Read Psalm 8 carefully, considering how God has ordained strength out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, God who has been mindful of frail man and visited the son of man and crowned him with glory and honour. And then look at this image and think about the psalm again:
To start off Advent a fortnight early like an old Hispanic of the Mozarabic Rite, I give you Peter Lombard, 12c. mediaeval schoolman and Bishop of Paris, the Master of the Sentences (as Aquinas calls him), on the self-offering of Christ:
Christ is the priest, as he is also the victim and the price of our reconciliation. He offered himself on the altar of the cross not to the devil, but to the triune God, and he did so for all with regard to the sufficiency of the price, but only for the elect with regard to its efficacy, because he brought about salvation only for the predestined.
This teaching, under the formula ‘sufficient for all, efficient for the elect’, became the standard teaching of the Occidental churches, and was maintained by English Reformed divine John Davenant at the Synod of Dort. Today, we can remember that we are able to offer salvation to all, upon condition of faith, because Jesus himself did so in offering himself to God for all, and saw to it that his elect would actually believe and be saved. And what God has offered, we are permitted to offer: God died for you, and therefore you can be saved.
Talking with a friend today, I recognized something consciously that had been only intuitive in feeling before: part of the appeal of Virginia to me, part of the reason I could identify with Virginia despite my much looser relation to America, was its familiarity to my Chinese blood. The aristocratic and localist agrarian culture of the Old Dominion bears a certain resemblance – even a ‘family resemblance’ – to the agrarian culture you can see in, say, a 1980 Hong Kong drama set in the countryside of Guangdong province.
Obvious differences between Anglo-Saxon and Chinese cultures notwithstanding, the culture of the Old Dominion is perhaps the most Chinese culture native to America. Common to rural Guangdong and the Old Dominion was a conservative power of local agrarian élites, and a respect for settled custom. Church vestries, dominated by plantation laymen, were socially powerful in colonial Virginia, and they wanted to keep it that way rather than having local bishops sent from England to interfere in local affairs. This would have been very familiar to a Chinese villager from Guangdong province. In rural Guangdong, villages had elders who led and advised villagers, but the local Confucian gentry dominated village politics. Rarely would anything change without the permission of the local landlord, and rarely would an actual official from the emperor show up. To have anything referred to the actual officials was a big deal, and villagers generally avoided such trouble even if the judgements of the landlord were not to their liking. Besides, the bribery that might be required for fair judgements from county magistrates was beyond the means of most common folk. Unsurprisingly, much about old Virginia was something my heart grasped, because of the place my own family had come from, the place where my family had lived for 700 years or more.
Needless to say, old China was a deeply flawed society, in need of reform and perhaps even social revolution in the early 20th century; in view of some of the injustices in this system’s last decadent period, it also is unsurprising that villagers during the Cultural Revolution rose up against long-resented landlords. Nevertheless, to an urban Hong Kong audience in the 1980s there could also be a measure of nostalgia for this old China in which everyone knew each other, and there was a known order. For all its flaws, it was also a deeply human order in which the drama of human struggle could be appreciated on the TV screens of Hongkongers 70 years later.
I believe that sympathetic appreciation of this old order, warts and all, is essential for the formation of America’s future, but that very thing is what America lacks today. The success in 1980s Hong Kong of a daily TV drama series told from the point of view of a peasant family, with sympathetic treatments of the landlord, the village gossip, and other characters, suggests the value of such literature even in a modern urban society. Dixie has had William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and others, but there seems to be a vacuum today. Virginia needs new prominent literary voices to show its human drama in a way that people today can understand and relate to, voices that love the South for what it is and sing out the dramas of the Virginian heart.
In an age when people think of citizenship mostly in terms of taxes paid and services gained, commodity for commodity, ancient thought about citizenship and political constitutions of republics challenges us. Polybius, in book 6 of his Histories, describes the constitution of the Roman republic, and about 40% of his discussion is about the structure of life in the Roman army. What does this tell us about citizenship?
