Sunday, April 30, 2017

Satan the Devil Said to be of Persian Origin, 1888 Article

THE DEVIL—SATAN SAID TO BE OF PERSIAN ORIGIN, article in Current Literature 1888

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Taking the word Satan in its specific sense, as a proper name, we find it in the Bible signifying a spiritual invisible being, whose vocation is to tempt and mislead mankind, and who delights in man's destruction and degradation. In the Book of Job Satan is described as being familiar with the Almighty: “And the Lord said unto Satan, whence comest thou?" (Job i., 7). During the reign of David, Satan is reported to have worked against Israel. “And Satan stood up against Israel" (I. Chronicles xxi.) When the prophet Zechariah beheld in a vision the high priest Joshua standing before an angel he saw Satan by his side to resist (Zechariah iii., 1). These biblical passages have given rise to a superstitious belief which has taken deep root, not only in the hearts of our people, but also in those of the numerous adherents of Christianity and Islam. In the New Testament Satan is identified with the devil, derived from the Greek Diabolos, and is believed to be as ubiquitous and powerful as God himself. In Matthew iv., 1, Satan is reported as having tempted Jesus. St. John calls Satan a murderer, a liar. And in Revelation xii., 7, 9, it is said: “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, etc. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the devil and Satan,” etc. It is most astonishing that Jesus, in whom Christians believe as having been God himself, was powerless in the presence of Satan, while Michael and his angels vanquished him? In the second and seventh chapters of the Koran we read that “Satan, who is there called Eblis, having disobeyed God's order to worship Adam, was hurled down from heaven," etc. Thus has Satan become the invisible ruler of Europe, western Asia and America, corrupting the innocent, defiling the pure, and degrading individuals as well as communities. But the question arises spontaneously: Who is Satan? Has Judaism given birth to such a phantom? Are the people of Israel responsible for the existence of such a demon? In order to solve these question, we must concur in the conclusions to which our great historians and modern Bible critics have arrived, with reference to the period when those books which mention Satan as a proper name were discovered. It has been ascertained that the books Job, Daniel, Chronicles and Kings belong to that time when the children of Israel, with exception of a few who were permitted to remain in Jerusalem, were transported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. There they came in contact with the Persians, whose religion consisted in fire worshiping and believing in a deity of a dual form, in Ormuzd, the creator of light and good, and Ahriman, the originator of darkness and evil. This belief of the Persians was during the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, improved by Zoroaster, who was the propagator of Monotheism, teaching that there was before the world's creation but one omnipotent God who, by his word, called into being two good angels, Ormuzd and Ahriman. But the latter corrupted his ways, and thus became ruler of darkness and evil. Now, as the people of Israel found in the land of their captivity a nation whose principal belief in God bore such a striking resemblance to their own, they soon became closely attached to them, and imbued with their belief in Ahriman, whose name they changed afterward into Satan, which found entrance into the Bible. Persian superstitious religious ideas took a strong hold of our people's imagination, yes, even of that of our prophets. "The names of the angels"—says the Talmud Jerushalmi of Rosa Hashana— "did the people of Israel bring with them from Babylon during the reign of Cyrus." Thus the Christian world is indebted for the invention of Satan, who embellishes their Testament, not to the Jews, but to the Persians. Also the believers in Kabbalah are indebted for the nomenclature of angels and demons which they possess to nobody else but to the Persians. The Persian doctrines of angelology and demonology have impressed the majority of our people so that they adhere to it up to the present day. This doctrine has become the nucleus of many of our prayers. The Kabbalistic rabbis have even gone a step further, and have identified Satan with the serpent which enticed Adam and Eve to trespass against God's commandments. And gradually they have advanced him to the high position of Malach Hamovess, angel of death. Hence, one of the sages says: “ Hu, Hasatan, Hu Hajezer hora, Hu Hamalach hamovess." "The Satan, the enticer to evil, and the angel of death are one and the same being." This view, however, was not shared by all rabbis. There were many who bitterly opposed it. The Talmud B'rachoth, page 33, relates: “In the place where Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa resided a serpent endangered the lives of the people. The rabbi succeeded in doing away with the serpent and convincing the people that not the serpent killeth, but sin." This story intimates the idea that Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa worked to destroy the prevalent belief that the old serpent Nachash Hakadmony was the Malach Hamovess who hurls people into untimely graves. The rabbi endeavored to show that untimely death is due to some cheth, yes, some deviation from God's precepts which are compatible with the divine and supreme laws of nature in the world.

