Friday, December 11, 2015

Steel Rule of St. Benedict

{Content warning: This post is ridiculously long.}

Today, let's mash up the Benedict Option (BenOpt) Dark Ages and the neoreactionary (NRx) Dark Enlightenment (DE).  Not that I'm a fan of the DE: I'm not at all a "theonomist" in my traditionalism, but this NRx admission rings true to me: When theonomists scrutinize ethno-nationalists and techno-commercialists they see evil heathens. That's about it. But let's compare notes anyway, and see what spoils we can cart away from Egypt, for as St. Augustine advises, "whatever has been rightly said by the heathen," even the evil heathen, "we must appropriate to our uses": 

For, as the Egyptians had not only the idols and heavy burdens which the people of Israel hated and fled from, but also vessels and ornaments of gold and silver, and garments, which the same people when going out of Egypt appropriated to themselves, designing them for a better use, not doing this on their own authority, but by the command of God, the Egyptians themselves, in their ignorance, providing them with things which they themselves were not making a good use of; in the same way all branches of heathen learning have not only false and superstitious fancies and heavy burdens of unnecessary toil, which every one of us, when going out under the leadership of Christ from the fellowship of the heathen, ought to abhor and avoid; but they contain also liberal instruction which is better adapted to the use of the truth, and some most excellent precepts of morality; and some truths in regard even to the worship of the One God are found among them. Now these are, so to speak, their gold and silver, which they did not create themselves, but dug out of the mines of God's providence which are everywhere scattered abroad, and are perversely and unlawfully prostituting to the worship of devils. These, therefore, the Christian, when he separates himself in spirit from the miserable fellowship of these men, ought to take away from them, and to devote to their proper use in preaching the gospel. Their garments, also,--that is, human institutions such as are adapted to that intercourse with men which is indispensable in this life,--we must take and turn to a Christian use.
De Doctrina Christiana, II, xl.

So, first, where are we Catholic trads coming from as we slog through our culture's descent into a decadent dark age?  Well, here's the BenOp urtext:
It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead often not recognizing fully what they were doing—was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St Benedict.
Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue

So, our hopes are not in the Empire anymore. And neither are those of NRx blogfather Mencius Moldbug. Instead of political participation of any kind, Moldbug advocates a Steel Rule of Passivism as demanding in its limited way as the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability demanded by the Rule of St. Benedict. NRxer Warg Franklin introduces Moldbug's turning away into Passivism in the context of Moldbug's tripartite Procedure for accepting (not seizing, accepting) power:
In his Gentle Introduction, Part 9a, Mencius Moldbug introduces a neat little political methodology he calls "Passivism", and a Procedure to replace the current political machinery, which rots evilly in the Potomac swamp and stinks up this entire half of the world, with some shining and efficient New Structure fit for the 21st century....
The core of The Procedure is a three step general purpose program for solving problems of inadequate or rogue political machinery:
  1. Become Worthy
  2. Accept Power
  3. Rule
It sounds facetious. It's not. Let's unpack.

Yes. Let's.

Step One, "Become Worthy", means that you prepare yourself and organize your friends so that if some higher power, for example an earthquake or political crisis, dissolved the current system and put you in charge, you could pick up the pieces and govern justly and effectively. That is, becoming worthy means building contingency in case the current structure fails and you have to provide your own government services, or to fill in the existing gaps in its service. Ideally, "worthy" means "obviously 10x more competent than the current structure". You should probably have a solid governance plan, a well constructed and efficient organization, high-quality people, a more trustworthy source of information, more reliable and useful community infrastructure, demonstrated success, etc.
This is the core of my comparison here.  I propose that as the Roman Empire slowly collapsed, it was the Christian Church that "became worthy" in just this way.  Distributist man of letters Hilaire Belloc describes what I mean in a an entire chapter of one of his books, which I am going to quote almost in its entirety, both because it is out of copyright (Praise God!) and because it is important, darn it:

Europe and the Faith, Chapter II:


So far I have attempted to answer the question, "What Was the Roman Empire?" We have seen that it was an institution of such and such a character, but to this we had to add that it was an institution affected from its origin, and at last permeated by, another institution. This other institution had (and has) for its name "The Catholic Church."

My next task must, therefore, be an attempt to answer the question, "What was the Church in the Roman Empire?" for that I have not yet touched.

In order to answer this question we shall do well to put ourselves in the place of a man living in a particular period, from whose standpoint the nature of the connection between the Church and the Empire can best be observed. And that standpoint in time is the generation which lived through the close of the second century and on into the latter half of the third century: say from A.D. 190 to A.D. 270. It is the first moment in which we can perceive the Church as a developed organism now apparent to all.

If we take an earlier date we find ourselves in a world where the growing Church was still but slightly known and by most people unheard of. We can get no earlier view of it as part of the society around it. It is from about this time also that many documents survive. I shall show that the appearance of the Church at this time, from one hundred and fifty to two hundred and forty years after the Crucifixion, is ample evidence of her original constitution.

A man born shortly after the reign of Marcus Aurelius, living through the violent civil wars that succeeded the peace of the Antonines, surviving to witness the Decian persecution of the Church and in extreme old age to perceive the promise, though not the establishment, of an untrammelled Catholicism (it had yet to pass through the last and most terrible of the persecutions), would have been able to answer our question well. He would have lived at the turn of the tide: a witness to the emergence, apparent to all Society, of the Catholic Church.

Let us suppose him the head of a Senatorial family in some great provincial town such as Lyons. He would then find himself one of a comparatively small class of very wealthy men to whom was confined the municipal government of the city. Beneath him he would be accustomed to a large class of citizens, free men but not senatorial; beneath these again his society reposed upon a very large body of slaves....

Let us imagine such a man going through the streets of Lyons of a morning to attend a meeting of the Curia. He would salute, and be saluted, as he passed, by many men of the various classes I have described. Some, though slaves, he would greet familiarly; others, though nominally free and belonging to his own following or to that of some friend, he would regard with less attention. He would be accompanied, it may be presumed, by a small retinue, some of whom might be freed men of his own, some slaves, some of the tenant class, some in legal theory quite independent of him, and yet by the economic necessities of the moment practically his dependents.

As he passes through the streets he notes the temples dedicated to a variety of services. No creed dominated the city; even the local gods were now but a confused memory; a religious ritual of the official type was to greet him upon his entry to the Assembly, but in the public life of the city no fixed philosophy, no general faith, appeared.

Among the many buildings so dedicated, two perhaps would have struck his attention: the one the great and showy synagogue where the local Jews met upon their Sabbath, the other a small Christian Church. The first of these he would look on as one looks today upon the mark of an alien colony in some great modern city. He knew it to be the symbol of a small, reserved, unsympathetic but wealthy race scattered throughout the Empire. The Empire had had trouble with it in the past, but that trouble was long forgotten; the little colonies of Jews had become negotiators, highly separate from their fellow citizens, already unpopular, but nothing more.

With the Christian Church it would be otherwise. He would know as an administrator (we will suppose him a pagan) that this Church was endowed; that it was possessed of property more or less legally guaranteed. It had a very definite position of its own among the congregations and corporations of the city, peculiar, and yet well secured. He would further know as an administrator (and this would more concern him—for the possession of property by so important a body would seem natural enough), that to this building and the corporation of which it was a symbol were attached an appreciable number of his fellow citizens; a small minority, of course, in any town of such a date (the first generation of the third century), but a minority most appreciable and most worthy of his concern from three very definite characteristics. In the first place it was certainly growing; in the second place it was certainly, even after so many generations of growth, a phenomenon perpetually novel; in the third place (and this was the capital point) it represented a true political organism—the only subsidiary organism which had risen within the general body of the Empire.

If the reader will retain no other one of the points I am making in this description, let him retain this point: it is, from the historical point of view, the explanation of all that was to follow. The Catholic Church in Lyons would have been for that Senator a distinct organism; with its own officers, its own peculiar spirit, its own type of vitality, which, if he were a wise man, he would know was certain to endure and to grow, and which even if he were but a superficial and unintelligent spectator, he would recognize as unique.

Like a sort of little State the Catholic Church included all classes and kinds of men, and like the Empire itself, within which it was growing, it regarded all classes of its own members as subject to it within its own sphere. The senator, the tenant, the freed man, the slave, the soldier, in so far as they were members of this corporation, were equally bound to certain observances. Did they neglect these observances, the corporation would expel them or subject them to penalties of its own. He knew that though misunderstandings and fables existed with regard to this body, there was no social class in which its members had not propagated a knowledge of its customs. He knew (and it would disturb him to know) that its organization, though in no way admitted by law, and purely what we should call "voluntary," was strict and very formidable.

Here in Lyons as elsewhere, it was under a monarchical head called by the Greek name of Episcopos. Greek was a language which the cultured knew and used throughout the western or Latin part of the Empire to which he belonged; the title would not, therefore, seem to him alien any more than would be the Greek title of Presbyter—the name of the official priests acting under this monarchical head of the organization—or than would the Greek title Diaconos, which title was attached to an order, just below the priests, which was comprised of the inferior officials of the clerical body.