José Antonio Primo de Rivera, in his essays on nationalism, April 1934:
Every people or every grouping of peoples is thus not a nation. Only those are who accomplish a historical destiny differentiated from the universal. From this it follows that it is superfluous to specify if a nation possesses qualities of geographical, racial or linguistic unity; its importance is determined if it possesses, within the universal, the unity of a historical destiny. The classical ages understood this with their customary clarity. That is why they never used the words ‘fatherland’ and ‘nation’ in the Romantic sense, nor anchored their patriotism in the obscure love of the soil. They preferred, on the contrary, expressions such as ‘empire’ or ‘service of the king’, that is to say, expressions that refer to the historical instrument.
A necessary clarity today, when people under the tyranny of neoliberalism have no idea what a nation is, and are reduced to muttering about ‘taxpayers’ and the state as a commodity. I shall not attempt to disguise my scorn for that way of thinking and – if we may call it that – living.
Afterwards, in the Law, a new precept concerning the Sabbath was given, which should be peculiar to the Jews, and but for a season; because it was a legal ceremony shadowing forth a spiritual rest, the truth of which was manifested in Christ. Therefore the Lord the more frequently testifies that he had given, in the Sabbath, a symbol of sanctification to his ancient people. Therefore when we hear that the Sabbath was abrogated by the coming of Christ, we must distinguish between what belongs to the perpetual government of human life, and what properly belongs to ancient figures, the use of which was abolished when the truth was fulfilled.
Calvin was not a Sabbatarian like many of the puritans who hated Christmas.
Álvaro Semedo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest in China at the end of the Ming dynasty:
Nicolas Trigault, a French Jesuit priest in China around the same time:
Though a Protestant should know not to trust the Jesuits, in this case the Jesuits made a sensible choice, to adopt Chinese dress in China, specifically the dress of Chinese Confucian scholars. Two centuries later, Protestant missionary Hudson Taylor made a similar choice to adopt Chinese dress, much to the chagrin of his English missionary colleagues.
Even though the everyday clothes of ordinary Chinese are much more Westernized today, the everyday clericals worn by Christian priests and deacons ought to reflect the native meaning system in clothes, rather than shout FOREIGN. For this reason, something like the above, analogous to English cassock, gown, and college cap, is what we should come to expect in China of even priests that are come to serve from overseas.
There is one law of God, because God is one, but in human society it takes multiple concrete forms. The morality of the same outward acts can vary between cultures, even though the inner law, the moral law of God, is unchanging as God himself. How Christian saints are treated in Chinese culture, then, should be calibrated for the existing Chinese symbol system. Evelyn S. Rawski describes part of this system in The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions (University of California Press, 1998), 205–206:
Christian Jochim argues that ritualized obeisances are ‘acts both of humility and privilege’. By kneeling and kowtowing before Heaven and his imperial ancestors, the emperor partakes of their numinous power; by kneeling and kowtowing before the emperor, ministers, princes, and others participating in an audience ritual partake of the powers flowing through the emperor. The emperor’s obeisance to his mother carries a somewhat different symbolic message, one that reifies the hierarchical relationships within families that lie at the core of the Confucian order.
The symbolic significance of sitting to receive ritual homage was broadly understood in Chinese society. The same action confirms the submissiveness of the young bride to her new parents-in-law, the subordination of a concubine to her husband’s wife, of a maidservant to her mistress. By extension we find in Chinese society the symbolic vesting of authority in both a specific chair and in the pose itself. By at least Song times some of the legitimacy conferred by this symbolically charged act had been transferred to the chair itself. Chan Buddhist monasteries during the funeral of an abbot placed the deceased man’s portrait in the ‘dharma seat’ – the seat occupied by the abbot – until a new successor was installed, thus drawing on the same symbolic vocabulary found in discussions of the throne in the Taihedian.
The argument that Chinese ritual culture gave primacy to performance of the act rather than to a specific throne or chair can be supported by popular religion, where deities in Chinese temples are portrayed in a seated position, to receive the worship of the people. The tablets denoting Heaven and the imperial ancestors in the Temple of the Ancestors were also ‘seated’ on thrones during rituals. Deities in the popular religion are depicted in this seated pose to the present day. The popular woodblock prints known as zhima, which continue to be produced in the People’s Republic of China, show the deity in a seated frontal pose, ‘like a statue in a Chinese temple’: ‘This effect is no accident, since prints of this type (some authors have called this an ‘iconic’ print) were the focus of domestic religious ceremonials and received offerings, such as incense, from family members.’ As with deities, so with the emperor – or perhaps the statement should be reversed. When the new emperor sat on the throne and received the obeisances of the nobles and officials, he was performing a ritual action that not only echoed those of ordinary persons in the society but also replicated that of the gods in Chinese popular religion.