From this it appears that the devil has no business in the Bible. He is an imposter—a standing fraud. Discussing the devil, the National Review says: "To gain his end there were no pains the devil would not take, no situation in which he would not place himself. He assumed the likeness of an elegant young man in order to lead astray a girl called Maricken. Through her means he gained more than a thousand souls, but was at last robbed of his chief victim and accomplice through the efforts of her uncle, a holy priest. He clothed himself with the body of a beautiful princess of Constantinople, lately dead, in order to marry Baldwin, Count of Flanders, on account of the unrivaled opportunities for evil which this position would give him. And he acted for thirteen years as lady's maid to a Portuguese woman named Lupa, but was robbed of his prey after all; for since, amid all her wickedness, she had not ceased to reverence St. Francis and his disciple St. Anthony, they brought her the habit of their order on her deathbed, and so saved her from the clutches of the fiend. Yet, in spite of all this zeal and versatility, he cannot be acquitted of the grave fault of sometimes wasting his time. It could, for instance, serve no great purpose for the devils to leap about the refectory tables of St. Dominic's convent. And from the time which he devoted to teaching in the Black School he did not reap an unmixed benefit; for, though ‘the devil took the hindmost,’ this was sometimes the man's cloak or his shadow, and his more able pupils, such as Soemundr the Learned, learned among other accomplishments, to exorcise and cheat their great and wily teacher."

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The Ten Things You Can't Say in America by Larry Elder

The Ten Things You Can't Say in America by Larry Elder

St. Martin’s Press · 2000 · 367 pages · $23.95 cloth; $14.95 paperback
Reviewed by William H. Peterson

There is hope yet for America. Larry Elder is a host of a successful talk show on KABC Radio in Los Angeles and a nationally syndicated columnist who wins the imprimatur of a major book publisher to carry a big message. As a black libertarian, he is also a breath of fresh air in his courage and plain speaking.

Elder is even something of a firebrand. Here he daringly takes on the Fortress America of Political Correctness on and off the campus, in and out of the mainline media, from and to the church pulpit. And so he assails ten supposedly unassailable yet monumentally politically correct paradigms.
Here are his topics:
  1. Blacks Are More Racist than Whites;
  2. White Condescension Is as Bad as Black Racism;
  3. The Media Bias: It’s Real, It’s Widespread, It’s Destructive;
  4. The Glass Ceiling—Full of Holes;
  5. America’s Greatest Problem: Not Crime, Racism, or Bad Schools—It’s Illegitimacy;
  6. There Is No Health-Care “Crisis”;
  7. America’s Welfare State: The Tyranny of the Statist Quo;
  8. Republicans Versus Democrats: Maybe a Dime’s Worth of Difference;
  9. The War Against Drugs Is Vietnam II: We’re Losing This One, Too;
  10. Gun Control Advocates: Good Guys with Blood on Their Hands.
Those are indeed things that can’t be said in most circles, but Elder argues his points with great assurance. He says out loud what Americans only whisper at the kitchen table, on the shop floor, or at the water cooler. Something has gone wrong.

We have become, he maintains, a nation of whimpering people who won’t take responsibility for our own actions, but furiously rage that the problem is always someone or something else.

Here’s a choice cut of Elder’s rhetoric: “We’ve become a nation of ‘victicrats’. . . . The glass ceiling? Nonsense. Hate crimes? All crimes are hateful. O.J. Simpson? He did it, and his defense team shamelessly used the black victicrat mentality to escape conviction.”

Let’s focus on just two of his “ten things.” First, take his argument that the War On Drugs amounts to Vietnam II—that we’re mired in a bloody and foolish conflict that can’t be won. Why, he asks, is it all right for his next-door neighbor to come home and have a martini—but a serious criminal offense to come home and smoke a joint?

Drugs, he admits, can kill, but so can alcohol. And so does tobacco, in far larger numbers. Ditto for overeating. The moral question is who is accountable to whom? Who should take responsibility—the individual or the Nanny State? Elder, of course, can’t abide the latter.

Second, what about those “holier than thou” gun controllers? For all their talk about child safety locks and “sensible” gun registration and licensing requirements, Elder asks if their ultimate aim isn’t the confiscation of privately owned weapons.

Bare fists or mace won’t do when an attacker has a gun. Elder believes you have the right to decide what sort of personal defense to own and use while the controllers think they are entitled to make that choice for you. He notes that New York has issued concealed weapons permits to Donald Trump, Laurence Rockefeller, and Howard Stern. Well, what about the baker in Queens? Or for that matter, women anywhere who are worried about violence?

Books by talk-show hosts tend to be unscholarly, but not this one. Elder has done his homework. Ten Things You Can’t Say in America is heavily documented, with many graphs and tables.

Larry Elder’s book is a triumph of common sense, with enough nerve to shake up the dreary statist quo. It is a passionate plea for limited government and personal responsibility. Let us hope to hear more from him.

