Two paths of civilization


Tor House and Hawk Tower – the Pacific coast home of poet Robinson Jeffers

Most of the history books in the English language describe history and civilization in terms of Westward expansion. As languages and cultures morph, ideas develop and peoples move West. By the time that modern thinkers reach the West coast of the United States, they are like the poet Robinson Jeffers, peering at the horizon from lands end, realizing that as Westward expansion has come to an end, so too, certain modes of thinking and being have also come to and end, whether it is the end of philosophy or cultural ideas.

Jack Kerouac wrote in “October in the Railraod Earth:

“Across rains they’ve come to the end of the land sadness end of the world gladness.”

Many of the thinkers and writers on the West Coast also imbibed the thought from the Far East, which was becoming more available in a world shrunken by modern travel and communication.

What has not often been noticed to any profound degree, is the fact that while Western Civilization crept Westward, there was also an expansion of Civilization that expanded and crept Eastward. This Eastward expansion certainly includes East Asian civilization as noted, but more interestingly, Russian and Slavic civilization, which began, like the Western, in the Ancient Greco-Roman. While both Westward and Eastward civilizations started with much of the same thought and tradition, the understandings, changes, and preservations have been very different.

The thesis of this blog is what is preserved in aspects of Eastern Civilization are missing pieces that once could be found in Western Civilization, but were lost, leading to imbalances in its thought, culture, mindset and life.

The chapel at Fort Ross on the Northern California coast. Russian civilization met the West here.  St. Innocent of Alaska visited and served in this chapel.

These two expanses of civilization have met on the California coast, and have led to fruitful cross pollination, which has scarcely been noticed. I intend to point out the various features of this cross pollination as I study it and share the clues that I discover for those seeking for the missing pieces of our culture.




What is wrong with the Bull Pen and Bully Pulpit?

This is directed, not at the authors of the Bull Pen and Bully Pulpit, since I’m guessing that it would be a waste of time to try to penetrate that shell of clueless perception, but rather normal protestant folk who might be wondering what the Kerfuffle is all about, who might wonder what Orthodox Christianity truly is. I set out to write a large essay, but was quickly swamped with the scope of the thing, and since better authors than I have addressed these issues, I decided to provide lots of useful links instead.

Pascha of Beauty

A couple of blog posts have made the rounds, starting with one in which one of their authors went to the Greek Orthodox Church in order to confront newly illumined Hank Hanegraff, the former “Bible Answer Man” of radio fame, who is now Orthodox.

From the Orthodox perspective, the initial reactions included disbelief at the clueless observations made by the observer, who never seemed to grasp what was happening (it isn’t recorded what language the service was in – some of the perceptions may be excused if it was in Greek).

The Eve of Pascha is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Notice that the word Pascha (derived from Aramaic, which is in turn derived from the Hebrew Pesach/Passover) is used rather than the name of a pagan goddess, which is more commonly used by these fundamentalists. Nobody warned this fellow that this service goes at least 3 hours, as it is comprised of special festal versions of 4 services combined together: midnight office or nocturnes, matins, the 3rd and possibly the 6th hour, and the Divine Liturgy (and not “mass”).

The Paschal services on Saturday night follow another services on Saturday morning. The morning services use the older hymns, while the night service uses newer hymns – composed by St. John of Damascus in the 5th century. Besides hymns, St. John wrote a lot of other things, such as this book called An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, which is a good read if you are trying to get your head around Orthodoxy with any depth (WARNING: This book contains better scriptural exegesis and theology than you may be used to).

The hymns of Pascha are steeped in theology of the most biblical sort.

“In the grave bodily,
in hell (hades) with the soul as God,
in paradise with the thief,
and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit,
was Thou who fillest all things,
O Christ the infinite!”

  • Read more about Pascha here.
  • Read all of the texts of the services here.
  • Watch/Listen to an entire Pascha Service (except midnight office – in english and slavonic mixed) here.
  • Read more about the historical foundations of Orthodox worship here.

Smells and Bells and Liturgics, Oh My!

“We, therefore, following the royal path­way and the divinely inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Church (for, as we all know, the Holy Spirit indwells her), define with all certainty and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life­giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy Churches of God, and on the sacred ves­sels and on the vestments and on hangings and in pictures both in houses and by the wayside, to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady, of the hon­orable Angels, of all Saints, and of all pious people.

“For by so much more frequently as they are seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are people lifted up to the mem­ory of their prototypes, and to a longing after them; and to these should be given due saluta­tion and honorable reverence, not indeed that true worship of faith which pertains alone to the divine nature; but to these, as to the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross and to the Book of the Gospels and to the other holy objects, incense and lights may be offered according to ancient pious customs.”

-The 7th Ecumenical Council

Biblical Christianity?

It has been a problem that some reformers, who claim to base their theology on the bible, have actually edited the bible based on their theology!

  • The So-Called Apocrypha
  • From Reflections on the Critique of the Theology of the Reformation

    “Luther’s attitude toward the Epistle of St. James is well known. In fact, Luther positioned not only James at the end of the German Bible but also Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation. And his criterion was that they lacked evangelical “purity.” He was not the first to do so. His colleague at Wittenberg, upon whom Luther later turned, Carlstadt, had distinguished among the books of the New Testament—and the Old Testament—before Luther took his own action. As early as 1520 Carlstadt divided the entirety of Scripture into three categories: libri summae dignitatis, in which Carstadt included the Pentateuch as well as the Gospels; libri secundae dignitatis, in which he included the Prophets and fifteen epistles; and libri tertiae dignitatis.”

Those links just scratch the surface in dealing with the mindset of the bull pen and bully pulpit, but one thing I learned from Francis A. Schaeffer, is that how you see things, depend on your presuppositions. These are whole presuppositional issues, and not just minor points of theology or exegesis.

Where your music came from

liturgical-chant-flow-chart_production_ver3b has a chart and a series of articles that traces the development of Liturgical chant from the Temple in Jerusalem and the early church. In most cases in the West, all other music also emerged from these developments as secular music derived from sacred.

The articles discuss the continuity of liturgical music, but something needs to be said about the qualities of it as well. Plato would find nothing objectionable about the uses of the 8 modes or tones in the early church.  The music is hesychastic, reflecting an inward quietness conducive to meditation on the text without stirring passionateness. Melody and Melisma prevail, creating color with the melodic movement, with harmony only used in rare occasions (with a notable exception in Georgia).  Proportions are kept, as it were, with the idea that Plato’s True, Beautiful and Good relate to Melody, Harmony and Rhythm.

Contrast this with much modern music that does not resolve properly,  delves into harmonies that stir the passions in Plato’s thinking, and while melodies are dumbed down, rhythms dominate.   There is much more detail that should be discussed here, but I will leave it to the reader to read the articles on the site for now.