So the Chinese should not, I think, depict departed saints sitting in a frontal pose, because these saints must not be seated to receive homage. We are, after all, not servants of Mary and the other departed saints, but servants of the Most High. Rather than sitting, then, a departed saint could be depicted standing to praise God together with the living, since dead and living alike ascend to heaven to join the angels and archangels in worshipping the one holy God.
Necessarily an avoidance of depicting the dead as seated would call for changes in ritual depictions of dead parents, for instance, but some changes in standard practice are to be expected. A Christian who has gone to be with the Lord is no longer in a position of living authority on earth. The rites should be modified to exclude all ‘sitting’ of the dead, so that ritual homage in the full sense is done only to living authorities: the reigning emperor, a person’s parents, a bride’s new parents-in-law, a concubine’s mistress (her husband’s first wife), a maidservant’s mistress, and so on. It was customary to depict the dead both seated and facing the viewer, as if God had placed them as intermediate authorities between himself and the living; the truth of the gospel, however, suggests that we should depict them not only standing to praise God, but also facing upward toward the left or the right, wherever God may ritually be imagined to be.
In contrast, when my younger brother married, he and his bride knelt to serve tea to my parents, and my parents sat in chairs side by side to receive this act of homage; my parents then gave them advice and symbolic red packets of money. After order of seniority, I myself also sat to be served tea by my brother and his bride, though they stood rather than kneeling, and like my parents I also gave them words of advice. It was a touching moment for me, to receive thanks from my younger brother and his new wife, and to urge them in turn to do all things by the word of God and raise up godly children. A departed ancestor, however, is no longer in a position of living authority delegated by God, and therefore cannot rightly take a seated posture in relation to the living on earth. Therefore it is right to treat them differently when the Lord has called them to leave this earthly life and its authority, and to await the resurrection of the dead.
‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes,’ William Tyndale said before he was strangled by the hangman and burnt at the stake. God answered his prayer, and his work to translate the Bible and reform the Church of England from the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome bore fruit in the English Reformation that followed. May the Lord honour his prayers and in Christ save the people of England from their sins.
In primary school, I think there is little point in teaching children about the organelles of a cell or Darwinian evolutionary theory. They simply are not yet equipped to understand or evaluate any of these things in a truly scientific way. Instead, what matters the most is observation. Only when they know how to observe will they know how to account in theory for what is observed.
In my imagination, the ideal primary-school biology teacher is a Lakhota brave teaching the students to observe and identify organisms in nature. He takes them outside and expects them to pay close attention to what they see, hear, and smell. If they see tracks of an animal, they mark well what it is they observe and what it might mean. They draw and write about some of the plants they encounter, and they also keep in mind whatever they have come across, because the teacher will test them both during and after a trip. A student finishing primary school might well say, ‘I don’t know what mitochondria are: I have never seen any in real life. But I can tell apart Eastern and Western Meadowlarks by their bird calls, because I have seen and heard both, and taken notes about the sound that each of them makes. Can you tell them apart?’
Talking nowadays about the National-Syndicalism and about its founder, Ramiro Ledesma Ramos, is at least difficult. It is basically because 37 years after Franco’s death (he died 20th November 1975), the official historians, the media and the most rancorous peoples – whether of the right or the left wings –, without historical rigour, still mistakenly linking, falsely and sometimes intentionally, National-Syndicalism (NS henceforward) with the regime of Franco.