He knew that this particular cult, like the innumerable others that were represented by the various sacred buildings of the city, had its mysteries, its solemn ritual, and so forth, in which these, the officials of its body, might alone engage, and which the mass of the local "Christians"—for such was their popular name—attended as a congregation. But he would further know that this scheme of worship differed wholly from any other of the many observances round it by a certain fixity of definition. The Catholic Church was not an opinion, nor a fashion, nor a philosophy; it was not a theory nor a habit; it was a clearly delineated body corporate based on numerous exact doctrines, extremely jealous of its unity and of its precise definitions, and filled, as was no other body of men at that time, with passionate conviction.

By this I do not mean that the Senator so walking to his official duties could not have recalled from among his own friends more than one who was attached to the Christian body in a negligent sort of way, perhaps by the influence of his wife, perhaps by a tradition inherited from his father: he would guess, and justly guess, that this rapidly growing body counted very many members who were indifferent and some, perhaps, who were ignorant of its full doctrine. But the body as a whole, in its general spirit, and especially in the disciplined organization of its hierarchy, did differ from everything round it in this double character of precision and conviction. There was no certitude left and no definite spirit or mental aim, no "dogma" (as we should say today) taken for granted in the Lyons of his time, save among the Christians.

The pagan masses were attached, without definite religion, to a number of customs. In social morals they were guided by certain institutions, at the foundation of which were the Roman ideas of property in men, land and goods; patriotism, the bond of smaller societies, had long ago merged in the conception of a universal empire. This Christian Church alone represented a complete theory of life, to which men were attached, as they had hundreds of years before been attached to their local city, with its local gods and intense corporate local life.

Without any doubt the presence of that Church and of what it stood for would have concerned our Senator. It was no longer negligible nor a thing to be only occasionally observed. It was a permanent force and, what is more, a State within the State.

If he were like most of his kind in that generation the Catholic Church would have affected him as an irritant; its existence interfered with the general routine of public affairs. If he were, as a small minority even of the rich already were, in sympathy with it though not of it, it would still have concerned him. It was the only exceptional organism of his uniform time: and it was growing.

This Senator goes into the Curia. He deals with the business of the day. It includes complaints upon certain assessments of the Imperial taxes. He consults the lists and sees there (it was the fundamental conception of the whole of that society) men drawn up in grades of importance exactly corresponding to the amount of freehold land which each possessed. He has to vote, perhaps, upon some question of local repairs, the making of some new street, or the establishment of some monument. Probably he hears of some local quarrel provoked (he is told) by the small, segregated Christian body, and he follows the police report upon it.

He leaves the Curia for his own business and hears at home the accounts of his many farms, what deaths of slaves there have been, what has been the result of the harvest, what purchases of slaves or goods have been made, what difficulty there has been in recruiting among his tenantry for the army, and so forth. Such a man was concerned one way or another with perhaps a dozen large farming centres or villages, and had some thousands of human beings dependent upon him. In this domestic business he hardly comes across the Church at all. It was still in the towns. It was not yet rooted in the countryside.

There might possibly, even at that distance from the frontiers, be rumors of some little incursion or other of barbarians; perhaps a few hundred fighting men, come from the outer Germanies, had taken refuge with a Roman garrison after suffering defeat at the hands of neighboring barbarians; or perhaps they were attempting to live by pillage in the neighborhood of the garrison and the soldiers had been called out against them. He might have, from the hands of a friend in that garrison, a letter brought to him officially by the imperial post, which was organized along all the great highways, telling him what had been done to the marauders or the suppliants; how, too, some had, after capture, been allotted land to till under conditions nearly servile, others, perhaps, forcibly recruited for the army. The news would never for a moment have suggested to him any coming danger to the society in which he lived.

He would have passed from such affairs to recreations probably literary, and there would have been an end of his day.

In such a day what we note as most exceptional is the aspect of the small Catholic body in a then pagan city, and we should remember, if we are to understand history, that by this time it was already the phenomenon which contemporaries were also beginning to note most carefully.

That is a fair presentment of the manner in which a number of local affairs (including the Catholic Church in his city) would have struck such a man at such a time.

If we use our knowledge to consider the Empire as a whole, we must observe certain other things in the landscape, touching the Church and the society around it, which a local view cannot give us. In the first place there had been in that society from time to time acute spasmodic friction breaking out between the Imperial power and this separate voluntary organism, the Catholic Church. The Church's partial secrecy, its high vitality, its claim to independent administration, were the superficial causes of this. Speaking as Catholics, we know that the ultimate causes were more profound. The conflict was a conflict between Jesus Christ with His great foundation on the one hand, and what Jesus Christ Himself had called "the world." But it is unhistorical to think of a "Pagan" world opposed to a "Christian" world at that time. The very conception of "a Pagan world" requires some external manifest Christian civilization against which to contrast it. There was none such, of course, for Rome in the first generation of the third century. The Church had around her a society in which education was very widely spread, intellectual curiosity very lively, a society largely skeptical, but interested to discover the right conduct of human life, and tasting now this opinion, now that, to see if it could discover a final solution.

It was a society of such individual freedom that it is difficult to speak of its "luxury" or its "cruelty." A cruel man could be cruel in it without suffering the punishment which centuries of Christian training would render natural to our ideas. But a merciful man could be, and would be, merciful and would preach mercy, and would be generally applauded. It was a society in which there were many ascetics—whole schools of thought contemptuous of sensual pleasure—but a society distinguished from the Christian particularly in this, that at bottom it believed man to be sufficient to himself and all belief to be mere opinions.

Here was the great antithesis between the Church and her surroundings. It is an antithesis which has been revived today. Today, outside the Catholic Church, there is no distinction between opinion and faith nor any idea that man is other than sufficient to himself.

The Church did not, and does not, believe man to be sufficient to himself, nor naturally in possession of those keys which would open the doors to full knowledge or full social content. It proposed (and proposes) its doctrines to be held not as opinions but as a body of faith.

It differed from—or was more solid than—all around it in this: that it proposed statement instead of hypothesis, affirmed concrete historical facts instead of suggesting myths, and treated its ritual of "mysteries" as realities instead of symbols.

A word as to the constitution of the Church. All men with an historical training know that the Church of the years 200-250 was what I have described it, an organized society under bishops, and, what is more, it is evident that there was a central primacy at Rome as well as local primacies in various other great cities. But what is not so generally emphasized is the way in which Christian society appears to have looked at itself at that time.

The conception which the Catholic Church had of itself in the early third century can, perhaps, best be approached by pointing out that if we use the word "Christianity" we are unhistorical. "Christianity" is a term in the mouth and upon the pen of the post-Reformation writer; it connotes an opinion or a theory; a point of view; an idea. The Christians of the time of which I speak had no such conception. Upon the contrary, they were attached to its very antithesis. They were attached to the conception of a thing: of an organized body instituted for a definite end, disciplined in a definite way, and remarkable for the possession of definite and concrete doctrine. One can talk, in speaking of the first three centuries, of stoic-ism, or epicurean-ism, or neoplaton-ism; but one cannot talk of "Christian-ism" or "Christ-ism." Indeed, no one has been so ignorant or unhistorical as to attempt those phrases. But the current phrase "Christianity," used by moderns as identical with the Christian body in the third century, is intellectually the equivalent of "Christianism" or "Christism;" and, I repeat, it connotes a grossly unhistorical idea; it connotes something historically false; something that never existed.

Let me give an example of what I mean:

Four men will be sitting as guests of a fifth in a private house in Carthage in the year 225. They are all men of culture; all possessed of the two languages, Greek and Latin, well-read and interested in the problems and half-solutions of their skeptical time. One will profess himself Materialist, and will find another to agree with him; there is no personal God, certain moral duties must be recognized by men for such and such utilitarian reasons, and so forth. He finds support.

The host is not of that opinion; he has been profoundly influenced by certain "mysteries" into which he has been "initiated:" That is, symbolical plays showing the fate of the soul and performed in high seclusion before members of a society sworn to secrecy. He has come to feel a spiritual life as the natural life round him. He has curiously followed, and often paid at high expense, the services of necromancers; he believes that in an "initiation" which he experienced in his youth, and during the secret and most vivid drama or "mystery" in which he then took part, he actually came in contact with the spiritual world. Such men were not uncommon. The declining society of the time was already turning to influences of that type.

The host's conviction, his awed and reticent attitude towards such things, impress his guests. One of the guests, however, a simple, solid kind of man, not drawn to such vagaries, says that he has been reading with great interest the literature of the Christians. He is in admiration of the traditional figure of the Founder of their Church. He quotes certain phrases, especially from the four orthodox Gospels. They move him to eloquence, and their poignancy and illuminative power have an effect upon his friends. He ends by saying: "For my part, I have come to make it a sort of rule to act as this Man Christ would have had me act. He seems to me to have led the most perfect life I ever read of, and the practical maxims which are attached to His Name seem to me a sufficient guide to life. That," he will conclude simply, "is the groove into which I have fallen, and I do not think I shall ever leave it."