Contributing editor William Peterson is an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation.
William H. Peterson
William H. Peterson
William H. Peterson (1921-2012) was an economist, businessman and author who wrote extensively on Austrian Economics. He completed his PhD at New York University in 1952 under the supervision of Ludwig von Mises. 
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Literature and the Mystery Story by Carolyn Wells 1913


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What makes for worthwhileness in mystery fiction of any kind is the puzzle and its answer—not the gruesomeness of a setting or the personality of a hero or the delineation of a character.

A liking for mystery fiction is not a mark of poor taste or an indication of inferior intellect. Its readers form an audience greatly misunderstood by other literary people whose mentality lacks this bent. But what especial audience is not misunderstood? Do not many people say to music lovers, "I don't see how you can sit through Parsifal"? Do not some scoff at people who trail through art galleries, catalogue in hand?

Let us concede that a taste for mystery fiction is not universal. We will even admit that in its nicer points the riddle story may be "caviare to the general," but we will not agree that it is unworthy a place in literature or that it is outside the pale of art.

1. The Rightful Place of the Mystery Story in Fiction

Dr. Harry Thurston Peck says in "Studies In Several Literatures":

"Supercilious persons who profess to have a high regard for the dignity of 'literature' are loath to admit that detective stories belong to the category of serious writing. They will make an exception in the case of certain tales by Edgar Allan Poe, but in general they would cast narratives of this sort down from the upper ranges of fine fiction. They do this because, in the first place, they think that the detective story makes a vulgar appeal through its exploitation of crime. In the second place, and with some reason, they despise detective stories because most of them are poor, cheap things. Just at present there is a great popular demand for them; and in response to this demand a flood of crude, illwritten, sensational tales comes pouring from the presses of the day. But a detective story composed by a man of talent, not to say of genius, is quite as worthy of admiration as any other form of novel. In truth, its interest does not really lie in the crime which gives the writer a sort of starting point. In many of these stories the crime has occurred before the tale begins; and frequently it happens, as it were, off the stage, in accordance with the traditional precept of Horace.

"The real interest of a fine detective story is very largely an intellectual interest. Here we see the conflict of one acutely analytical mind with some other mind which is scarcely less acute and analytical. It is a battle of wits, a mental duel, involving close logic, a certain amount of applied psychology, and also a high degree of daring on the part both of the criminal and of the man who hunts him down. Here is nothing in itself'sensational' in the popular acceptance of that word.

"Therefore, when we speak of the detective story, and regard it seriously, we do not mean the penny-dreadfuls, the dime-novels, and the books which are hastily thrown together by some hack-writer of the 'Nick Carter' school, but the skillfully planned work of one who can construct and work out a complicated problem, definitely and convincingly. It must not be too complex; for here, as in all art, simplicity is the soul of genius. The story must appeal to our love of the mysterious, and it must be characterized by ingenuity, without transcending in the least the limits of the probable."

This is a clear and rational definition of the Detective Story as we propose to consider it, and it seems to justify the acceptance of such stories as literature.

But even in the complete absence of necessity for apology, we must consider the rightful place of the Mystery Story in fiction.

It is neither below nor above other types of story, but side by side with character studies, problem novels, society sketches or symbolic romances; and in so far as it fulfills the requirements of the best literature, just so far it is the best literature.

There are bigoted and thoughtless critics who deny the Mystery Story any right to be considered as literature at all. But better judges are better pleased. To quote from a personal letter of Mr. Arlo Bates: "As to whether a Detective Story is literature, it seems to me that the question is not unlike asking whether a man with blue eyes is moral. No story ever took a place as literature on the strength of its plot. I am in the habit of telling my classes that one can no more judge the literary value of a novel from its plot, than one can judge of the beauty of a girl from an X-ray photograph of her skeleton. To exclude detective tales would be greatly to diminish the world's literary baggage."

Professor Brander Matthews tells us in "Inquiries and Opinions" that "Poe transported the detective story from the group of tales into the group of portrayals of character. By bestowing upon it a human interest, he raised it in the literary scale."

But Mr. Matthews continues:

"Even at its best, in the simple perfection of form that Poe bestowed on it, there is no denying that the Detective Story demanded from its creator no depth of sentiment, no warmth of emotion, and no large understanding of human desire. There are those who would dismiss it carelessly, as making an appeal not far removed from that of the riddle and of the conundrum. There are those again who would liken it rather to the adroit trick of a clever conjurer. No doubt, it gratifies in us chiefly that delight in difficulty conquered, which is a part of the primitive play-impulse potent in us all, but tending to die out as we grow older, as we lessen in energy, and as we feel more deeply the tragi-comedy of existence. But inexpensive as it may seem to those of us who look to literature for enlightenment, for solace in the hour of need, for stimulus to stiffen the will in the neverending struggle of life, the detective tale, as Poe contrived it, has merits of its own as distinct and as undeniable, as those of the historical novel, for example, or of the sea-tale. It may please the young rather than the old, but the pleasure it can give is ever innocent; and the young are always in the majority."

