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More traddish chatter

Gornahoor, apparently an Integral Traditionalist site, had some complaints about my recent post on tradition (which I crossposted to Alternative Right).

I’m Catholic rather than Integral Traditionalist, so the complaints probably reflect a difference in point of view. Nonetheless, most of them can probably be allayed by an explanation of the point of the piece.

It was a sketch intended to suggest some basic points to people who think there’s something wrong with present understandings but have never been exposed to arguments for tradition as an authority.

That’s one reason I didn’t go into the complexities of the conversion of the Roman world to Christianity or our present world away from hedonistic materialism. It’s also one reason the account of tradition I gave was mostly this-worldly. You have to start somewhere, and even a naturalistic understanding of tradition is a step forward from technological rationalism and social engineering.

“Step forward” is not where you stop, and the piece didn’t stop there. It notes that pure nature–“everyday life” or whatever–is not enough for human beings. They also need “essences and ultimate ends,” and “in the long run the good is what they find most worthy of devotion.” That is why (as Benedict suggested in Brazil) it is a divine good that is the ultimate object of all tradition. Nothing else would be enough to “bring [the tradition of the West once again] into a workable form.”

So the piece did say something about the need for transcendence, as much as I thought would be useful in the setting.

As to what to do now, the point is that there are some obvious things that are enough to transform the situation. For that reason it’s not really so mysterious how to proceed.

I think Guenon says somewhere that if people understood the basic problem in the tendency of things then the problem would disappear immediately. The most important single thing, then, is to understand, and propagate understanding.

It’s clear that the technological approach to human life has to be rejected so that people can once again become aware of the implicit tendencies and transcendent goals to which particular traditions normally give concrete form and so provide access.

Once that begins to happen the ruins can knit themselves together and tradition reconstitute itself. Exactly how that will happen is not preordained, but it’s the natural tendency of human life so we don’t have to know in advance. Each can start by doing his best to live in a less technocratic and more traditional way.

Most things are as they should be in most ways. No matter how sick somebody is, most of his bodily processes are working just fine. Otherwise he’d drop dead immediately. The same is true of human life generally. People and society are mostly functional, and on some level they mostly know what they need to know.

As a Catholic of course I have a more specific view: the West can and will revert to type and become Catholic again. It’s worth noting that the present Pope is especially big on reclaiming the Christian identity of Europe.

For all that popes need not be followed on every point when not speaking dogmatically. Like other men they’re affected by surroundings, historical setting, and personal quirks. Foreign invasions haven’t been a problem for Western Christendom for a thousand years, so Rome hasn’t thought through the issues they present—for example, in connection with the Christian identity they want to reclaim for Europe. (I’ve given elsewhere my own view on topics connected to Catholicism and immigration.)

I’d add that the post-Vatican II situation has muddled things a great deal. I think though that the Church is realizing that the attempted alliance with aspects of modernity hasn’t worked and is doing a lot of rethinking.