Let us call the man who has so spoken, Ferreolus. Would Ferreolus have been a Christian? Would the officials of the Roman Empire have called him a Christian? Would he have been in danger of unpopularity where Christians were unpopular? Would Christians have received him among themselves as part of their strict and still somewhat secret society? Would he have counted with any single man of the whole Empire as one of the Christian body?

The answer is most emphatically No.

No Christian in the first three centuries would have held such a man as coming within his view. No imperial officer in the most violent crisis of one of those spasmodic persecutions which the Church had to undergo would have troubled him with a single question. No Christian congregation would have regarded him as in any way connected with their body. Opinion of that sort, "Christism," had no relation to the Church. How far it existed we cannot tell, for it was unimportant. In so far as it existed it would have been on all fours with any one of the vague opinions which floated about the cultured Roman world.

Now it is evident that the term "Christianity" used as a point of view, a mere mental attitude, would include such a man, and it is equally evident that we have only to imagine him to see that he had nothing to do with the Christian religion of that day. For the Christian religion (then as now) was a thing, not a theory. It was expressed in what I have called an organism, and that organism was the Catholic Church.

The reader may here object: "But surely there was heresy after heresy and thousands of men were at any moment claiming the name of Christian whom the orthodox Church rejected. Nay, some suffered martyrdom rather than relinquish the name."

True; but the very existence of such sects should be enough to prove the point at issue.

These sects arose precisely because within the Catholic Church (1) exact doctrine, (2) unbroken tradition, and (3) absolute unity, were, all three, regarded as the necessary marks of the institution. The heresies arose one after another, from the action of men who were prepared to define yet more punctiliously what the truth might be, and to claim with yet more particular insistence the possession of living tradition and the right to be regarded as the centre of unity. No heresy pretended that the truth was vague and indefinite. The whole gist and meaning of a heresy was that it, the heresy, or he, the heresiarch, was prepared to make doctrine yet more sharp, and to assert his own definition.

What you find in these foundational times is not the Catholic Church asserting and defining a thing and then, some time after, the heresiarch denying this definition; no heresy comes within a hundred miles of such a procedure. What happens in the early Church is that some doctrine not yet fully defined is laid down by such and such a man, that his final settlement clashes with the opinion of others, that after debate and counsel, and also authoritative statement on the part of the bishops, this man's solution is rejected and an orthodox solution is defined. From that moment the heresiarch, if he will not fall into line with defined opinion, ceases to be in communion; and his rejection, no less than his own original insistence upon his doctrine, are in themselves proofs that both he and his judges postulate unity and definition as the two necessary marks of Catholic truth.

No early heretic or no early orthodox authority dreams of saying to his opponent: "You may be right! Let us agree to differ. Let us each form his part of 'Christian society' and look at things from his own point of view." The moment a question is raised it must of its nature, the early Church being what it was, be defined one way or the other.

Well, then, what was this body of doctrine held by common tradition and present everywhere in the first years of the third century?

Let me briefly set down what we know, as a matter of historical and documentary evidence, the Church of this period to have held. What we know is a very different matter from what we can guess. We may amplify it from our conceptions of the probable according to our knowledge of that society—as, for instance, when we say that there was probably a bishop at Marseilles before the middle of the second century. Or we may amplify it by guesswork, and suppose, in the absence of evidence, some just possible but exceedingly improbable thing: as, that an important canonical Gospel has been lost. There is an infinite range for guesswork, both orthodox and heretical. But the plain and known facts which repose upon historical and documentary evidence, and which have no corresponding documentary evidence against them, are both few and certain.

Let us take such a writer as Tertullian and set down what was certainly true of his time.

Tertullian was a man of about forty in the year 200. The Church then taught as an unbroken tradition that a Man who had been put to death about 170 years before in Palestine—only 130 years before Tertullian's birth—had risen again on the third day. This Man was a known and real person with whom numbers had conversed. In Tertullian's childhood men still lived who had met eye witnesses of the thing asserted.

This Man (the Church said) was also the supreme Creator God. There you have an apparent contradiction in terms, at any rate a mystery, fruitful in opportunities for theory, and as a fact destined to lead to three centuries of more and more particular definition.

This Man, Who also was God Himself, had, through chosen companions called Apostles, founded a strict and disciplined society called the Church. The doctrines the Church taught professed to be His doctrines. They included the immortality of the human soul, its redemption, its alternative of salvation and damnation.

Initiation into the Church was by way of baptism with water in the name of The Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Before His death this Man Who was also God had instituted a certain rite and Mystery called the Eucharist. He took bread and wine and changed them into His Body and Blood. He ordered this rite to be continued. The central act of worship of the Christian Church was therefore a consecration of bread and wine by priests in the presence of the initiated and baptized Christian body of the locality. The bread and wine so consecrated were certainly called (universally) the Body of the Lord.

The faithful also certainly communicated, that is, eat the Bread and drank the Wine thus changed in the Mystery.

It was the central rite of the Church thus to take the Body of the Lord.

There was certainly at the head of each Christian community a bishop: regarded as directly the successor of the Apostles, the chief agent of the ritual and the guardian of doctrine.

The whole increasing body of local communities kept in touch through their bishops, held one doctrine and practiced what was substantially one ritual.

All that is plain history.

The numerical proportion of the Church in the city of Carthage, where Tertullian wrote, was certainly large enough for its general suppression to be impossible. One might argue from one of his phrases that it was a tenth of the population. Equally certainly did the unity of the Christian Church and its bishops teach the institution of the Eucharist, the Resurrection, the authority of the Apostles, and their power of tradition through the bishops. A very large number of converts were to be noted and (to go back to Tertullian) the majority of his time, by his testimony, were recruited by conversion, and were not born Christians.

Such is known to have been, in a very brief outline, the manner of the Catholic Church in these early years of the third century. Such was the undisputed manner of the Church, as a Christian or an inquiring pagan would have been acquainted with it in the years 160-200 and onwards.

I have purposely chosen this moment, because it is the moment in which Christian evidence first emerges upon any considerable scale. Many of the points I have set down are, of course, demonstrably anterior to the third century. I mean by "demonstrably" anterior, proved in earlier documentary testimony. That ritual and doctrine firmly fixed are long anterior to the time in which you find them rooted is obvious to common sense. But there are documents as well.

Thus, we have Justin Martyr. He was no less than sixty years older than Tertullian. He was as near to the Crucifixion as my generation is to the Reform Bill—and he gave us a full description of the Mass.
We have the letters of St. Ignatius. He was a much older man than St. Justin—perhaps forty or fifty years older. He stood to the generations contemporary with Our Lord as I stand to the generation of Gladstone, Bismarck, and, early as he is, he testifies fully to the organization of the Church with its Bishops, the Eucharistic Doctrine, and the Primacy in it of the Roman See.

The literature remaining to us from the early first century and a half after the Crucifixion is very scanty. The writings of what are called "Apostolic" times—that is, documents proceeding immediately from men who could remember the time of Our Lord, form not only in their quantity (and that is sufficiently remarkable), but in their quality, too, a far superior body of evidence to what we possess from the next generation. We have more in the New Testament than we have in the writings of these men who came just after the death of the Apostles. But what does remain is quite convincing. There arose from the date of Our Lord's Ascension into heaven, from, say, A. D. 30 or so, before the death of Tiberius and a long lifetime after the Roman organization of Gaul, a definite, strictly ruled and highly individual Society, with fixed doctrines, special mysteries, and a strong discipline of its own. With a most vivid and distinct personality, unmistakeable. And this Society was, and is, called "The Church."

I would beg the reader to note with precision both the task upon which we are engaged and the exact dates with which we are dealing, for there is no matter in which history has been more grievously distorted by religious bias.

The task upon which we are engaged is the judgment of a portion of history as it was. I am not writing here from a brief. I am concerned to set forth a fact. I am acting as a witness or a copier, not as an advocate or lawyer. And I say that the conclusion we can establish with regard to the Christian community on these main lines is the conclusion to which any man must come quite independently of his creed. He will deny these facts only if he has such bias against the Faith as interferes with his reason. A man's belief in the mission of the Catholic Church, his confidence in its divine origin, do not move him to these plain historical conclusions any more than they move him to his conclusions upon the real existence, doctrine and organization of contemporary Mormonism. Whether the Church told the truth is for philosophy to discuss: What the Church in fact was is plain history. The Church may have taught nonsense. Its organization may have been a clumsy human thing. That would not affect the historical facts.

By the year 200 the Church was—everywhere, manifestly and in ample evidence throughout the Roman world—what I have described, and taught the doctrines I have just enumerated: but it stretches back one hundred and seventy years before that date and it has evidence to its title throughout that era of youth.