Perhaps with his inerrant sense of terminology, Professor Matthews struck the right word when he called the Mystery Story inexpensive. It is that, but it is not necessarily cheap.

The indiscriminate critic who pronounces all detective stories trash, would be quite as logical and veracious should he call all love stories trash or all historical novels trash. The matter of a detective story is definite and easily invoiced; the manner allows scope as high as poetry or as deep as philosophy or as wide as romance. There is as true literature in Poe's detective stories as in Bacon's Essays, though of a different sort.

A recent well-known author published a book of clever detective stories anonymously. Asked why, he said that he considered the admission of its authorship beneath his literary dignity. "Because," he explained, "they are false to life and false to art."

As a generalization, nothing could be more untrue. A detective story may be these things, but so may stories in any other field of fiction. It depends on the author.

But to imply that a detective story is necessarily false to life and is false, per se, to art, is a mistake.

To quote Julian Hawthorne's very able essay on this subject:

"Of course 'The Gold Bug' is literature; of course any other story of mystery and puzzle is also literature, provided it is as good as 'The Gold Bug,'—or I will say, since that standard has never since been quite attained, provided it is a half or a tenth as good. It is goldsmith's work; it is Chinese carving; it is Daedalian; it is fine. It is the product of the ingenuity lobe of the human brain working and expatiating in freedom. It is art; not spiritual nor transcendental art but solid art, to be felt and experienced. You may examine it at your leisure, it will be always ready for you; you need not fast or watch your arms overnight in order to understand it. Look at the nice setting of the mortises; mark how the cover fits; how smooth is the working of that spring drawer. Observe that this bit of carving, which seemed mere ornament, is really a vital part of the mechanism. Note, moreover, how balanced and symmetrical the whole design is, with what economy and foresight every part is fashioned. It is not only an ingenious structure, it is a handsome bit of furniture, and will materially improve the looks of the empty chambers, or disorderly or ungainly chambers that you carry under your crown. Or if it happen that these apartments are noble in decoration and proportions, then this captivating little object will find a suitable place in some spare nook or other, and will rest or entertain eyes too long focused on the severely sublime and beautiful."

2. The Mystery Story Considered as Art

Yes, the detective story at its best is primarily and integrally a work of art. It is like those Chinese carved balls, referred to by Tennyson as,

"Laborious orient ivory, sphere in sphere,"

and as the mystery story originated in the Orient, there may be some correlation.

The detective story has been called "ingenious but somewhat mechanical." Here the stigma lies in the "but." The detective story is ingenious and mechanical. On these two commandments hang all the laws of mystery fiction writing. Also ingenious and mechanical are the Fixed Forms of verse. Who denies the beauty and art of sonnets and rondeaux, and even sestinas, because they are ingenious and mechanical?

As the mosaic worker in Florence picks out his colored bits with utmost skill, care and patience, so the worker in Fixed Forms selects his words and fits them into his inexorable pattern until he achieves his perfect and exquisite result.

Heraldic devices are not "artistic" in the accepted sense of the word, but they are an art in themselves; ingenious and mechanical, but still art. The Heraldic lions in front of the New York Public Library may not be true to nature's lions, may not be true to a poetic imagination of a lion, but they are true to the laws of the conventional lion of heraldry, and are therefore art.

Oriental embroidery is art as much as an impressionist picture, though of a different type, and characterized by ingenuity and mechanism.

If, as Lowell says, "genius finds its expression in the establishment of a perfect mutual understanding between the worker and his material," then we can exclude no serious endeavors from the possibility of being art.

And the qualities of ingenuity and mechanism are peculiarly fitted to bring about the establishment of just such an understanding.

3. The Claims of Antagonists and Protagonists

One reason for a sweeping denouncement of the detective story is the innate propensity of the human mind for bluffing at intellect. Many people would be glad to admit a taste for mystery fiction, but tradition tells them that such things are but child's play, while a love of ethics or metaphysics betokens a great mind. Ashamed then, of their honest liking for puzzle solving, they deny it, and pretend a deep interest in subjects which really mean little or nothing to them.

"How can you read such stuff?" they ask in shocked tones of the puzzle lover, who, with alert brain and bright eyes, is galloping through "The Mystery of the Deserted Wing," and then they turn with a virtuous yawn, back to the uncut pages of the erudite tome through which they are plodding their weary way.

