Review: Orthodoxy and Esotericism (Kelley)

My friend James Kelley gave me a complimentary copy.kelley

It is common parlance to say, “We should apply our faith to culture.”  In such slogans the words “faith” and “culture” are never defined and always used in the most abstract categories.   Kelley does us a service by bringing an advanced level of Patristic theology to such wide-ranging topics as history and esoterism.  One can go a step further: Kelley’s insights regarding (Joseph Farrell’s usage) of Sts Maximus the Confessor and Athanasius can provide us a useful compass in witnessing to those trapped in the occult.  I don’t know if Kelley himself holds that view, but it is something that came to my mind.

Ordo Theologiae

The first part deals with rather esoteric thinkers like Paul Virilio, Joseph P. Farrell, and Phillip Sherrard.  Special interest goes to Farrell.  

Here is the problem: In order for the Plotinian one to account for creation, it must already contain within himself all plurality.  Therefore, epistemology and ontology had to proceed by dialectics.  We know something by defining it by its opposite.

How was the Church to respond to this?  The best way was by simply breaking its back.  Kelley shows this by examining Athanasius’s response to Arius and Maximus’s response to monotheletism.  

For Athanasius there are three primary categories that should not be confused: nature, will, and person (Kelley 35).  The person of the Father generates the Son according to essence (since the hypostasis of the Father is the font of essence).  Creation, by contrast, is according to the will.  This leads later fathers (such as Basil) to identify three categories:

(1) Who is doing it?

(2) What is it they are doing? (energies)

(3) What are they? (essence)

The key point, however, is that Person, Nature, and Energy are not to be identified, or we have something like Plotinianism or Arianism.  

Maximus is even more interesting:  the human will cannot be passive nor defined by its contrary, the divine will.  That would mean because the divine nature/will is good, then the human nature must be evil (41). If we define something by its opposite, then we are also saying that said something (God) needs its opposite.  

I must stop the analysis at this point.  But know that the section on Joseph Farrell is a crash course in advanced theology.

Esoteric Studies

Kelley places the Nation of Islam’s cosmogony within the earlier Gnostic myths (89).  He has a fascinating section on Jim Jones.  It almost reads like a novel or a news article.  His larger point is that in these cults (NOI, Scientology, etc) there is a dialectic of a “life-force creating (or self-creating) within a primordial darkness.”

His chapter on Anaximander’s apeiron is worth the price of the book.  But what makes it interesting is Kelley’s tying Anaximander’s apeiron with Tillich’s Ungrund and Barth’s unknowable God.  The problem:  How can this “god” have any contact with creation?  Anaximander gives us a dialectically unstable answer:  this apeiron already contains within it the coincidence of opposites.

Conclusions and Analysis

Like all of Kelley’s works, this cannot help but be interesting.  How often do you read a theology book and you ask yourself, “I can’t wait to turn the page to see what happens next”?  But normally that level of excitement is for fluff.  This it most certainly is not.  Some chapters are very advanced theology, while others, like the one on Paul Virilio, are probably out of my league.

My only quibble is he set up a great dismantling of Karl Barth’s theology and then didn’t do it.  I understand that could be for space reasons.  Is Barth’s Unknowable God the same as Anaximander’s apeiron?  Maybe.  If they are, then one has at his fingertips a very destructive critique.

Aside from that, this book is most highly recommended.

Note: I received this as a complimentary copy and was under no obligation to post a positive review.

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Athanasius, Orations Against the Arians

This work is a step up from Athanasius’s smaller treaty on the Incarnation.  Here we begin to see a fully worked-out theological ontology.  This review, however, will not deal with the controversies concerning Proverbs 8 in the Nicene world.  That would take up too much space.Saint-Athanasius-life-4

One needs to see Arius’s thought in context before one can appreciate how Athanasius fundamentally destroyed the Hellenistic mindset.  It’s not simply that Arius thought Jesus was created.  He did, but Arius also thought he was being faithful to the conservative philosophical tradition in Alexandria.  That tradition is best seen as the shadow of Neo-Platonism.  It’s not a pure Neo-Platonism (if such a monster even exists), but it’s close enough on issues like simplicity.

Disclosure: I relied heavily on Joseph Farrell’s (D.Phil Oxford, Patristic Theology)  analysis of the Athanasian crisis, as well as conversations with several of his students.  Any faults are entirely my own.

