexpected relationships. Moreover the process of breaking up is quite different from the process of breaking down, and during the last hundred years every aspect of art has been broken up; color, light, pigment, form line, content, space, surface, and design. [00:06:16]
Of course Katherine Kuh is right...
Of course Katherine Kuh is right. Break up does not necessarily mean break down. But we are entitled to ask why isn’t it a break down as well as a break up? The human body is no longer portrayed because it is meaningless, the mind or soul without significance, no meaning anywhere, and when you have a break up, when you tear down something or make an excavation such as exists out here it is to construct and you have a plan of construction. But here is a break up without any plan. When you begin a journey you know your destination, but it is this destination that is now gone.
40-50 years ago, the artists who were the radical, the Avant garde of their day knew what they were trying to accomplish, they had a destination. But it is precisely that destination that is disappearing, so that while indeed art has to a great extent been a break up, now it is a break down.
It has no direction, because it has no concept of meaning.
Now my title this morning is: From Artisan to Artist; Art in the Modern Culture. We fail to realize that the word artist is a new word. It belongs to the modern era. The middle ages had no artists. They had artisans. What we call the medieval artist was simply a business man who was a skilled artisan with paints or stone or some other form. He did not regard himself as an artisan in the modern sense; he didn’t wait on inspiration. He worked as a business man, he sold his goods, he kept his accounts, he bargained, he made a bid on a job, and then he delivered the work. This idea of course is unknown to modern man by and large, with a single exception. [00:09:19]
One musician in the modern era has systematically,...
One musician in the modern era has systematically, or did systematically in that he died not too long ago, refuse to regard himself as an artist, but as an artisan. Does anyone have any idea who that man was? A musician. Igor Stravinsky. Igor Stravinsky regarded himself as a Christian artisan, a craftsman, he denied that he worked on inspiration, he ridiculed the idea, he said: ‘I keep hours like a businessman. I go to my desk and I work from 8 until 12, and then I have an hour off for lunch, and then I am back at my desk, to work until quitting time.” He prided himself on that.
I had the opportunity of talking a few years ago with a woman who worked for him. And she said: “Yes, the Maestro works at his desk like a businessman. He is very, very strict about that.” Now this of course is a very unusual concept, and very much at conflict with the modern trends. A very able violinist and conductor Henri Temianka, felt it necessary in the course of an interview on our classic music station in Southern California to launch into a lengthy critique of Stravinsky’s idea. But Stravinsky in his idea if not always in his music, was definitely medieval. He self consciously was working as a Russian Orthodox Christian producing music.
The shift from the idea of an artisan to an artist represents a major shift in society and culture. In the older concept of the artisan which was possible in a Christian culture, the basic fact of society was that inspiration then was an attribute of God and His word, the Bible. Man’s thinking had to follow God’s thinking. Man could not presume to be inspired; he was simply thinking God’s thoughts after him. He therefore could be a skilled artisan, but he was not an artist, an inspired figure coming forth with all kinds of inspired works. With the rise of humanism however, inspiration was progressively transferred to independent man.
The first hints of this of course were very definitely present in the renaissance. The culmination of this was in the romantic movement. When all ties of the past were severed, classicism which was humanistic art which still respected the past and respected the idea of discipline was overthrown. The artist was to work on pure inspiration. And as the generations passed from the birth of romantic art to the present, less and less was the artist bound by the discipline and the idea of the past, it became necessary for him to cut ties progressively with the past, to show that his inspiration was not conditioned by anything from the world outside of himself.
As a result the artist also as he moved away from the idea of an artisan became less and less and a businessman, more and more a religious figure, a humanistic seer. [00:14:03]
We can see in the history of literature what has happened...
We can see in the history of literature what has happened for example with poetry. Consider for example the great figure in English poetry, two great figures, of the 17th century. At the very beginning. Shakespeare, and then Milton. Shakespeare very much a man in the older tradition, while a renaissance figure to a great degree still and artisan, what was he doing? He was cranking out plays to meet the demands of the stage. It was a business with him. And he was all sorts of things, eh was the producer, he was the playwright, he was the actor, he was the bookkeeper, he was a businessman whose business was cranking out plays for the theater. John Milton similarly was in no way similar to our modern idea of a poet. He was a thinker, he was a man active in politics, he played an important role in the commonwealth era, and in his poetry he was expressing a philosophy whereby he was trying to make understandable the events of his time in terms of a faith, to justify the ways of God and men.