To the truly great intellect who understands and knows whereof he thinks, the above does not apply. But so long as men are unwilling to be caught in a liking for "child's play," and so long as women yearn after that smattering of abstruse literature which represents to them "a breadth of culture," so long will the detective story be ostentatiously denounced on the corners of the streets, and eagerly devoured behind closed doors.

Of course there are plenty of people of real intelligence who have no taste for Mystery Stories. This proves nothing, for there are also plenty of people of real intelligence who like them. Again we might as well ask, "Does a blue eyed man like cherries?"

But, as many people are fond of the authority of the good and great, let us be definite.

In a personal letter, President Woodrow Wilson writes:

"The fact is, I'm an indiscriminate reader of detective stories and would be at a loss to pick out my favorites. On the whole I have got the most authentic thrill out of Anna Katharine Green's books and Gaboriau's."

Dr. William J. Rolfe, the famous Shakesperian editor, was exceedingly fond of Mystery Stories and puzzles of all sorts.

He especially reveled in the books of charades written by his friend and colleague, Professor William Bellamy.

Indeed, the hasty and inconsiderate judgment that relegates all detective fiction to the trash-pile, might be modified by the knowledge of the college professors and deep-thinking scholars who turn to detective stories for recreation and enjoyment.

A well known member of the English Parliament has such a taste for detective literature that his friend speaks thus of him:

"The weighty work in which the eminent statesman is so deeply engrossed," he said, "is called 'The Great Rand Robbery.' It is a detective novel, for sale at all bookstalls."

The American raised his eyebrows in disbelief.

"'The Great Rand Robbery?' "he repeated, incredulously. "What an odd taste!"

"It is not a taste, it is his vice," returned the gentleman with the pearl stud. "It is his one dissipation. He is noted for it. You, as a stranger, could hardly be expected to know of this idiosyncrasy. Mr. Gladstone sought relaxation in the Greek poets, Sir Andrew finds his in Gaboriau. Since I have been a member of Parliament, I have never seen him in the library without a shilling shocker in his hands. He brings them even into the sacred precincts of the House, and from the Government benches reads them concealed inside his hat. Once started on a tale of murder, robbery, and sudden death, nothing can tear him from it, not even the call of the division-bell, nor of hunger, nor the prayers of the party Whip. He gave up his country house because when he journeyed to it in the train he would become so absorbed in his detective stories that he was invariably carried past his station."

Perhaps such an inordinate relish is not to be entirely commended, but the fact remains that an analytical mentality gets an intense enjoyment out of the solving of puzzles or mysteries, that a differently constituted brain cannot in the least understand or appreciate.

It all comes back to the incontrovertible philosophy:

"Different men are of different opinions,
Some like apples, some like onions."

And this same thought Henry James voices thus:

"In a recent story, 'The Beldonald Holbein,' it is not my fault if I am so put together as often to find more life in situations obscure and subject to interpretation than in the gross rattle of the foreground." One could not find a more luminous comment upon his short stories than these words contain. The situations that he prefers are, as he says, "obscure" but "subject to interpretation." Hawthorne's situations, however, even when obscure, are always vital. We cannot imagine Hawthorne saying, as James says, "It is an incident for a woman to stand up with her hand resting on a table and look out at you in a certain way."

If, then, Mr. James gets exquisite satisfaction out of the careful consideration of this incident, why may not another equally great intellect become absorbed in finding out who stole the jewels?

The curiosity aroused by Mystery Fiction is not then, a mere idle curiosity but an intellectual interest.

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The Dystopian Novel that Foresaw the Nightmares of Socialism

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The Dystopian Novel that Foresaw the Nightmares of Socialism

Pictures of the Socialistic Future by Eugen Richter (epub)

Pictures of the Socialistic Future by Eugen Richter (mobi)

In the mid-nineteenth century, a new political movement arose: socialism. Germany was its epicenter. The German Karl Marx was its leading thinker, and the Social Democratic Party of Germany its leading organization. The socialists denounced capitalist inequality and argued that the obvious solution was government ownership of the means of production.

From the outset, many questioned the practicality of the socialists’ solution. After you equalize incomes, who will take out the garbage? Yet almost no one questioned the socialists’ idealism. By 1961, however, the descendants of the radical wing of the Social Democratic Party had built the Berlin Wall—and were shooting anyone who tried to flee their “workers’ paradise.” A movement founded to liberate the worker turned its guns on the very people it vowed to save.