Since 19th April 1937, with the approval of the Decree of Unification with what Franco and Serrano Suñer created that hybrid called FET and of the JONS, resounded at the life of the Spaniards that slogan “For God, Spain and its National-Syndicalist Revolution”, and though indeed, there was a lot of “For God” and a lot of “ITS” Spain, there was not nothing of National-Syndicalist Revolution. The Spanish people lived for almost 40 years wrapped in the National-Syndicalist trappings, but without its essence, the National-Syndicalist spirit and ideology, everything what was presented as such, it was distorted by the elements of the rising regime: technocrats of the Opus Dei, monarchists and reactionary right-wingers, covered all by the Catholic Church and the Army.
Meanwhile, the authentic National-syndicalists were condemned to silence. Manuel Hedilla, 2nd National Chief of FE of the JONS, Ruiz Castillejos, de los Santos, Chamarro, were condemned to death. Félix Gómez and Ángel Alcázar de Velasco, to penal servitude for life. Others, to some years of imprisonment… their crime: to go against the Decree of Unification and the falsification of the NS.
Some National-Syndicalists thought that by going inside the regime of the general Franco they could achieve influence on it. Others, the most decided in the action and in the compromise, opted for the clandestine fight, and the most, accepted the Unification. This attitude was comprehensible in a organisation that was exaggeratedly incremented by elements coming from right-wing and reactionary parties, which pretended to use the NS as political springboard, as well as to turn it in to the truncheon guard of the bourgeoisie´s interests.
It is doubtless that if Ramiro Ledesma had been comprehended when he accussed FE of the JONS of acquiescent with the right wing, if José Antonio Primo de Rivera (founder of Falange, FE) had accepted the criticisms of Ramiro and had not took so long to comprehend them, that the fate of the NS would have been something else. Both died assassinated by the Government of the People’s Front, but both were murdered day after day by the regime of Franco and after this, by all those who, with their blue shirts, their beltings and their hair fixed, made of flashiness, bullying and rightism their found of action, attitude that nothing must envy of what 40 years ago had in Salamanca guys as Dávila, Aznar or Garcerán.
Ramiro Ledesma Ramos, a National-Bolshevik?
If, as I have pointed at former occasions, the National-bolshevism (hereafter NB) is the harmonic union between the most radical conceptions of the national and the social, evidently we can assert that Ramiro Ledesma was a National-Bolshevik. “There are here two words: one, the national idea, the Homeland as historical enterprise and as guarantee of historical existence of all the Spaniards; the other, the social idea, the socialist economy, as guarantee of the bread and economic welfare of all the people” says roundly Ramiro.
Since the beginnings, Ramiro and his Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista (JONS), aspired to attract all the workers to the national cause, as the jonsists wanted “acquire a broad proletarian base”. This inquietude was a faithful reflex of their social extraction: proletarians, peasants and radical cutting intellectuals, vehemently against the bourgeois order. One of the constant fears of Ramiro, one of his most painful worries was that jonsism were confused “with a frivolous and futile task of young gentlemen”.
With the JONS was born in Spain, in words of Ramiro, “a political movement, of national core deep and great social perspectives, rather, socialist ones”. Ramiro has very clear the role of the rights, and he does not hesitate in accuse them as one of the greatest evils that pinch their people, while he does not hesitate either in denouncing the operetta patriotism, “we well know a long time ago what to expect about the rightist patriotism, specially those of the forces more directly clerical and linked to the sacristies. Every day is more evident for us the suspicious that the national weakness of Spain is due, in great part, to “the inoperative patriotism, false and without warm” that till now has ruled, incubated and oriented the right wing”.
In Ramiro, the fate of the community always goes linked to a just distribution of the riches: “The submission of the riches to the national advisabilities, that is to say, to the pushfulness of Spain and the prosperity of the people”. Always there were in the jonsists social and economic consigns. “With we, then the workers; to nationalise the parasitic banking, to nationalise the transports, to cut off the action of the speculating piracy and to exterminate to the great profiteers of products”. The jonsist NS had very clear what had to be the basic aspirations of the community: “The JONS ask and want the nationalisation of the transports, as notorious public service, the control of the financial speculations of the high banking, democratic guarantee of the people´s economy; the regulation of the interest or income produced by the money used in exploitations of national utility; the democratisation of the credit, the benefit of the unions, communal groups and small business; abolition of the forced unemployment, making of the work a right of all the Spaniards, as guarantee against starvation and misery, equality before the State of all the elements that intervene in the production (capital, workers and technicians), and rigorous justice in the responsible for disciplining the national economy organisms; abolition of the abusive privileges and instauration of a hierarchy of the State that reach and be nourished by all the Spanish classes”. These were then the consigns of the JONS. Does anyone doubt of its rotundity and its people´s and revolutionary spirit?