To see that the state of affairs everywhere widely apparent in A.D. 200 was rooted in the very origins of the institution one hundred and seventy years before, to see that all this mass of ritual, doctrine and discipline starts with the first third of the first century, and the Church was from its birth the Church, the reader must consider the dates.

We know that we have in the body of documents contained in the "canon" which the Church has authorized as the "New Testament," documents proceeding from men who were contemporaries with the origin of the Christian religion. Even modern scholarship with all its love of phantasy is now clear upon so obvious a point. The authors of the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles, Clement also, and Ignatius also (who had conversed with the Apostles) may have been deceived, they may have been deceiving. I am not here concerned with that point. The discussion of it belongs to another province of argument altogether. But they were contemporaries of the things they said they were contemporaries of. In other words, their writings are what is called "authentic."

If I read in the four Gospels (not only the first three) of such and such a miracle, I believe it or I disbelieve it. But I am reading the account of a man who lived at the time when the miracle is said to have happened. If you read (in Ignatius' seven certainly genuine letters) of Episcopacy and of the Eucharist, you may think him a wrong-headed enthusiast. But you know that you are reading the work of a man who personally witnessed the beginnings of the Church; you know that the customs, manners, doctrines and institutions he mentions or takes for granted, were certainly those of his time, that is, of the origin of Catholicism, though you may think the customs silly and the doctrines nonsense.

St. Ignatius talking about the origin and present character of the Catholic Church is exactly in the position—in the matter of dates—of a man of our time talking about the rise and present character of the Socialists or of the rise and present character of Leopold's Kingdom of Belgium, of United Italy, the modern. He is talking of what is, virtually, his own time.

Well, there comes after this considerable body of contemporary documentary evidence (evidence contemporary, that is, with the very spring and rising of the Church and proceeding from its first founders), a gap which is somewhat more than the long lifetime of a man.

This gap is with difficulty bridged. The vast mass of its documentary evidence has, of course, perished, as has the vast mass of all ancient writing. The little preserved is mainly preserved in quotations and fragments. But after this gap, from somewhat before the year 200, we come to the beginning of a regular series, and a series increasing in volume, of documentary evidence. Not, I repeat, of evidence to the truth of supernatural doctrines, but of evidence to what these doctrines and their accompanying ritual and organization were: evidence to the way in which the Church was constituted, to the way in which she regarded her mission, to the things she thought important, to the practice of her rites.

That is why I have taken the early third century as the moment in which we can first take a full historical view of the Catholic Church in being, and this picture is full of evidence to the state of the Church in its origins three generations before.

I say, again, it is all-important for the reader who desires a true historical picture to seize the sequence of the dates with which we are dealing, their relation to the length of human life and therefore to the society to which they relate.

It is all-important because the false history which has had its own way for so many years is based upon two false suggestions of the first magnitude. The first is the suggestion that the period between the Crucifixion and the full Church of the third century was one in which vast changes could proceed unobserved, and vast perversions of original ideas be rapidly developed; the second is that the space of time during which those changes are supposed to have taken place was sufficient to account for them.

It is only because those days are remote from ours that such suggestions can be made. If we put ourselves by an effort of the imagination into the surroundings of that period, we can soon discover how false these suggestions are.

The period was not one favorable to the interruption of record. It was one of a very high culture. The proportion of curious, intellectual, and skeptical men which that society contained was perhaps greater than in any other period with which we are acquainted. It was certainly greater than it is today. Those times were certainly less susceptible to mere novel assertion than are the crowds of our great cities under the influence of the modern press. It was a period astonishingly alive. Lethargy and decay had not yet touched the world of the Empire. It built, read, traveled, discussed, and, above all, criticized, with an enormous energy.

In general, it was no period during which alien fashions could rise within such a community as the Church without their opponents being immediately able to combat them by an appeal to the evidence of the immediate past. The world in which the Church arose was one; and that world was intensely vivid. Anyone in that world who saw such an institution as Episcopacy (for instance) or such a doctrine as the Divinity of Christ to be a novel corruption of originals could have, and would have, protested at once. It was a world of ample record and continual communication.

Granted such a world let us take the second point and see what was the distance in mere time between this early third century of which I speak and what is called the Apostolic period; that is, the generation which could still remember the origins of the Church in Jerusalem and the preaching of the Gospel in Grecian, Italian, and perhaps African cities. We are often told that changes "gradually crept in;" that "the imperceptible effect of time" did this or that. Let us see how these vague phrases stand the test of confrontation with actual dates.

Let us stand in the years 200-210, consider a man then advanced in years, well read and traveled, and present in those first years of the third century at the celebration of the Eucharist. There were many such men who, if they had been able to do so, would have reproved novelties and denounced perverted tradition. That none did so is a sufficient proof that the main lines of Catholic government and practice had developed unbroken and unwarped from at least his own childhood. But an old man who so witnessed the constitution of the Church and its practices as I have described them in the year 200, would correspond to that generation of old people whom we have with us today; the old people who were born in the late twenties and thirties of the nineteenth century; the old people who can just remember the English Reform Bill, and who were almost grown up during the troubles of 1848 and the establishment of the second Empire in Paris: the old people in the United States who can remember as children the election of Van Buren to the office of President: the old people whose birth was not far removed from the death of Thomas Jefferson, and who were grown men and women when gold was first discovered in California.

Well, pursuing that parallel, consider next the persecution under Nero. It was the great event to which the Christians would refer as a date in the early history of the Church. It took place in Apostolic times. It affected men who, though aged, could easily remember Judea in the years connected with Our Lord's mission and His Passion. St. Peter lived to witness, in that persecution, to the Faith. St. John survived it. It came not forty years later than the day of Pentecost. But the persecution under Nero was to an old man such as I have supposed assisting at the Eucharist in the early part of the third century, no further off than the Declaration of Independence is from the old people of our generation. An old man in the year 200 could certainly remember many who had themselves been witnesses of the Apostolic age, just as an old man today remembers well men who saw the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. The old people who had surrounded his childhood would be to St. Paul, St. Peter and St. John what the old people who survived, say, to 1845, would have been to Jefferson, to Lafayette, or to the younger Pitt. They could have seen and talked to that first generation of the Church as the corresponding people surviving in the early nineteenth century could have seen and talked with the founders of the United States.

It is quite impossible to imagine that the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Rite of Initiation (Baptism in the name of the Trinity), the establishment of an Episcopacy, the fierce defence of unity and orthodoxy, and all those main lines of Catholicism which we find to be the very essence of the Church in the early third century, could have risen without protest. They cannot have come from an innocent, natural, uncivilized perversion of an original so very recent and so open to every form of examination.

That there should have been discussion as to the definition and meaning of undecided doctrines is natural, and fits in both with the dates and with the atmosphere of the period and with the character of the subject. But that a whole scheme of Christian government and doctrine should have developed in contradiction of Christian origins and yet without protest in a period so brilliantly living, full of such rapid intercommunication, and, above all, so brief, is quite impossible.

That is what history has to say of the early Church in the Roman Empire. The Gospels, the Acts, the Canonical Epistles and those of Clement and Ignatius may tell a true or a false story; their authors may have written under an illusion or from a conscious self-deception; or they may have been supremely true and immutably sincere. But they are contemporary. A man may respect their divine origin or he may despise their claims to instruct the human race; but that the Christian body from its beginning was not "Christianity" but a Church and that that Church was identically one with what was already called long before the third century [Footnote: The Muratorian Fragment is older than the third century, and St. Ignatius, who also uses the word Catholic, was as near to the time of the Gospels as I am to the Crimean War.] the Catholic Church, is simply plain history, as plain and straightforward as the history, let us say, of municipal institutions in contemporary Gaul. It is history indefinitely better proved, and therefore indefinitely more certain than, let us say, modern guesswork on imaginary "Teutonic Institutions" before the eighth century or the still more imaginary "Aryan" origins of the European race, or any other of the pseudo-scientific hypotheses which still try to pass for historical truth.

So much for the Catholic Church in the early third century when first we have a mass of evidence upon it. It is a highly disciplined, powerful growing body, intent on unity, ruled by bishops, having for its central doctrine the Incarnation of God in an historical Person, Jesus Christ, and for its central rite a Mystery, the transformation of Bread and Wine by priests into the Body and Blood which the faithful consume.

This "State within the States" by the year 200 already had affected the Empire: in the next generation it permeated the Empire; it was already transforming European civilization. By the year 200 the thing was done. As the Empire declined the Catholic Church caught and preserved it.