Who could have foreseen such a mythic transformation? Out of all the critics of socialism, one stands out as uniquely prescient: Eugene Richter (1838–1906).[1] During the last decades of the nineteenth century, he was the leading libertarian in the German Reichstag, as well as the chief editor of the Freisinnige Zeitung. Seventy years before the Wall, Richter’s dystopian novel, Pictures of the Socialistic Future, boldly predicted that victorious German socialism would inspire a mass exodus—and that the socialists would respond by banning emigration, and punishing violators with deadly force.
The mass exodus:
Useful people, and people who had really learnt something, went away in ever-increasing numbers to Switzerland, to England, to America, in which countries Socialism has not succeeded in getting itself established. Architects, engineers, chemists, doctors, teachers, managers of works and mills, and all kinds of skilled workmen, emigrated in shoals. The main cause of this would appear to be a certain exaltation of mind which is greatly to be regretted. These people imagine themselves to be something better, and they cannot bear the thought of getting only the same guerdon as the simple honest day laborer.
The emigration ban:
A decree has been issued against all emigration without the permission of the authorities.… Old persons who are beyond work, and infants, are at liberty to go away, but the right to emigrate cannot be conceded to robust people who are under obligations to the State for their education and culture, so long as they are of working age.
The deadly force:
Under these circumstances the Government is to be commended for stringently carrying out its measures to prevent emigration. In order to do so all the more effectually, it has been deemed expedient to send strong bodies of troops to the frontiers, and to the seaport towns. The frontiers towards Switzerland have received especial attention from the authorities. It is announced that the standing army will be increased by many battalions of infantry and squadrons of cavalry. The frontier patrols have strict instructions to unceremoniously shoot down all fugitives.
Lord Acton and F.A. Hayek have inspired the two most popular explanations for the crimes of actually existing socialism. While Acton never lived to see socialists gain power, their behavior seems to perfectly illustrate his aphorism that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”[2] For all their idealism, even socialists will do bad things if left unchecked. Hayek, with the benefit of hindsight, suggested a slightly different explanation: under socialism, “the worst get on top.”[3] On this theory, the idealistic founders of socialism were gradually pushed out by brutal cynics as their movement’s power increased.

The great tragedy of the twentieth century is that the world had to learn about totalitarian socialism from bitter experience, instead of Richter’s inspired novel.

Richter’s novel advances a very different explanation for socialism’s “moral decay”: the movement was born bad. While the early socialists were indeed “idealists,” their ideal was totalitarianism. Their overriding goals were to engineer a new society and a New Socialist Man. If this meant treating workers like slaves—depriving them of the freedom to choose their occupation or location, forbidding them to quit, splitting up families without their consent, and imposing draconian punishments on malcontents—so be it.

Richter admittedly presents some of the socialists’ uglier policies—increased work hours, stringent rationing, massive military spending, corporal punishment—as slippery-slope responses to deteriorating conditions. But many of their worst offenses happen early in the novel, and Mr. Schmidt, the book’s socialist narrator, happily supports them. In chapter 6, workers lose the freedom to choose their line of work. Schmidt’s reaction:
What has the Government to do in order to bring their scheme for organizing production and consumption into some sort of harmony with the entries made by the people? Should Government attempt a settlement by fixing a lower rate of wages for those branches which showed any over-crowding, and a higher rate for those labors which were not so coveted? This would be a subversion of the fundamental principles of Socialism.
In chapter 7, the government imposes internal passports to prevent farmers from moving to the greater comfort of the city. Schmidt’s reaction:
It would unquestionably have been better if those regulations which have only just been issued had been issued at the very first. According to these regulations no one can now temporarily leave his place of residence without first providing himself with a leave-of-absence ticket; and no one can make a permanent removal without receiving such directions from higher quarters.
In chapter 15, long before conditions become desperate, socialist Germany bans emigration—and threatens fugitives with death. Schmidt’s reaction:
Socialism is founded upon the principle that it is the duty of all persons alike to labor, just as under the old regime the duty to become a soldier was a universally recognized one. And just as in the old days young men who were ripe for military service were never allowed to emigrate without authority, so can our Government similarly not permit the emigration from our shores of such persons as are of the right age to labor.
What inspired Richter to make these grim—yet uncannily accurate—predictions about the “socialistic future”? The most plausible hypothesis is that Richter personally knew the leading socialists from the German Reichstag, and saw them for what they were.[4] I submit that he repeatedly peppered the socialists with unpleasant hypotheticals, from “Under socialism, who will take out the garbage?” to “What will you do if skilled workers flee the country?” When socialist politicians responded with hysteria and evasion, Richter drew the natural inference: “If this is how these ‘idealists’ deal with critical questions before they have power, just imagine how they’ll deal with critical actions after they have power!” As Richter’s proxy explains in the novel’s climactic speech,
In endeavoring to get rid of the disadvantages of the socialistic method of manufacture, you place such restrictions on the freedom of the person, and of commerce, that you turn Germany into one gigantic prison.… To those in jail there was, at least, the possibility of an act of pardon, which might some day open a path to liberty, even to those who had been condemned to life-long imprisonment. But those who are handed over to your socialistic prison are sentenced for life without hope of escape; the only escape thence is suicide.
Despite their intuitive appeal, the Actonian “power corrupts” and Hayekian “worst get on top” theories of socialist moral decay seem inferior to Richter’s “born bad” account. Power does indeed lead politicians to betray their ideals, but from the standpoint of nineteenth-century socialism, the real “sellouts” were the moderate Social Democrats who gradually made peace with the capitalist system. The worst do indeed get on top in totalitarian regimes. But if the early socialists had not intellectually justified extreme brutality, their movement probably wouldn’t have attracted the many sadists and sociopaths who came to run it. Only the Richterian theory can readily explain why the most devoted surviving child of German socialism grew up to be the prison state of East Germany: self-righteous brutality was the purists’ plan all along.