Now, while in a sense both of these men were, to a degree modern figures, they are still essentially medieval in their view of their work. But progressively the modern world, especially with the Renaissance, the artist presented himself as the new prophet. The romantics in particular began to include in their writings statements, affirmations of their inspired status. So that they were in effect echoing and reproducing in a totally different concept the claims of the writers of scripture. For example in Revelation 1:1 Saint John begins: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto him to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass. And he sent and signified it by His angel unto his servant John.” Supernatural inspiration.
Shelley for example began his poem, a long poem Mask of Anarchy a very significant title in terms of his philosophy, as well as the romantic movement. He began it thus:
“As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.”
Inspiration. Natural inspiration ala the Marquis De Sade. This is not supernatural inspiration, it is natural and progressively it becomes existentialist inspiration. Man out of his own being, hears the voice of existence, and fittingly the title is the Mask of Anarchy. [00:18:11]
Natural inspiration therefore in Shelley, in Pete’s...
Natural inspiration therefore in Shelley, in Pete’s, in Wordsworth, in the Marquis De Sade, in Artist after artist became an extremely important and basic doctrine. The artist saw himself as the voice of natural inspiration. This of necessity meant that he had to declare war on the middle class.
Why? The middle class particularly in Western Europe in the Protestant countries, to a lesser degree but still nonetheless in the Catholic countries, represented religion and capitalism. And against this he had to wage unceasing, unrelenting war. Because this represented two ideas of law, God’s supernatural law, and then an economic law operative in the market place. Both concepts were to the artist intolerable. Intolerable, and therefore he had to wage war against the middle class where these two spheres were concentrated. This is why of course today perhaps there are no two more unpopular kinds of disciplines for the modern mentality than theology and economics. They are very much despised and hated. They represent the epitome of what the modern man dislikes.
This law order of the middle class had to be warred against, and the result was the birth of Bohemianism, and Bohemianism became mandatory for man. There are a number of excellent books written on Bohemianism, I recommend them to you. They are written in most cases by liberals, but in spite of that they are very revealing Bohemianism began very early with the birth of romanticism, and it is very interesting how the Bohemians had to live in Garrets, the garret had a particular appeal you see. It meant you were an outsider. The Bohemian had to court all kinds of unhealthy conditions, he could not be like those prosperous, healthy, fat, middle class people. And as a result, you hardly were respectable as an artist if you weren’t flirting with or didn’t have in those days in the early years of the romantic era, consumption, or what we call tuberculosis. [00:21:31]
Remember the Opera ...
Remember the Opera La Boheme? How important a scene in that consumption is? The romantic disease was very popular, it became so popular that young middle class girls were getting it, courting it, they had to have it, you were hardly modern if you didn’t have it.
One historian has touched on the fact that there are fashions even in diseases, in sicknesses. And at that time the fashionable thing to have, which indicated you were right in step with modern culture was consumption. In more recent times, ulcers have been a hallmark of achievement. Incidentally the Negro’s now are beginning to develop as they are moving into an integrated world a high ulcer rate, and this is regarded as a mark of integration.
Bohemianism became mandatory for the artist, which meant that it would be important for him to be alienated. Now the only way sometime you can be alienated from your community, from your church, from your family, is to be as objectionable as you can be towards them. So that you can feel persecuted, they are going to have a limit to their toleration.
I recall some years ago a very brilliant young artist whom I knew quite well who as he decided to become an artist, he had very real abilities here, he would have been quite outstanding in terms of the modern mood and all had he not died prematurely. And so he declared he was going to be an artist. Well, this did not set well with his parents but his mother was very loving and indulgent, and very, very devoted to this handsome, brilliant, and commanding young man. “So fine, son, we are going to do everything to help you, if that’s your decision it is our decision. We may not agree with you but we are going to do everything to help you along. Now what do you want?”
Now this was the worst possible thing she could have said, and no matter what she and her husband tried to do for that young man it only infuriated him to new bursts of outrage, to new denunciations of his parents. Why? He wanted to be the outsider. He wanted to be alienated. He still wanted the money, but he wanted it with battle. He wanted to be the outsider. This was necessary to Bohemianism. [00:24:54]
As a result, the more they did the worse his behavior...