Thus, Belloc. As ought to be readily apparent, the Church had executed the "Become Worthy" stage of Moldbug's procedure with (one might say) miraculous efficiency. Let's return to Warg Franklin's account:
Step Two, "Accept Power", is what happens when you are obviously 10x more competent than the current structure. You're not just a contingency plan anymore, but a recognizably better alternative right now, if only this rotten junk that is the current structure would get out of the way. And when that is clear, a number of options will present themselves. Members of the old structure will defect to yours, the important people will want you instead of them, social reality will shift, the old system will waver and fall while you pick up the pieces, etc. Completing the process will be a small matter of formalizing what everyone already knows in an atomic transfer of power. Atomic meaning that at time t, the old system is in charge, and at time t+1, the new system is in charge and running smoothly; ideally there is no costly period of collapse, confusion, and civil war. "Accept Power" is based on the ancient Chinese concept of the Mandate of Heaven, which states that power flows to the worthy; become actually worthy and you will receive the responsibility of power, as long as you accept it.
I can't pretend to know what Step Three, "Rule", entails; that is a job for the new structure built in step one. I would hope that it involves a general amnesty and policy of Retire All Government Employees rather than a bloody purge, and formalized ownership rather than nebulous concepts like "the people". But it's not up to me.
So that's The Procedure. Note that at no point is it planned for there to be mass propaganda campaigns, civil or culture war, offensive actions against the system, a political party, or anything like that. That is, the whole procedure is "Passivist".
Indeed. The Church mounted no coup against Caesar's Curia. It simply became Worthy, and Waited. Then, it Accepted power. Belloc describes it:

Europe and the Faith, Chapter III:

We are already familiar with the old popular and false explanation of the rise of the European nations. This explanation tells us that great numbers of vigorous barbarians entered the Roman Empire, conquered it, established themselves as masters, and parceled out its various provinces.

We have seen that such a picture is fantastic and, when it is accepted, destroys a man's historic sense of Europe.

We have seen that the barbarians who burst through the defence of civilization at various times (from before the beginnings of recorded history; through the pagan period prefacing Our Lord's birth; during the height of the Empire proper, in the third century; again in the fourth and the fifth) never had the power to affect that civilization seriously, and therefore were invariably conquered and easily absorbed. It was in the natural course of things this should be so.

I say "in the natural course of things." Dreadful as the irruption of barbarians into civilized places must always be, even on a small scale, the conquest of civilization by barbarians is always and necessarily impossible. Barbarians may have the weight to destroy the civilization they enter, and in so doing to destroy themselves with it. But it is inconceivable that they should impose their view and manner upon civilized men. Now to impose one's view and manner, dare leges (to give laws), is to conquer.

Moreover, save under the most exceptional conditions, a civilized army with its training, discipline and scientific traditions of war, can always ultimately have the better of a horde. In the case of the Roman Empire the armies of civilization did, as a fact, always have the better of the barbarian hordes. Marius had the better of the barbarians a hundred years before Our Lord was born, though their horde was not broken until it had suffered the loss of 200,000 dead. Five hundred years later the Roman armies had the better of another similar horde of barbarians, the host of Radagasius, in their rush upon Italy; and here again the vast multitude lost some 200,000 killed or sold into slavery. We have seen how the Roman generals, Alaric and the others, destroyed them.

But we have also seen that within the Roman Army itself certain auxiliary troops (which may have preserved to some slight extent traces of their original tribal character, and probably preserved for a generation or so a mixture of Roman speech, camp slang, and the original barbaric tongues) assumed greater and greater importance in the Roman Army towards the end of the imperial period—that is, towards the end of the fourth, and in the beginning of the fifth, centuries (say, 350-450).

We have seen why these auxiliary forces continued to increase in importance within the Roman Army, and we have seen how it was only as Roman soldiers, and as part of the regular forces of civilization, that they had that importance, or that their officers and generals, acting as Roman officers and generals, could play the part they did.

The heads of these auxiliary forces were invariably men trained as Romans. They knew of no life save that civilized life which the Empire enjoyed. They regarded themselves as soldiers and politicians of the State in which—not against which—they warred. They acted wholly within the framework of Roman things. The auxiliaries had no memory or tradition of a barbaric life beyond the Empire, though their stock in some part sprang from it; they had no liking for barbarism, and no living communication with it. The auxiliary soldiers and their generals lived and thought entirely within those imperial boundaries which guarded paved roads, a regular and stately architecture, great and populous cities, the vine, the olive, the Roman law and the bishoprics of the Catholic Church. Outside was a wilderness with which they had nothing to do.

Armed with this knowledge (which puts an end to any fantastic theory of barbarian "conquest"), let us set out to explain that state of affairs which a man born, say, a hundred years after the last of the mere raids into the Empire was destroyed under Radagasius, would have observed in middle age.

Sidonius Apollinaris, the famous Bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, lived and wrote his classical work at such a date after Alaric's Roman adventure and Radagasius' defeat that the life of a man would span the distance between them; it was a matter of nearly seventy years between those events and his maturity. A grandson of his would correspond to such a spectator as we are imagining; a grandson of that generation might be born before the year 500. Such a man would have stood towards Radagasius' raid, the last futile irruption of the barbarian, much as men, old today, in England, stand to the Indian Mutiny and the Crimean War, to the second Napoleon in France, to the Civil War in the United States. Had a grandson of Sidonius traveled in Italy, Spain and Gaul in his later years, this is what he would have seen:

In all the great towns Roman life was going on as it had always gone on, so far as externals were concerned. The same Latin speech, now somewhat degraded, the same dress, the same division into a minority of free men, a majority of slaves, and a few very rich masters round whom not only the slaves but the mass of the free men also were grouped as dependents.

In every city, again, he would have found a Bishop of the Catholic Church, a member of that hierarchy which acknowledged its centre and headship to be at Rome. Everywhere religion, and especially the settlement of divisions and doubts in religion, would have been the main popular preoccupation. And everywhere save in Northern Gaul he would have perceived small groups of men, wealthy, connected with government, often bearing barbaric names, and sometimes (perhaps) still partly acquainted with barbaric tongues. Now these few men were as a rule of a special set in religion. They were called Arians; heretics who differed in religion from the mass of their fellow citizens very much as the minority of Protestants in an Irish county today differ from the great mass of their Catholic fellows; and that was a point of capital importance.

The little provincial courts were headed by men who, though Christian (with the Mass, the Sacraments and all Christian things), were yet out of communion with the bulk of their officials, and all their taxpayers. They had inherited that odd position from an accident in the Imperial history. At the moment when their grandfathers had received Baptism the Imperial Court had supported this heresy. They had come, therefore, by family tradition, to regard their separate sect (with its attempt to rationalize the doctrine of the Incarnation) as a "swagger." They thought it an odd title to eminence. And this little vanity had two effects. It cut them off from the mass of their fellow citizens in the Empire. It made their tenure of power uncertain and destined to disappear very soon at the hands of men in sympathy with the great Catholic body—the troops led by the local governors of Northern France.

We shall return to this matter of Arianism. But just let us follow the state of society as our grandson of Sidonius would have seen it at the beginning of the Dark Ages.

The armed forces he might have met upon the roads as he traveled would have been rare; their accoutrements, their discipline, their words of command, were still, though in a degraded form, those of the old Roman Army. There had been no breach in the traditions of that Army or in its corporate life. Many of the bodies he met would still have borne the old imperial insignia.

The money which he handled and with which he paid his bills at the inns, was stamped with the effigy of the reigning Emperor at Byzantium, or one of his predecessors, just as the traveler in a distant British colony today, though that province is virtually independent, will handle coins stamped with the effigies of English Kings. But though the coinage was entirely imperial, he would, upon a passport or a receipt for toll and many another official document he handled, often see side by side with and subordinate to the imperial name, the name of the chief of the local government.

This phrase leads me to a feature in the surrounding society which we must not exaggerate, but which made it very different from that united and truly "Imperial" form of government which had covered all civilization two hundred to one hundred years before.

The descendants of those officers who from two hundred to one hundred years before had only commanded regular or auxiliary forces in the Roman Army, were now seated as almost independent local administrators in the capitals of the Roman provinces.

They still thought of themselves, in 550, say, as mere provincial powers within the one great Empire of Rome. But there was now no positive central power remaining in Rome to control them. The central power was far off in Constantinople. It was universally accepted, but it made no attempt to act.

Let us suppose our traveler to be concerned in some commerce which brought him to the centres of local government throughout the Western Empire. Let him have to visit Paris, Toledo, Ravenna, Arles. He has, let us say, successfully negotiated some business in Spain, which has necessitated his obtaining official documents. He must, that is, come into touch with officials and with the actual Government in Spain. Two hundred years before he would have seen the officials of, and got his papers from, a government directly dependent upon Rome. The name of the Emperor alone would have appeared on all the papers and his effigy on the seals. Now, in the sixth century, the papers are made out in the old official way and (of course) in Latin, all the public forces are still Roman, all the civilization has still the same unaltered Roman character; has anything changed at all?

Let us see.

To get his papers in the Capital he will be directed to the "Palatium."

This word does not mean "Palace." When we say "palace" today we mean the house in which lives the real or nominal ruler of a monarchical state. We talk of Buckingham Palace, St. James' Palace, the Palace in Madrid, and so on.