Establishing the Dialectic

Short answer: Arius defined the deity in terms of a specific property of the Father (unbegottenness), but behind this definition was embedded a philosophical dialectic, which, if left unchecked, would control orthodox categoreis. The Arians saw divine simplicity unicity of a nontransferable monadic state, to use John McGuckin’s fine phrase. If the Father is simple essence, and the Son is not the Father, then the Son is of a different essence.  The problem is that the Hellenistic/Arian mind identified God’s essence with a particular property (unbegottenness). It was Athanasius’s genius to break the back of this system by noting that essence isn’t the same as person or property.

Arius shows what Origenism looks like if taken to its Neo-Platonic conclusion.  The One is utterly simple and beyond.  It is beyond subject and object, yet if the One “thinks” (or makes any kind of distinction, be it the idea to create the world or the decision to beget the Son), and given that person-will-essence are identical, and that ideas/operations are now simply effluences of the essence, Arius is forced to one of several conclusions:

  1. a) The ideas produced by the one are also identical to the one
  2. b) It is completely separate from the one by means of duplication and distance.
  3. c) If the Son is eternal, then Creation, being an object of willing, is also eternal, since the act of will is equal to the eternal essence per Arian simplicity.  Simply put, for this tradition, there can’t be distinctions between operation and essence, because the essence itself does not allow for any distinctions!

Why does (c) follow? If God has the property of being-Creator as well as the property of being-Father, and the essence is eternal, and the essence is identical to the act of will/property, then he must be eternally creator, which draws out another inference

cc) Creation is eternal

Smashing the Dialectic

d) The generation of the Son is according to the essence, since the being is from the Father, while the creation of the world is according to the divine will.  

As James Kelley notes, for “Arius the category of what God is (nature) is the same as what God does (operation).”

Now for the actual text….

Discourse I

* The Father and Son were not generated from some pre-existing origin….but the Father is the Origin of the Son and begat him (I.5).

*The Difference between Work and Begetting: “The work is external to the nature, but a son is the proper offspring of the essence” (I.8.29).

Discourse II

* The Word must be the living Will of the Father, and an essential energy (enousion energia), and a real Word” (II.14.2). Athanasius’s point is that the Word can’t be a product of the Father’s will since he is the Father’s will.  

That blunts Arius on one point but it raises another problem: isn’t making the Word the Father’s will confusing person with nature, which is what Arius did?  One could say that Athanasius isn’t defining the Deity of the Son in terms of a specific divine property.  

Elsewhere Athanasius notes that the Son is in the Father and the Son’s being is proper to the Father.  And given that Athanasius follows the Patristic ordo in reasoning from Person to Operation to Essence, then the Son’s being the living will points to a unity of operation.  Hence, we now see that the Son reveals the common operation and energy, and so reveals the common essence.

Discourse III

* The Son doesn’t “participate” in God.  This is a break with Platonism (III.23.1).

* The Son is in the Father….because the whole Being of the Son is proper to the Father’s essence….For whereas the Form and Godhead of the Father is the Being of the Son, it follows that the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son” (III.23.4).

Christ’s being in the flesh deifies the flesh, and only God can properly deify (III.27.38).

Nota Bene:

Athanasius has a robust angelology

  1. Angels are not the same as the Thrones, nor the Thrones the same as the Authorities (II.16.19).

 

A patristic ordo theologiae

The following summary comes from years of studying and interacting with Joseph Farrell’s theological works.  I had a breakthrough yesterday on the nature of the soul. Many substance dualists see the soul as the person, yet Christologically this is impermissible, as Christ has two souls yet is one person. Farrell’s definition of the person, as seen below, shows that the person is more than the soul.  This is why animals have souls but they aren’t persons.ghd

Def. Person = an absolutely undefinable concrete uniqueness without analogy to any other person, save in that very uniqueness.  It is important to remember that we are not defining person in terms of the functions of soul or nature.

Leontius refined it to mean “being-for-oneself.”  It is what distinguishes a concrete being from others of the same genus (HuvB 223). It is the ontological subject of the ascription of an essence, not the consciousness of such a subject.

Some terms:

  1. soul: the animating principle.  Not to be confused with the idea of “person.”
  2. nature: the whatness of a thing. Nature exists in a “mode of existence,” which is the hypostasis (Loudonikos 93ff). Essence, substance, being, genus, or nature.  The actual concrete reality of a thing, the underlying essence, (in earlier Christian thought the synonym of physis.)
  3. attribute: the static quality which something possesses (I prefer the term property).
  4. operations: the dynamic quality which something does by virtue of being what it is.
  5. Agency: surprisingly, a nature can function as an agent, in that natures have operations.  This doesn’t confuse person and nature, though, since the doing of a nature is seen more in the category of capacity.
    1. If an individual person acts, then it is the mode of his operation and such mode is exclusively personal.