As a result, the more they did the worse his behavior towards them. And of course this is a familiar theme in all of Bohemian history. Right down through the Beatniks and the Hippies. It was ironic in one instance in the 60’s, I don’t know what happened to the girl since; she came from a very wealthy family, from this part of the country, so objectionable in her behavior, that the parents finally could not tolerate her avant garde hippy behavior, so they gave her a few thousand dollars a month on the condition that she go to the other end of the country where neither they nor their friends or relatives could see her. And so she was in Los Angeles on the sunset strip, and she lived in the most unspeakable conditions in a dump of a house with a whole crowd of young men who were living off of her, and every month when she received that fat check, which was substantially more than I would suspect, almost every one of us in this room have as a monthly income, she would launch into wild tirades against her parents. It was degrading for her to have to live off of them, and there was something corrupt and degenerate about a society that required a person to live like that. However she never did return a check.
Now, as a part of this Bohemianism, order, the family, religion, everything that is established, the middle class world, has to be despised. And of course, friendliness has to be despised. And this has become of course a more emphatic thing in our time; in the last century it was not uncommon for some of the Bohemian artist when they were invited into a salon by some wealthy person who wanted to be their patron, to appear with deliberately dirty clothes, to show their contempt for material things. In the hippy movement this was carried to its logical conclusion.
I have been accumulating a fair amount of literature on this from the underground press, and I ask friends there as they run across this sort of thing to pass it on to me. This is perhaps a little sordid, but earlier this year it reached the point in the drop out hippy community there, that they became intolerable to themselves and to one another. And so they in the underground press issued instruction for their communal living, and put it in cartoon form so they would get the point and they had all kinds of testimonials in the next issue, and what was the essence of it? Two things; that they should use toilet paper, and second, they should take a bath once in while, it would not mean a surrender to the world of the Bourgeois if they did so. [00:28:42]
Now that seems incredible, but you see, to declare...
Now that seems incredible, but you see, to declare their independence of the world of the middle class they had actually gone that far, and these are youth from middle class homes where once they showered nightly, or sometimes twice a day. This is from their own testimonials as they write about their salvation from the middle class. Discipline was dropped progressively in the arts in favor of spontaneity. Totally mindless art is the result, mindless inspiration, back in the 30’s, I believe it was Archibald Macleish who declared: “A poem should not mean, it should be.” And (Mcanner Para?) issued a volume of anti poems. They are meaningless poems, they are just a collection of words and of images. What is the point in them? Well as you read those poems and those images, they may evoke a purely personal meaning for you. They may remind you of something that happened on the night of January the 13th 1971, and if it does that then the poem has spoken to you. And this is the same point of the picture that you may look at and say: “But it has no meaning. What is the artist trying to say?” And his answer will be: “I’m not trying to say anything, I am expressing something. Now, if you are with it, it will express something to you, a purely private meaning. And every time you come to it it will give you a new but purely private meaning.”
This is natural inspiration. Form is despised, there is a contempt for craft. Natural inspiration is all so there is no restraint. In reality, technical aspects of painting which were developed over long centuries through the medieval period to the present, these technical aspects are now in some cases virtually lost, or lost, because of the total contempt for the craft of the artisan by the artist. There has of course been a revolt against reason which some will actually call medieval, in favor of feelings, as the new source of power. The old blind humanism which prevailed until the birth of romanticism therefore is in radical disfavor. The old blind humanism was still influenced by the old world of Christian thought, by reason, by the idea of order. And therefore it was rationalistic art. And of course indeed it was, and it was a failure for that reason. [00:32:29]
One of the artists who represented the old humanistic...
One of the artists who represented the old humanistic tradition in the last century, and is today singled out as the bad artist of the 19th century was William Bouguereau. Bouguereau 1825 to 1905. In one textbook on art, or one history of art, Bouguereau will be singled out as a particularly bad artist. Not for lack of technical skill, Bouguereau was very very competent as an artist. But because of his conception of art. Now there is one painting by Bouguereau, I wish I could have brought some of my art books to illustrate some of the points I’m making, I felt I had to give a little attention to this painting of Bouguereaus, because of its symbolic nature. All I could do was to take it out of a large volume and Xerox it, so it’s rather an inadequate presentation. However I shall pass it around, so that as I speak about it you will have an opportunity to see what I am talking about. Not all of it is clear in this Xeroxed copy, but what it shows is this: A satire, dark saturnine of expression, surrounded by four nudes, four nymphs. In the background you cannot see it in this Xeroxed copy, are a number of other nude nymphs.