Decades before the socialists gained power, Eugene Richter saw the writing on the wall. The great tragedy of the twentieth century is that the world had to learn about totalitarian socialism from bitter experience, instead of Richter’s inspired novel. Many failed to see the truth until the Berlin Wall went up. By then, alas, it was too late.

[1] For excellent discussions of Richter’s life, thought, and influence, see Ralph Raico, “Eugen Richter and Late German Manchester Liberalism: A Reevaluation,” Review of Austrian Economics 4 (1990): pp. 3–25, and Ralph Raico, “Authentic German Liberalism of the 19th Century,” Mises Daily (2005).
[2] Acton-Creighton Correspondence, Letter 1.
[3] F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 148–67.
[4] Bismarck’s Anti-Socialist Laws (1878–90) made life difficult for the Social Democratic Party of Germany, but never imposed an outright ban. The party bottomed out at nine seats in the Reichstag in 1878—and jumped up to thirty-five in 1890 when the Anti-Socialist Laws lapsed.
Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University, research fellow at the Mercatus Center, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and blogger for EconLog. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.
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Friday, April 28, 2017

The Dog at his Master's Grave, 1876 Article

The Dog at his Master's Grave, 1876 Article

"Faithful even unto death."

THE bell had tolled, and they had buried the old man. The moon rose, and the poor worn-out old dog laid down at the foot-end of the poor worn-out old man. Let us hope that kindness will be shown to him, in allowing him to die there. He will not touch food any more. He has gnawed the rope that prevented him from following the coffin, he has scratched the earth off the newly-made grave — but his strength is gone. His grey face was once a bright black-and-tan; his once shiny coat is ragged and dry; his days, once spent in enjoyment of life and work, have lately been passed in timidly seeking for a stray morsel, and following the tottering steps of the old man now underground, or laying at his feet where he sat. The only remaining strength in the poor dog was his love, and that was not unaltered either by want or weakness.

Some people think that the attachment of dogs is often stronger to a poor master than to a rich one. I do not think it is so because of the poverty of the master, but simply because they are more together and depend more on each other. I know two instances of dogs who refused food and died a few days after their masters. The one belonged to an artist in easy circumstances, and it was a small London terrier: the other a Blenheim spaniel, living in the splendid house of a rich banker on the Continent. The effigy of the faithful pet is added to the tombstone — not like the hound on ancient monuments to show that a noble knight is buried beneath, but in memory of the dog's fidelity.

In 1817 a book was published by a Mr. Blaine on the art of healing diseases of dogs. But having been a surgeon, people thought he had degraded himself by his studying the diseases of animals, and he thought it necessary to make an excuse for his so doing in an Introduction, in which he gives some touching accounts of the fidelity of dogs. There is one which has a direct bearing on the picture, and, I trust, it will be welcome to the readers of The Prize. It is strictly true.

In the parish of St. Olave, Tooley Street, Southwark, the churchyard is detached from the church, and surrounded by high buildings, so that no one can get in except by one large, close gate. A poor tailor of this parish, dying, left a small cur dog that would not be consoled for his loss. The little animal would not leave his dead master, not even for food; and whatever he ate had to be placed in the same room with the corpse. When the body was removed for burial, this faithful attendant followed the coffin. After the funeral he was hunted out of the churchyard by the sexton, who the next day again found that the animal had made his way by some strange means into the enclosure, and had dug himself a bed on the grave of his master. Once more he was hunted out, and again he was found in the same place on the following day. The good clergyman of the parish, hearing of the circumstance, had him caught, taken home, and fed, and tried by every means to win the animal's affections; but he was true to his late master, and took the first opportunity to escape and return to his grave. With true benevolence the worthy clergyman permitted him to follow the bent of his inclinations; and had built for him upon the grave a small kennel, which was supplied once a-day with food and water. Two years this faithful dog lived in this manner, when death put an end to his griefs.