The ordo:

Persons –> operations –> essence

Who is doing it? What are they doing? What are they that are doing these things? Heresies in the early church arose by confusing the essence with some operation (Eunomianism–seeing the nature in terms of the operation of unbegottenness).

 

 

Surveying the Conspiracy Blogs

Not all of them are kooky tin foil hats, and after the Wikileaks revelations in 2016, it’s hard to see where they were wrong in the main.  Still, while they are almost always more accurate than CNN, not all conspiracy websites are equal.  I’ve been going through this since 2008, so here is my take.  I am not saying I agree with all of them.

Also the funniest scene in the whole movie

Joseph Farrell.  People laugh at Farrell, but I always tell them (a) he is a D.Phil from Oxford and (b) his conclusions are always judicious and balanced.  And while he does play the Nazi card heavily, he doesn’t see Nazis as the root (and explanation) of every evil event in the world.  His writing style combines analytic precision with profound depth.

Jim Marrs.  I never bought into the Annuki or Reptilians creating us, but Marrs’s stuff on more recent events is pretty good. I definitely recommend his Rise of the Fourth Reich. And he is one of the most natural speakers I’ve ever listened to.

Henry Makow. I came across his blog in 2008.  He does a pretty good job in connecting the dots, though he tends to see the Jews behind everything. He has a brilliant expose of Jeff Rense. I don’t agree with his claim that Putin is working with the New World Order.

Cathy O’Brien.  I’m not sure about her specific claims, but her narrative of CIA mind-control is accurate.

Jay’s Analysis.  Jay is a friend of mine.  I’ve been impressed with how he has come along recently.

Vigilant Citizen.  Some of the early stuff was pretty good, but they have a tendency to see MK-Ultra behind everything.  I also suspect they plagiarized from Jay Dyer.

Hollywood Subliminals. Mostly good.  I think they stretch a lot of images to show the Eye of Horus, but their other stuff is often informative.

The Nazi International (Review)

What to make of this book? On one level Farrell’s argument is quite simple: financial elites prior to WWII financed key German industries which gave the Nazi party its military and financial strength a few years down the road. This has been verified by other scholars and cannot be questioned (Matt Johnson, Marrs, Kuepfner, Hoagland). Farrell is unique in that he places this concept within the context of it leading towards “alternative weapons.”
Before I begin my posts on Donbass, I need to set the stage for post-war Nazis.

Farrell shows us documents that illustrate the German Army surrendered at the end of WWII, but the Nazi party never did. Farrell, following Marrs’ argument, illustrates how key Nazi leaders such as Martin Bormann–the leader of the Nazi Party and the brains behind Hitler– escaped to South America. While it is true that the British and the Russians claim Bormann died in Berlin, Farrell shows that the arguments given are contradictory or just plain wishful thinking.

Farrell then documents how Bormann likely made it to Argentina through the British blockade. Contrary to the “Allied Legend of the Atomic Project” (e.g., America easily created many atomic bombs without outside help in the space of a few years, defying the laws of physics and time, something we can’t do even today), he makes the argument that Bormann supplied the Allies with key materiel for their atomic project in exchange for letting him pass.

(Farrell then suggests the possibilities in which Hitler, too, could have escaped, but that’s not necessary to his argument and he doesn’t pursue it).

The Nazis make it to South America, but it is important to mention what they did in the world of European finance before they made it. Given the octopus-like nature of corporations, Bormann made sure that Nazi industry and banking was deeply entwined in the Anglo-American world before the start of the war and after. Take the case of I.G. Farben industries. It was run by slave labor during the war and had “Nazi bad guys” written all over it after the war, yet it wasn’t shut down until 2001! Why not? Because you cannot simply shut down a corporation. You have to remove it at every level. And that’s just one example among hundreds (Citibank, Chase, anything remotely connected to the Rockefellers).

In any case, they get to South America, rich and connected, and begin working on science projects. At this time we need to move the narrative ahead 30 years and back to eastern Germany. One of Farrell’s arguments, and of this one I am not so sure, is that the Nazi underground within post-war Europe was busy sowing the seeds of conflict in the Middle East and Europe. For example he points to the efficiency of the German BND making out of country raids with their fabled effiency, demonstrating the Germans can strike anywhere with precision. Another is the “annexation” of East Germany after 1989. His final example is the German-orchestrated break-up of Yugoslavia, allowing Germany to place Croatia back in its sphere of influence and humble Serbia.