Bouguereau saw these nude nymphs as a portrayal of innocence, the new man, the humanity of humanism. Innocent, carefree, unfettered by anything, an innocent, humanistic, rationalistic man, dragging the dark forces of the satire out into the open where he feels helpless, the light is something he cannot take. And so he is unwillingly being dragged out, but he is being dragged out and he is perishing in the light. The symbolic content of the picture you see is a very obvious one. The powerlessness of force, of evil, of the subterranean factors of the world against reason and innocence. But, Bouguereau humanism was out of date, it represented the old blind humanism, and post Darwinian humanism in particular, but humanism after Hegel and Sade no longer looked to the mind in the old fashioned sense, increasingly the subterranean forces were the basic ones in man. Pure existence, this is the mind of man. This is the reason of man. Reason has become unreason, irrationality. And so now humanism idolizes the forces of unreason, so that if we were to have a realistic painter in the tradition of Bouguereau, what they would show instead would be the triumph of the satyr over the nymphs. Because this is precisely the modern theme. The victory of unreason, of pure blind force, shear existence over the older concept of rationality. [00:36:57]
Let’s approach this from a slightly different angle...
Let’s approach this from a slightly different angle, to have a picture of what has happened in art. In Freud’s thinking there are three aspects of man, the Id, the Ego, and the super Ego. Now in a sense we can say this doctrine of man that Freud has, has very real connections with historic Christian views of the psychology of man. That the Id represents the will, the Ego the mind, and the super Ego, the conscience. And this is the way Freud to a great extent saw it.
However Freud also said: “The Id is the pleasure principle. The Ego is the reality principle, whereas the Super Ego is the communicate in its influence on man.” So the super Ego represents the training that the individual has received from the church, from the school, from the community, which for him means that the conscience is a purely human product. The Super Ego is the most superficial part, this he says can easily be wiped out.
Now art once was concerned with the world of the super ego, and the ego the mind and the conscience. It was concerned with depicting ideas that the community, the church, the family regarded as important. It belonged largely in the area of the super Ego, and to a degree the Ego. But the pleasure principle, now, is the only thing that counts. Now in Freud the pleasure principle is made up, the Id, of three factors. It is the will to commit incest with mother and sisters, to kill the father, patricide, and to eat the father, cannibalism. This is the pure will to live, whereas the reality principle which says ‘No you cannot do these things.” Is the will to death. [00:39:50]
In modern art, these Freudian principles are very important...
In modern art, these Freudian principles are very important. So art now looks to the Id for inspiration, not to the Super Ego. It recognizes that it is no longer geared to the reality principle, it is at war with the reality principle. It is a part of the will to death, and hence its exaltation of destruction, of break up, of suicide.
The emphasis on pure feeling, on will, has led also to primitivism, and so in modern art there is the emphatic emphasis on things that are primitive, the glorification of African Art, of American Indian Art, of anything and everything that is primitive, and then going back of that to represent the raw primitivism of the Id.
To give you an example of this, one of the really great romantics, a superb painter a century ago was Eugene Delacroix, a man who represented the old aristocracy to a degree, was of a very fine family almost certainly the illegitimate son of Talleyrand, representing the best of the culture of the day, and yet in his journal for May 1 1850, he records and I quote: “It is evident that nature cares very little whether man has a mind or not. The real man is the savage, he is in accord with nature as she is. As soon as man sharpens his intelligence, increases his ideas and the way of expressing them and acquires needs, nature runs counter to him in everything. He has to do violence to her continually.”
Well now, this was the faith of Delacroix, a civilized man representing the highest in culture, education, civilization. The real man is the savage, everything in the way of training, of discipline, runs counter to nature, and nature cares very little whether man has a mind or not. And so mindlessness, violence, anti reason in all its aspects had to be glorified in art. There was thus a new goal for the artist, to become a savage, a primitive. [00:43:27]
At the beginning of this century Guillaume Apollinaire...
At the beginning of this century Guillaume Apollinaire declared and I quote: “Artists are above all men who want to become inhuman.” Now that was his credo. And this is the credo of modern art. Now let me quote another such statement from Homer Saint-Gaudens. This is why I prefer the old Liberty double Eagle both aesthetically and for ideological reasons, because the twenty dollar Gold piece that Saint-Gaudens designed is distasteful to me both aesthetically and because of Saint-Gaudens. Saint-Gaudens declared: “What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art.” Reason, sanity, had to be abandoned.