But the original word Palatium had a very different meaning in late Roman society. It signified the official seat of Government, and in particular the centre from which the writs for Imperial taxation were issued, and to which the proceeds of that taxation were paid. The name was originally taken from the Palatine Hill in Rome, on which the Cæsars had their private house. As the mask of private citizenship was gradually thrown off by the Emperors, six hundred to five hundred years before, and as the commanders-in-chief of the Roman Army became more and more true and absolute sovereigns, their house became more and more the official centre of the Empire.

The term "Palatium" thus became consecrated to a particular use. When the centre of Imperial power was transferred to Byzantium the word "Palatium" followed it; and at last it was applied to local centres as well as to the Imperial city. In the laws of the Empire then, in its dignities and honors, in the whole of its official life, the Palatium means the machine of government, local or imperial. Such a traveler as we have imagined in the middle of the sixth century comes, then, to that Spanish Palatium from which, throughout the five centuries of Imperial rule, the Spanish Peninsular had been locally governed. What would he find?

He would find, to begin with, a great staff of clerks and officials, of exactly the same sort as had always inhabited the place, drawing up the same sort of documents as they had drawn up for generations, using certain fixed formulæ, and doing everything in the Latin tongue. No local dialect was yet of the least importance. But he would also find that the building was used for acts of authority, and that these acts were performed in the name of a certain person (who was no longer the old Roman Governor) and his Council. It was this local person's name, rather than the Emperor's, which usually—or at any rate more and more frequently—appeared on the documents.

Let us look closely at this new person seated in authority over Spain, and at his Council: for from such men as he, and from the districts they ruled, the nations of our time and their royal families were to spring.

The first thing that would be noticed on entering the presence of this person who governed Spain, would be that he still had all the insignia and manner of Roman Government.

He sat upon a formal throne as the Emperor's delegate had sat: the provincial delegate of the Emperor. On official occasions he would wear the official Roman garments: the orb and the sceptre were already his symbols (we may presume) as they had been those of the Emperor and the Emperor's local subordinates before him. But in two points this central official differed from the old local Governor whom he exactly succeeded, and upon whose machinery of taxation he relief for power....

[T]he Emperor in Byzantium, and before that in Rome or at Ravenna, worked, as even absolute power must work, through a multitude of men. He was surrounded by high dignitaries, and there devolved from him a whole hierarchy of officials, with the most important of whom he continually consulted. But the Emperor had not been officially and regularly bound in with such a Council. His formulæ of administration were personal formulæ. Now and then he mentioned his great officials, but he only mentioned them if he chose.

This new local person, who had been very gradually and almost unconsciously substituted for the old Roman Governors, the Rex, was, on the contrary, a part of his own Council, and all his formulæ of administration mentioned the Council as his coadjutors and assessors in administration. This was necessary above all (a most important point) in anything that regarded the public funds....

[T]he nature of authority very slowly changed, that the last links with the Roman Empire of the East—that is, with the supreme head at Constantinople—gradually dissolved in the West, and that the modern nation arose around these local governments of the Reges, is to be found in that novel feature, the standing Council of great men around the Rex, with whom everything is done.

This standing Council expresses three forces, which between them, were transforming society. Those three forces were: first, certain vague underlying national feelings, older than the Empire, Gallic, Brittanic, Iberian; secondly, the economic force of the great Roman landowners, and, lastly, the living organization of the Catholic Church.

On the economic, or material, side of society, the great landowners were the reality of that time.... This was the first element in that standing "Council of Great Men" which was the mark of the time in every locality and wore down the old official, imperial, absolute, local power.

There was, however, as I have said, another and a much more important element in the Council of Great Men, besides the chief landowners; it consisted of the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Every Roman city of that time had a principal personage in it, who knew its life better than anybody else, who had, more than anyone else, power over its morals and ideas, and who in many cases actually administered its affairs. That person was the Bishop.

Throughout Western Europe at that moment men's interest and preoccupation was not race nor even material prosperity, but religion. The great duel between Paganism and the Catholic Church was now decided, after two hard centuries of struggle, in favor of the latter. The Catholic Church, from a small but definite and very tenacious organization within the Empire, and on the whole antagonistic to it, had risen, first, to be the only group of men which knew its own mind (200 A.D.); next to be the official religion (300 A.D.); finally to be the cohesive political principle of the great majority of human beings (400 A.D.).

The modern man can distinctly appreciate the phenomenon, if for "creed" he will read "capital," and for the "Faith," "industrial civilization." For just as today men principally care for great fortunes, and in pursuit of them go indifferently from country to country, and sink, as unimportant compared with such an object, the other businesses of our time, so the men of the fifth and sixth centuries were intent upon the unity and exactitude of religion. That the religion to which the Empire was now converted, the religion of the Catholic Church, should triumph, was their one preoccupation. For this they exiled themselves; for this they would and did run great risks; as minor to this they sank all other things.

The Catholic hierarchy with its enormous power at that moment, civil and economic as well as religious, was not the creator of such a spirit, it was only its leader. And in connection with that intense preoccupation of men's minds, two factors already appear in the fourth century and are increasingly active through the fifth and sixth. The first is the desire that the living Church should be as free as possible; hence the Catholic Church and its ministers everywhere welcome the growth of local as against centralized power. They do so unconsciously but none the less strongly. The second factor is Arianism: to which I now return.

Arianism, which both in its material success and in the length of its duration, as well as in its concept of religion, and the character of its demise, is singularly parallel to the Protestant movement of recent centuries, had sprung up as the official and fashionable Court heresy opposed to the orthodoxy of the Church.

The Emperor's Court did indeed at last—after many variations—abandon it, but a tradition survived till long after (and in many places) that Arianism stood for the "wealthy" and "respectable" in life.

Moreover, of those barbarians who had taken service as auxiliaries in the Roman armies, the greater part (the "Goths," for instance, as the generic term went, though that term had no longer any national meaning) had received their baptism into civilized Europe from Arian sources, and this in the old time of the fourth century when Arianism was "the thing." Just as we see in eighteenth century Ireland settlers and immigrants accepting Protestantism as "gentlemanly" or "progressive" (some there are so provincial as still to feel thus), so the Rex in Spain and the Rex in Italy had a family tradition; they, and the descendants of their original companions, were of what had been the "court" and "upper class" way of thinking. They were "Arians" and proud of it. The number of these powerful heretics in the little local courts was small, but their irritant effect was great.

It was the one great quarrel and problem of the time.

No one troubled about race, but everybody was at white heat upon the final form of the Church.

The populace felt it in their bones that if Arianism conquered, Europe was lost: for Arianism lacked vision. It was essentially a hesitation to accept the Incarnation and therefore it would have bred sooner or later a denial of the Sacrament, and at length it would have relapsed, as Protestantism has, into nothingness. Such a decline of imagination and of will would have been fatal to a society materially decadent. Had Arianism triumphed, the aged Society of Europe would have perished.

Now it so happened that of these local administrators or governors who were rapidly becoming independent, and who were surrounded by a powerful court, one only was not Arian.

That one was the Rex Francorum or chieftain of the little barbaric auxiliary force of "Franks" which had been drawn into the Roman system from Belgium and the banks of the lower Rhine. This body at the time when the transformation took place between the old Imperial system and the beginnings of the nations, had its headquarters in the Roman town of Tournai.

A lad whose Roman name was Clodovicus, and whom his parents probably called by some such sound as Clodovig (they had no written language), succeeded his father, a Roman officer, [Footnote: He was presumably head of auxiliaries. His tomb has been found. It is wholly Roman.] in the generalship of this small body of troops at the end of the fifth century. Unlike the other auxiliary generals he was pagan. When with other forces of the Roman Army, he had repelled one of the last of the barbaric invaders close to the frontier at the Roman town of Tolbiacum, and succeeded to the power of local administration in Northern Gaul, he could not but assimilate himself with the civilization wherein he was mixed, and he and most of his small command were baptized. He had already married a Christian wife, the daughter of the Burgundian Rex; but in any case such a conclusion was inevitable.

The important historical point is not that he was baptized; for an auxiliary general to be baptized was, by the end of the fifth century, as much a matter of course as for an Oriental trader from Bombay, who has become an English Lord or Baronet in London in our time, to wear trousers and a coat. The important thing is that he was received and baptized by Catholics and not by Arians—in the midst of that enormous struggle.

Clodovicus—known in history as Clovis—came from a remote corner of civilization. His men were untouched by the worldly attraction of Arianism; they had no tradition that it was "the thing" or "smart" to adopt the old court heresy which was offensive to the poorer mass of Europeans. When, therefore, this Rex Francorum was settled in Paris—about the year 500—and was beginning to administer local government in Northern Gaul, the weight of his influence was thrown with the popular feeling and against the Arian Reges in Italy and Spain.