Ramiro, as other National-Bolshevik thinkers of that time, does not hesitate in criticise the fascism when this turns to the right. He says about it: “ …has crushed, in effect, the political institutions of the bourgeoisie and it has given to the proletarians a new moral and a political optimism… but Has it crushed or weaken the great fortresses of the financial capital, the high industrial bourgeoisie and the landowners in benefit the general economy of all the people? And, furthermore, is it actually making possible the elimination of the capitalist system and basing increasingly the regime at the economic interests of the great masses? Without any doubt, with such statements, it is comprehensible and logical that Ramiro were silenced and marginalised by the regime of Franco, inasmuch as it is known by everyone, this was supported to settle on the power, accurately on these great fortresses of the financial capita to which Ramiro refers.
For Ramiro and his JONS, the fascisms of operetta were totally condemnable, “groups without deep dimension, artificial, that import the fascist phenomenon as someone imports any fashion gender”. He shows hard, very hard with these fascist movements of importation when he states that. “Mosley is there out, with his shirts, his fascist party and his mussolinian dreams; as here Primo de Rivera, with a similar team… they have a leader, an aristocrat Duce, millionaire, who spends his money organising the party. Just like that, Mosley, the Englishman, who is Sir, multimillionaire and flamboyant. So is Primo de Rivera, the Spaniard, millionaire and superfine. So is Starhemberg, who is prince and everything else. All of them are soft, doughy, cottony, with good manners, that pretend to implant a Corporate State… They are characterised also for their notorious tendency to disown all people´s angish then they are incubated in privileged social classes and they are linked to all the reactionary forms of the society”.
Ramiro also acquires a revolutionary compromise with the Spanish country. Its words are dialectic bullets against the rural capitalism: “Spanish countrymen: the land is the nation. The peasant who cultivates the land has got the right to its usufruct. The regime of the agrarian property hitherto has been a consented theft and carried out by the Monarchy and its feudal hordes. Countrymen: 147 great landowners have got in their hands more than a million hectares of land. All the land is yours. Demand its nationalization”
These affirmations will affront the sanctimonius minds of the right-wing. A lot of these proposals are totally left by the traditional parties of the left-wing, and even by the most radical leftists.
“Up with the new world! Up with the Spain that we will do!”. These were the jonsist consigns and shouts. They were, without any doubt, new proclamations, shouts of hope, but over all, shouts of revolution. Yes, of revolution, because they were fed-up men of a rotten world, plenty of injustices, of exploited men and exploiters. There was an imperative, popular and revolutionary: to subvert the bourgeois order. And in this task, the JONS fought. Ramiro managed print that spirit between his comrades, who understood the need to distance from the bourgeois vulgarity, to shun from all the old and from all the deciduous.
So the first task of the NS “was to link those two separate ingredients: the national and the social, the Homeland an the Work. That nobody think that the adoption of the term both charming and polemic, of the national-proletarian revolution, were in the founders work of reflexive and cautious tactic, but immediate consequence from living in a deep and endearing manner the history of our time”. These words from Pedro Laín Entralgo newly approximate us to the jonsist aspiration of the social and the national.
The National-Bolsheviks preferred an alliance or rapprochement with the Soviet Russia to an alliance with the occidental democracies, as the Great Britain, fact that differentiate them clearly from the Hitler´s approachs… And in this context, newly we appeal to Pedro Laín Entralgo when he affirms: “As Ramiro Ledesma remarks with dowser sight, the Soviet communism is becoming more and more in a national-communism. Stalin is doing the turn from the world proletarian revolution of Lenin to a national Russian revolution”. These words can seem exaggerated, but Ramiro in some times does similar affirmations: “Russia, with its national-communist regime, with war moral, overarmed, in full experiment of gigantic social subversions, is not yet, of course, the revolutionary country that conspires everyday for the world revolution”. Or when he affirms: “It is the rotund efficacy of the Soviet state, that offers to the Russian people, in a coactive and questionless manner, the possibility of taking august national discipline. Nowadays Stalin guarantee his economic plan brandishing the nationalist Russian fury”.