As a result art has been ready to play the game of revolution right along, but, and I don’t have time to go into this, the artists have been less revolutionary than escapist. They want to retreat totally from the world, to destroy it, not to create a new world socialist order. So that while they have often been ready to play the game for reasons of personal promotion, of being ostensibly Marxist or anarchist, they have not, they have not been at heart revolutionary. They have been escapist anarchist. This is why revolutionary regimes having a sharper awareness of what art is saying than most people do, have been anti modern art. They are afraid of its totally destructive character. So that, while Picasso and others have played the Neo Marxist game, the Marxist’s in the Soviet Union have wanted no part of that kind of art in their country. The know what it leads to.
Natural inspiration seeks a perpetually new word, and therefore it continually changes. In the past few years, one year we had pop art, the next year pop art was passé, and we had Op art, and every year there has to be a new word. War against the old, whether it is the old art form, parents, professors, religion, the past, everything. Because not even that which they create yesterday can be a law for them today. What was a purely existentialist meaning for them yesterday is void today. They must in principle deny it.
Now to give you an example of this existentialist mood, the rejection of all order, I’d like to show you something that comes from not too far from here, from Triton college in nearby Illinoi. Kaleidoscope Comics, Special Student Issue. Put out with the approval of the administration, sent to me by a disgusted faculty member who is on my mailing list a very very brilliant man, the point of this is to promote a new type of program in the school of totally undisciplined, unprogrammed community studies whatever that may mean. Now the cover is very interesting because it show s four faculty members with academic garb, torturing a student who is chained to a book and the book is Webster’s. Even the dictionary, you see, must be regarded as an enemy, because it imposes a discipline of grammar, a discipline of meaning of words. And if you are at war with meaning, then you are at war with WEbsters also, and it must be regarded as a torture chamber, a new inquisition, for a faculty to require this sort of thing. [00:48:31]
Now when you see this kind of thinking on the student...
Now when you see this kind of thinking on the student level you begin to realize what has happened in our world. Our time is drawing near to conclusion, so I am trying to be very brief as I survey the field. I’d like to cite a remark in a letter to Ebert (Doitkink?) in February of 1849 by Herman Melville who wrote Moby Dick. He said and I quote: “If another messiah ever comes, it will be in Shakespeare’s person.” The new messiah will be the artist, the writer, who gives the new natural inspiration, who frees from man into total existentialism. And Melville’s purpose was according to (Beird?) in his study, and I quote: “To make new symbols to replace the lost symbols of Christianity.”
And so Melville in his writings is trying to give us new symbols to replace the cross. Symbols that are existentialist, symbols that are essentially subterranean, so you have the rise as we do in our generation of occultism, of witchcraft and magic, because the subterranean symbols are drawn out of man’s imagination, it is the only real world for him. And thus one of the very superior poets in this modern tradition of the artist as the new source of inspiration declared in one of the most important poems of this century, William Butler Yates, his poem The Second Coming, and in this poem he speaks of the beast out of Revelation, slouching towards a new Bethlehem, waiting to be born. This was his vision of the future, he liked it. What he saw was thus the second coming not as the second coming of Christ but the second coming in total triumph of the beast. Total unreason, total primitivism. Total destruction.
This is the conclusion of natural inspiration. The rough beast, waiting to be born. As a last footnote, let me add, a very good friend who is a Catholic thinker John Wisner, started to issue a little publication in Washington D.C. dealing with the issues of our day, and he took his title from Yates poem, entitled the publication Rough Beast, in order to document what was happening. But he had to change his title, people did not understand what was happening, and the title repelled them. The Rough Beast Is waiting to be born, and men refuse to see that it is there all around us in our modern culture and its devotees. Are there any questions? [00:52:52]
[Audience Member] I was wondering if you would comment on T.S. Eliot, after his conversion clearly his art became Christian, but his criticism still seems to me to tend to move in a very technical, 20th century sense, and doesn’t seem to move in terms of a Christian world view. Could you comment briefly on that?
[Rushdoony] Yes, that’s a very good question, I’m not sure I have the full answer to that or any answer perhaps, Eliot very definitely saw the direction the modern world was taking, and he gave a very vivid account on it in his early poems, The Wasteland, Nothing but Ruin, and in his poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, what is it, how does it conclude.. “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.”