The new armed forces of the Rex Francorum, a general levy continuing the old Roman tradition, settling things once and for all by battle carried orthodox Catholic administration all over Gaul. They turned the Arian Rex out of Toulouse, they occupied the valley of the Rhone. For a moment it seemed as though they would support the Catholic populace against the Arian officials in Italy itself.

At any rate, their championship of popular and general religion against the irritant, small, administrative Arian bodies in the Palatium of this region and of that, was a very strong lever which the people and the Bishops at their head could not but use in favor of the Rex Francorum's independent power. It was, therefore, indirectly, a very strong lever for breaking up the now (500-600) decayed and almost forgotten administrative unity of the Roman world.

Under such forces—the power of the Bishop in each town and district, the growing independence of the few and immensely rich great landowners, the occupation of the Palatium and its official machinery by the chieftains of the old auxiliary forces—Western Europe, slowly, very slowly, shifted its political base.

For three generations the mints continued to strike money under the effigy of the Emperor. The new local rulers never took, or dreamed of taking, the Imperial title; the roads were still kept up, the Roman tradition in the arts of life, though coarsened, was never lost. In cooking, dress, architecture, law, and the rest, all the world was Roman. But the visible unity of the Western or Latin Empire not only lacked a civilian and military centre, but gradually lost all need for such a centre.

Towards the year 600, though our civilization was still one, as it had always been, from the British Channel to the Desert of Sahara, and even (through missionaries) extended its effect a few miles eastward of the old Roman frontier beyond the Rhine, men no longer thought of that civilization as a highly defined area within which they could always find the civilian authority of one organ. Men no longer spoke of our Europe as the Respublica or "common weal." It was already beginning to become a mass of small and often overlapping divisions. The things that are older than, and lie beneath, all exact political institutions, the popular legends, the popular feelings for locality and countrysides, were rising everywhere; the great landowners were appearing as semi-independent rulers, each on his own estates (though the many estates of one man were often widely separated).

The daily speech of men was already becoming divided into an infinity of jargons.

Some of these dialects were of Latin origin, some as in the Germanies and Scandinavia, mixed original Teutonic and Latin; some, as in Brittany, were Celtic; some, as in the eastern Pyrenees, Basque; in North Africa, we may presume, the indigenous tongue of the Berbers resumed its sway; Punic also may have survived in certain towns and villages there. [Footnote: We have evidence that it survived in the fifth century.] But men paid no attention to the origin of such diversities. The common unity that survived was expressed in the fixed Latin tongue, the tongue of the Church; and the Church, now everywhere supreme in the decay of Arianism and of paganism alike, was the principle of life throughout all this great area of the West.


And thus, the Church "accepted" power. After the Empire had declined into its long senility, only the Church had enough organization, enough discipline, enough Spirit, to "rule."

Warg Franklin's account of Moldbug's procedure continues to the third and final step:
I can't pretend to know what Step Three, "Rule", entails; that is a job for the new structure built in step one.
Fair enough. When the Church came to rule in Western Europe, it forged Latin Christendom.  What the fate of the Church and the world will be centuries from now, is no more for me to know than for Mr. Franklin.

But in the meantime, there is this matter of Step One: "become worthy."  Back to Warg:

Passivism is the political methodology that is behind the Procedure. It is almost exactly the opposite of activism. The activist looks at the world and sees problems in the system about which something must be done. He leverages his political rights to convince and agitate the public, affect change through various mechanisms, and get society to fix the problem. The passivist, on the other hand, has no political rights, and he does not try to shift public opinion or influence the system in any way. The steel rule of Passivism is absolute renunciation of official power....
The passivist is a subject, not a citizen; he is absolutely at the mercy of the system, whatever it is and whatever it decides to do. If the system orders him to jump, he jumps, but otherwise he goes about his private business. The passivist serenely refrains from having outraged and partisan opinions on the latest "social issues". His solemn duty is to submit to and obey the system.
That's liberating, in a way, but our activism-tainted minds are quick to reject it. We wonder exactly how we are supposed to take power and fix anything with this doctrine of political harmlessness. It's a bit too Zen for us neophytes; "to take power," says the master, "you must first renounce power".
When I first heard this, it seemed stupid. But having thought it over and having decided to approach these things seriously and strategically, Passivism now seems obviously correct. Passivism is harmless, yes, but it is also deadly. As for how to take power, well, the passivist does not take power, he accepts it. And to accept power, he must first become worthy of power. And the way to become worthy is not at all mysterious:
Persuade a small group of high-quality people to come to your way of thinking, build institutions that humbly solve problems, and eventually build a larger network of institutions that could actually step in and do a better job than the current system.
This we have heard before; The Procedure is just Passivism applied to the problem of government.
Passivism and thus The Procedure is the principled ideal. Step 1 in practice may fail to be perfectly passivist. Step 2 may fail to be perfectly bloodless or atomic. But it's always worth it to plan up front to do it the most principled and ideal way it could possibly be done, and back down from that idealism only when it is shown to be impossible, so that we spend the time and effort to do things the right way instead of accepting half-assed solutions. In my experience as an engineer, this stubborn principle of striving for the ideal has consistently led to superior work that I didn't always know I could do. This is the idealism of high standards, not to be confused with the idealism of willful blindness to the rough edges of the world. The right kind of idealism is deeply principled and pragmatically tactical at the same time. We will expand on the reasoning later, but briefly:
  • Passivism is simply and obviously moral. Everyone is a Passivist in a state of rectified politics, and we can't ask other people to accept something we wouldn't accept ourselves.
  • Passivism is stealth and armour. The system knows how to defend against, subvert, and destroy activist challenges. Passivism flies below their radar, and when they do notice you, they have no legal or moral pretext to shut you down.
  • Passivism degrades gracefully to a healthy and normal human life. If we fail to take over the world or whatever, we still build useful institutions, and don't blow anything up or waste the public's resources and attention.
  • Passivism does not feed the hysteria of the system, which thrives on the spectre of radical right-wing activism and imagined Vast Right Wing Conspiracies. We accept that their rule is what it is and don't resist; we are just planning and building for contingency. What is there to get worked up about?
  • Passivism enforces strategic thinking and low time preference. Raised on a diet of action movies and mythologized political history, it is every modern person's reflex to want political problems to be solved by magicking up an army and doing something with fire, but this isn't realistic or helpful. Passivism excludes people who can't think beyond this, and reinforces the conviction of those who can.
  • Passivism avoids the corrupting pressures of seeking popularity, i.e. Hitler. Seeking power through popularity with a mass of people always involves dumbing things down to be more viral, more populist, more feel-good. This is rarely aligned with what is good and strategic. The methodology that avoids the pressures of popularity is able to avoid their ugly failure modes.
  • Passivism and disengagement from culture war allows us to take defectors from all sides. Since we're not marching, we don't have to wave anyone's flag or pattern match to anyone's sworn culture enemies.
Passivism is the official political methodology of this blog. It's why we try to avoid current events, don't talk about what the government should do, and constrain our prescriptions to just what we can do for ourselves and our immediate communities. The details and practice of Passivism go very deep, but a surface-level understanding as presented in this article is a necessary starting point.

Thus, Warg Franklin.  Now, I'm enough of a sentimental patriot that I'm no Passivist. But there's far, far more wisdom here than in the usual obsession with politics--which is ephemeral, and over which we have practically no power in any case. If the Christian is to err, better nowadays to err on the side of the Passivism just described, than to fall into our age's obsession with partisan political trivialities.

Let's hear a bit more from old Moldy himself about this Steel Rule of Passivism.

A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 9a):