Edit in review: When I first wrote this review, I scoffed at the idea that Nazis were in control of Germany today via Merkel and the EU.  Now, I am not so sure.  In fact, I am about 95% sure that a Nazi-like shadow govt runs America at one level.
Farrell ends  his book reviewing Hoagland’s thesis on NASA. This is the most interesting section. Hoagland argues that NASA is run by Masons, Magicians, and Nazis, and believe it or not, the arguments add up. Hoagland analyzes the symbolism behind NASA’s Greek references and shows them to be…Egyptian in origin. It’s really kind of neat.

Conclusion:

The book wasn’t focused and could have been one hundred pages shorter. I agree with a lot of what he said, but it would have been better if the narrative were tight

Other thoughts on Trump and globalism

Let’s leave personal failures aside and whether he is simply pimping the working class.  Trump’s rhetoric against globalism really stirs me.  And of course, his utter annihiliation of the GOP is something to consider.  But still.  One thing bothers me:  if there is a global cabal that controls politics, as I think there is, will Trump really change anything?

Maybe.  Critics of people who posit a New World Order say, “The govt is too incompetent to run something like this.”  Yes, the US govt is incompetent.  But this isn’t a US govt thing.  But let’s still go with the idea of an extra-territorial elite who has a sophisticated system of finance and technology.

(Here I am closely following the analysis of Joseph Farrell). We are seeing infighting in the New World Order.  How on earth can Donald Trump make “Truther” accusations against Jeb Bush and not be shut down immediately?  Rather, Bush’s campaign collapses.  Trump accuses Cruz’s father of complicity with Lee Harvey Oswald.  Cruz shuts his own campaign down.

Of course, Hillary is part of the NWO, too.  She represents the more Rockefeller branch while Trump is probably closer to the Mafia.

So what does this mean for us?

A Patristics Primer

I spent the past few days on Facebook debating soon-to-be-Socinians in the CBMW on why you shouldn’t tinker with the Trinity.  Some friends have asked me for a primer on basic Patristics texts.  This is more or less an impossible request but I can start to lay the groundwork.  If you devote at least a good six months to working through these issues, you will begin to see why tinkering with the Trinity must end badly.

Primary Sources

Hilary of Poitiers, “De Synodis.”  St Hilary explains how the early Fathers had to break the back of certain categories before they became acceptable.

Athanasius.  Contra Arianos.  This work is very difficult to read but it is his best work.

Gregory of Nazianzus.  On God and Christ: Five Theological Orations.  The best thing ever written on Trinitarianism.

Gregory of Nyssa.  “Great Catechism” and “On Not Three Gods.”  Advances the argument that the Trinity is one mind, will, power, and energy of operation.  This is why Gospel Coalition types won’t engage me when I ask them how many minds are in the Trinity.

Basil.  On The Holy Spirit.

Pseudo-Dionysius.  The Divine Names.

Basic Trinitarianism

Letham, Robert.  The Holy Trinity.  Letham has a number of blind-spots but he covers the material better than any.

Lacugna, Catherine.  God for Us.  She is a liberal Jesuit and that comes out in her writing, but she does a fine job on the Cappadocians.

Torrance, Thomas.  The Trinitarian Faith and One Being: Three persons.  The two best texts by a modern on the Trinity.  Torrance has few equals.  And no, his so-called “neo-orthodoxy” does not come out in this.

Intermediate Issues

McGuckin, John.  Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy.  Excellent survey of Cyril’s thought and he makes the argument that Chalcedon, far from being a Western council, specifically made Cyril the standard for Christology.

———–.  St Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography.  Just fun.

Beeley, Christopher.  The Unity of Christ and In Your Light We See Light.

Advanced Issues

Barnes, Michel.  The Power of God.  Explores Gregory of Nyssa’s use of “dynamis” in Christology.

Farrell, Joseph.  God, History, and Dialectic.  Be careful but some good analysis.

Photios.  Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps the Filioque can be salvaged, but not by positing the Father-Son as a single cause.

Jenson, Robert.  Systematic Theology, vol. 1.

Philosophical Foundations.

Perl, Eric.  Theophany: Dionysius’s Philosophy.

Gould and Davis (eds).  Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of JP Moreland.   Some outstanding essays on what it means for universals to be exemplified.

Maximus the Confessor.  The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ.

Moreland, J. P. Universals.

Cooper, John. Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting.

Morris, Thomas.  The Logic of God Incarnate.  This is tough and I am not sure I agree with all of his conclusions, but it is an important study nonetheless.

Plantinga, Alvin.  Does God have a Nature?  Yeah, yeah, classical theism and all.  Plantinga’s arguments can’t simply be brushed aside.