[Audience Member] The Hollow Men
[Rushdoony] What? Yes, I guess it was. And so on, in his various poems he gave the most telling depiction in the early twenties of the direction of modern culture. Then suddenly he broke with it all and became an Anglo Catholic, joined the Church of England, and began to produce his ideas towards a Christian culture and so on. Now in a sense, my feeling is that Eliot’s position was not as clearly grounded theologically, he never was what we would call anything like an orthodox Christian. As a result he saw the need for the order that the faith provided, but in his thinking he still remained to a very great degree a modern man, and in some of his critical essay’s this is very apparent, in his translations of St. John Perses poetry which he so highly evaluated, you can see that he still tied to the world of the wasteland. It’s still the world he knows best. Now he did write some very fine Christian verse, and his Choruses from the Rock are really magnificent. He has a line that in one of the choruses, I hate to try to repeat it because my memory is not sharp on it, but it’s: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church and of the future, and if the martyrs must be slain on the doors of the churches, then we must first build the steps on the doors.” [00:56:26]
I don’t agree with him, but I think he is sometimes...
I don’t agree with him, but I think he is sometimes very beautiful, very moving. I expect that we are going to command the future.
[Audience Member] Also, could you really comment on Rouault?
[Rushdoony] I’d say something very similar is true of Rouault. There was no real sense of victory or joy or freedom in him. He was like a despairing man clinging to the relics of faith rather than to the substance of it. This is true of several figures in the modern world. There is none of the sense of victory that is inescapably a part of the Christian faith. Yes?
[Audience Member] I used to (?) Existentialism…?...
[Rushdoony] Yes, but every time you had the rise of the occult it’s been the end of an age. When the occult rose in Rome it was only a question of time before it collapsed. When the medieval (?) the occult again came to the fore, and you had its collapse in the renaissance. Again we have the rise of the occult, now. It’s a mark of the end in every civilization where it has appeared as it has today, because it is suicidal. This is perhaps by the way but I think it’s important to understand, I’ve dealt with this in some other writings which are now works in progress not yet ready for the printer, but one of the key facts in the world is power, man needs power. Now man can get power from above, from God, but in the modern world this is ruled out by definition. By definition there is no possible thing above, man is at the high point. I’ll be touching on this tomorrow. So that man began to look for power from man, but he didn’t get very far, that began to falter. So there was only one direction to look for power which has happened again and again in civilization, power from below. And that becomes the destruction of man, it becomes the destruction of his culture, because when he looks to power from below he is looking to total unreason, to total mindlessness.
Consider the devil in modern thinking, the devil in The Exorcist and a great many other things, it’s not the Christian doctrine of the devil, because the Christian doctrine of the devil is the one who is the ape of God, the one who is trying to imitate God and create a kingdom of man, to use Augustine’s terms, or a city of man as against the city of God. But, the devil of The Exorcist and all your modern occultist literature is pure mindlessness, total perversity, total destructiveness, far more fearful than the devil of Christian theology. [01:00:50]
[Audience Member] But this model works not only with...
[Audience Member] But this model works not only with power, it works with some of the other concepts, we can put it with joy, we can put it with some other things.
[Rushdoony] Right, yes, very good; you have to find joy from below, you cannot find it in things which are good, so by definition, and there is a very fine study of this by Denis de Rougemont, a brilliant French Scholar, who has pointed out how as a result of the influence of Manichaeism during the medieval period, it began to appear in medieval literature, so that you could not possibly enjoy sexual relation with your wife or with your husband, sex to be enjoyable had to be from below. It had to be adultery, and then adultery was tame, it had to be something progressively more and more perverse, because joy can only come from below.
[Audience Member] How do you appraise the ecumenical movement from the churches?
[Rushdoony] How do I appraise the ecumenical movement in the church. Now the ecumenical movement is nothing new, the councils of the early church were ecumenical councils, they were designed to bring the Christians together, and they sometimes separated the Christians. But, a basic premise of the ecumenical councils was truth. Unity in truth. So that, each of the ecumenical councils formulated basic doctrine, the council of Chalcedon after which our little foundation is named, defined very sharply the doctrine of the nature of Christ, very God of very God, very man of very man; without confusion, but in perfect unity, as against the idea that the state could be the divine human order, and it undercut the idea of the divine state, that is why we chose the name Chalcedon, because the savior is not the state.
Now, the modern ecumenical movement totally rejects the idea of unity in truth, and says: “Truth is in unity.” Let’s all get together, that will be the truth. Well, as a result it is totally at odds with everything in Christian history and faith. It is at war with everything that ecumenicity has historically meant. Now that idea od ecumenicity you find on all sides today, protestant, Catholic, Orthodox.
I think our time is more than up. [01:04:00]