The Procedure comes in Three Steps:
I. Become worthy.
II. Accept power.
III. Rule....
You think I'm kidding. But I'm not. Let's go straight to the -
 First Step.
"Become worthy." What could this possibly mean? Is it Zen? It sure sounds like Zen.
It is Zen to the bone.... The First Step is the most difficult of the Three Steps. To be frank, it's quite possible that your Reaction will never make it past this step. It's more than possible. It's almost certain. But waste your time on the First Step - and what have you wasted?
Confucius said: to set the world in order, first set yourself in order....
Another fact: if you show up for your first fencing class, they don't just hand you a bardiche. The Procedure too is dangerous. It too has its prerequisites, although it only has one.
Before you begin any positive work on the First Step, you must master the daunting spiritual discipline of passivism. This exercise itself may consume a lifetime. But with UR's simple and down-to-earth instructions, it will go much more quickly. You may even find that you have already completed it.
The steel rule of passivism is absolute renunciation of official power. We note instantly that any form of resistance to sovereignty, so long as it succeeds, is a share in power itself. Thus, absolute renunciation of power over USG [the U.S. Government] implies absolute submission to the Structure.
The logic of the steel rule is simple. As a reactionary, you don't believe that political power is a human right. You will never convince anyone to adopt the same attitude, without first adopting it yourself. Since you believe others should be willing to accept the rule of the New Structure, over which they wield no power, you must be the first to make the great refusal. They must submit to the New; you must submit to the Old.
The reactionary's opinion of USG is that it is what it is. It is run by the people who run it. And at present, the present management may well be the best people in the world to run USG, and even if they're not he can't imagine what might be done about it - short of replacing the whole thing. This simple and final judgment, like the death penalty, admits no possible compromise.
In particular, passivism is to Gandhi as Gandhi is to Hitler. Hitler, before 1933, was a violent democratic activist; Gandhi was a nonviolent democratic activist. Passivism is not any sort of activism. Passivism is passivism. In plain English, you may not even begin to consider the rest of the Procedure until you have freed yourself entirely from the desire, built-in burden though it be of the two-legged ape, for power. Break the steel rule, change your name to "Darth," don't expect to keep your internship at the Jedi Council.
As a matter of both principle and tactics, the passivist rejects any involvement with any activity whose goal is to influence, coerce, or resist the government, either directly or indirectly. He is revolted by the thought of setting public policy. He would rather drink his own piss, than shift public opinion. He finds elections - national, state or local - grimly hilarious. And if he needs to get from Richmond to Baltimore, he drives through West Virginia.
The passivist has a term for democratic activism directed by the right against the left. That term is counter-activism. Passivism does not dispute the fact that counter-activism sometimes works. For instance, it worked for Hitler. (We'll say more about Hitler.) However, it only works in very unusual circumstances (such as those of Hitler), and is extremely dangerous when it does work (eg, the result may be Hitler).
In case this isn't crystal-clear, the steel rule precludes, in no particular order: demonstrations, press releases, suicide bombs, lawsuits, dirty bombs, Facebook campaigns, clean bombs, mimeographed leaflets, robbing banks, interning at nonprofits, assassination, "tea parties," journalism, bribery, grantwriting, graffiti, crypto-anarchism, balaclavas, lynching, campaign contributions, revolutionary cells, new political parties, old political parties, flash mobs, botnets, sit-ins, direct mail, monkeywrenching, and any other activist technique, violent or harmless, legal or illegal, fashionable or despicable.
As a broad analogy, the passivist's relationship to USG is much like the relationship of an American expatriate in Costa Rica, to the government of Costa Rica. He has no illusions about it. He submits to its authority in every detail. He is happy when it succeeds, and sad when it screws up. And he's about as likely to try to horn in on its decision structure as he is to move to Iran and run for Grand Ayatollah.
One excellent way to make this relationship concrete in your mind is to use the word "subject," rather than "citizen." If by some unfortunate coincidence you remain a resident of the British Isles, you are already taught to say "subject." So you'll have to shift to something even more demeaning, like "peasant." This may still overstate your political impact.
The steel rule has one exception that demonstrates the rule. As a passivist, you can still address direct, individual petitions to the sovereign - eg, calling your Congressman. Individual petition does not violate the steel rule because any petition from subject to sovereign is already a confession of abject submission. Only the powerless beg. The rite, of course, is ancient.
Voting is a borderline case for the passivist. Is it an aggressive act of defiance to refrain from voting - or does electoral participation constitute impermissible political intervention? Either way, you might be breaching the steel rule. Perhaps the most careful policy is to always vote for the candidate or measure that the newspapers expect to win, abstaining only in close contests.
But obviously, the impact of all votes of all passivists put together will be trivial. Or if it isn't, someone has been evading the steel rule, and the name no longer means itself. As a passivist, your vote is an irrelevant detail of personal conscience. It's improper to even mention it....
And that's the steel rule. I don't think it gets much clearer. But, um - why?
Why, exactly, are you a passivist? You thought you were trying to seize power. But here you are, renouncing it irrevocably! What's up with that?
Ah. But there is no contradiction at all.
Passivism is Zen. It is non-Zen. It is counterintuitive and romantic. It is trivial and cold-blooded. It is deeply principled and tactically deadly. Passivism is only the first step of the First Step - but its spirit informs the entire Reaction. Let's take a quick peek ahead, and see why.
[Let's] look at the four major tactical benefits of passivism....
First tactical benefit: the passivist immediately drops off the Structure's defensive radar screen. While it must at all times be kept in mind that the Structure is not a conspiracy and has no star topology, it can be described as the organization of all those corrupted by power. If there is one thing these people understand, it is activism - the art of controlling USG from outside its formal boundaries. It is their art. And they sure don't like it when it's turned against them.
If there is one thing progressives are good at, it is identifying and targeting a competing activist who is attempting, futilely as we have seen above, to out-mafia the mafia. Right-wing activism acts as a sort of adjuvant to the Structure's immune system. It activates every possible defense mechanism. Some of which are really quite nasty.....
What does the difference between activism and passivism look like in practice? Let's take blogging. Obviously, in a democracy or anything like it, a blog is a political weapon. But the correct tactics for activist and passivist blogs differ.
The activist blog, which seeks power through democratic means, must seek to build an intellectual clientela of the largest possible size. Unique reader count is the best possible metric for the success of an activist blog. Naturally, anyone who reads blog X has that much less time to read blog Y, so X and Y, activist blogs, must be competitive. And obviously, anyone who seeks power must seek to take it away from someone else - activism is inherently aggressive.
The passivist blog does not seek power by any means at all. Its activities are neither aggressive nor destructive, but constructive (ideally leading into a reaction center, as we'll see later). Therefore, it is concerned not with the number of people who read it, but with the quality of people who read it. If it takes the next step and becomes a reaction center, its construction workers must be found among this motley crew.
Result: a counter-activist blog, if it achieves any success, will automatically (a) be identified by the T-cells as a dangerous, quasi-fascist Internet cult, and (b) attract a clientela who live up to exactly this dossier. Either way, any further effectiveness is precluded.
Whereas the passivist blog will appear, at worst, harmless and extremely strange....
Second tactical benefit: the problem isn't just that stimulating the left's immune system is harmful to the right. If it was harmful to the left as well, that might be tactically acceptable.
But since leftism is a decentralized movement, not a centralized conspiracy, stimulating the left's immune system just means stimulating the left.... In the tu-quoque mindset, any form of resistance to progressive government is defined as naked, illegitimate aggression. It naturally produces a counterreaction which is just as aggressive, often more unprincipled, and always much stronger....
Moreover, if counter-activism somehow actually does work, we arrive at the converse of our third benefit. That is, of course: Hitler. While successful counter-activism might not always produce Hitler, we cannot avoid the fact that it did produce Hitler. Thus...
Third tactical benefit: Hitler prevention. To an orthodox reactionary, Hitler is basically the poster child for what happens if you break the steel rule....
Since most people are neither historians nor philosophers, the fact that Hitler was on the extreme Right, and this Reaction is also on the extreme Right, raises some natural concerns. Again: the only way to face these concerns is to (a) provide a complete engineering explanation of Hitler, and (b) include an effective anti-Hitler device in our design....
In practice, an activist policy attracts supporters because humans (of all races, alas) are apes, and apes are attracted to power. Typically the activist's superego explains this in terms of the noble goals which he will achieve with said power. (These noble goals are generally found to include making other apes dependent on him.) His good old ape ego, however, is attracted to the work - the feeling of collectively struggling for power.
This is where passivism, by abjuring democracy, vaccinates itself against Hitler. True: at a higher level, the reactionary seeks to cause a transition in power, and thus in a sense seeks power itself. But he is not an activist, because he is not working for power. His actions do not excite the human political instinct, the love for forming coalitions and tearing hell out of the apes across the river. 
For one thing, said actions bear no resemblance to normal politics. For another, they cannot bring any actual power to the actors, even if they succeed. Which, however likely, must remain intuitively implausible - if not laughable. And thus the project of reaction does not attract those with a real taste for power, which if nothing else is very un-Nazi-like....
Fourth tactical benefit: passivism allows the Reaction to recruit both progressives and conservatives - so long as they abandon their activist programs.....
Traditionalist religious conservatives, in particular, should consider this: what traditionalist sects in America have been most successful in preserving their values and society? Answer: probably a tie, between the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Brooklyn Chasidim. What do both these communities have in common? In a word: passivism. To survive, submit and adapt. To be destroyed, try to fight back.
Thus we see the tactical power of the steel rule.... If the moral principle doesn't convince you, the tactics should.
We will now assume that the steel rule is indelibly engraved in your soul. [Now] we can talk about what to do.


Thus, Moldbug.

For all my many differences with the NRx DE folks, there is good advice here. Opt out of politics. BenOpt instead.  I defer to the Council Fathers of Vatican II who teach that the laity ought to take responsibility for the civic good. So I cannot endorse this Passivist ideal any more than I can endorse the rest of the NRx project. But there's good Egyptian gold here.

We contemporary Christians are unworthy to be heard readily by our culture, or to have a culture shaped by our churches shape politics in its turn.  We need to begin at the beginning:

Confucius said: to set the world in order, first set yourself in order....

1 comment:

  1. So this is what you've been up to! I haven't read all of it yet, but this promises to be very interesting. I'm pleased to see Belloc mentioned--did you notice that The Distributist Review is finally back as of last month?