It is clear that Ramiro was not at all communist, and he himself explain us why: “Against the communism, with its charge of reasons and efficacies, we put on a national idea, that it do not accepts, and that represents for us the beginning of every human enterprise of jaunty range. This national idea contains a culture and some historical values that we recognize as our highest patrimony”.
Some poems are so powerful that I cannot help showing people, even if they have almost no experience of poetry in the language in which the poems are written. Recently I was showing my American friend a Chinese poem in the ci 詞 lyric genre, written in 1075 to the tune ‘Riverside City’ 江城子 by the Song dynasty poet Su Shi 蘇軾 (art name Su Dongpo 蘇東坡):
十年生死兩茫茫， 不思量，自難忘。 千里孤墳，無處話淒涼。 縱使相逢應不識， 塵滿面，鬢如霜。
夜來幽夢忽還鄉， 小軒窗，正梳妝。 相顧無言，唯有淚千行。 料得年年腸斷處， 明月夜，短松岡。
The whole poem is what you hear at night after, in the daytime, having heard a shi 詩 genre poem by the Tang dynasty poet He Zhizhang 賀知章:
Both poems have the years away from home (十年, 少小離家), the greyed hair on the temples (鬢如霜, 鬢毛衰), the being a stranger to someone at home (縱使相逢應不識, 兒童相見不相識). If Su Shi in the Song dynasty poem was not intentionally alluding to the Tang dynasty poem, he might as well have been doing so. But if the Tang dynasty shi poem in the daytime was bittersweet, with the children in the speaker’s hometown being strangers to him, asking this foreigner where he was come from, then this Song dynasty ci poem is a very different, nocturnal poem.
Su Shi wrote his poem ten years after the death of his wife. After ten years, he says, life and death are vast, unmeasured, boundless, the distance between them oceanic. He may not dwell on it, to ponder and to reckon, to consider and to measure, yet the thing by nature is hard to forget: a thousand miles, a lone grave, and no place to speak of his bleakness. Even if they were to meet, they might not know each other. Dust fills his face; his temple hair is like frost.
The second stanza begins with a striking line that shifts the mood, and the poet and listener’s location: 夜來幽夢忽還鄉. It also is the favourite line of one of my father’s college friends. We can try to understand it by prosody and sound.
Let’s hear the line with a cæsura after the fourth syllable, as is usual in a Chinese line of seven syllables: 夜來幽夢 || 忽還鄉. Thus: night comes, dim dreams – sudden return village.
In Cantonese, this line sounds like ye loi yau mung || fat waan heung. The sound of the line’s first half is soft. Of the four syllables, three are open (no consonant after the vowel), and the fourth ends in a nasal consonant. All the consonants in those four syllables are sonorants: semivowels, liquids, or nasals. (If you want to hear the sound, even if you speak no Cantonese, it’s always possible to look up the Middle Chinese sound of every syllable on Wiktionary.) Because of the correspondence of sound and sense in this line, the netherworld dreams, or dim dreams (幽夢), have a sort of charming, romantic Southern Gothic feel to them, like a lazy, warm summer night breeze on an old South Carolina plantation, with Spanish moss hanging from the trees. That’s the kind of mood I get from 夜來幽夢, just on the edge of spooky. Now you get to the last three syllables, 忽還鄉. The first syllable there, 忽 (‘sudden’), sounds like huət̚ in Middle Chinese: first a fricative, then a reduced-sounding vowel followed by a stop! like a strong wind that suddenly stops. ‘In the night were dim dreams, and suddenly I was returned home.’ Through the texture created by the sounds in this line, the audience is suddenly transported with the author.
He shows us a little high window, and right there is combing and adorning. His and his wife’s care for each other has no words, only tears’ thousand tracks. One can guess every year the place where his guts snap: a night with a bright moon, a mound with short pines.