The Book Of The Secrets Of Enoch - 1896 Article

The Book Of The Secrets Of Enoch - Theosophical Review 1896

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Students of so-called apocryphal scriptures are well aware that the chances of recovery of many important documents, current prior to and in the early centuries of Christianity, depend almost entirely on their translation into languages other than Hebrew, Greek, or Latin; compromising documents in these more generally known tongues being more easily discoverable for destruction by the orthodox. Thus we have been able to recover some important so-called apocryphal and heretical gospels and scriptures, in Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopic translations, and now the Slavonic has proved the means of preserving one more important document of the kind. For more than 1,200 years it has been unknown save in Russia, and in Western Europe was not known to exist even in Russia till 1892. A German review then stated that there was a Slavonic version of the well-known Ethiopic Book of Enoch. The researches of Messrs. Morfill and Charles, however, have proved that this is not the case, but that they have lighted on an independent version of the Enochic writings, preserved in Slavonic for many centuries.

The find is an exceedingly valuable one, and those who have read the Ethiopic Enoch and marked such passages as the "thieves and robbers" incident, will eagerly peruse the Slavonic Enoch for further confirmation of the priority of a number of passages in the New Testament to the Christian era. Of course the editor, Mr. Charles, has to tread very warily on such dangerous and controversial ground, but though he leaves the drawing of deductions to others, he nevertheless states his facts.

He fairly establishes that the Slavonic translation comes from a Greek copy; the penultimate editor of the original document being a Hellenistic Jew writing in Egypt, probably in Alexandria, and the original document being undoubtedly Hebrew.

The date of the Greek version cannot possibly be later than 70 A.d., because the temple is referred to as still standing. The earliest date is about 30 B.C. It is quoted by name in the Testaments of Levi, Daniel and Naphthali, cir. 1 A.D. The portions which have a Hebrew background are at latest pre-Christian.

The following are some of the most interesting parallels between our document and the documents of the New Testament.

The above are a portion of the parallels with the New Testament cited by the editor, and it is undoubtedly possible to add still further to their number.

But We have not space to refer further in detail to the many points of interest in the text. We read there of the Watchers, Grigori or Egogores, dimly referred to by Eliphas Levi through kabalistic tradition, of Phoenixes and Chalkidri and other strange symbolical creatures. The main doctrines elucidated are: death caused by sin; the millennium; the creation of man with free will and the knowledge of good and evil; the Seraphim; the intercession of saints; and the seven heavens, to which the editor devotes sixteen pages of interesting commentary, shewing that it was an early Jewish and Christian belief, and that the "high places" of the Pauline Epistle is a mistranslation for "heavens."

Especially noticeable is the doctrine of kindness to the brute creation. Thus in chap, lviii. we read: "The Lord will not judge any soul of beast on account of man, but he will judge the soul of man on account of the souls of beasts in the world to come. For as there is a special place for mankind for all the souls of men according to their number, so there is also of beasts. And not one soul shall perish which God has made till the great judgment. And every soul of beast shall bring a charge against man if he feeds them badly." Much more then, we may remark, according to the doctrine, will the vivisector be charged by many souls of many beasts.

Though the existence of souls even prior to creation is inculcated, yet I can so far find no reference to reincarnation. The creation-days are given as protracted time-periods. The intellectual creation prior to the physical is distinctly taught. But space does not serve us further than to add that an Appendix contains the translation of a fragment of Melchizedekian literature found in one of the Enochic MSS. This brings out clearly the blood sacrifices and elemental worship of the early Hebrews. Among many curious incidents, it relates how the knife rose of its own accord from the altar into the hand of Methusalam, who took it and killed all the sheep and oxen brought by the people.

It is therefore abundantly apparent that The Book of the Secrets of Enoch is an important document, and so unexpected a find encourages us to hope that ere long the libraries of the Russian, Armenian, Syrian, and Abyssinian monasteries may be forced by Karma to disclose even more important records of the times when the Gospels were compiled, and so throw further light on the obscure origins of Christianity.

G. R. S. M

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Poe and Chopin By James Huneker 1899

Poe and Chopin By James Huneker 1899

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In the city of Boston, January 19, 1809, a son was born to David and Elizabeth Poe. On March 1, 1809, in the little village of Zelazowa-Wola, twenty-eight miles from Warsaw, in Poland, a son was born to Nicholas and Justina Chopin. The American is known to the world as Edgar Allan Poe, the poet; the Pole as Frederic Francois Chopin, the composer. October 7, 1849, Edgar Poe died neglected in Washington Hospital at Baltimore, and October 17, 1849, Frederic Chopin expired in Paris surrounded by loving friends. Poe and Chopin never knew of each other's existence yet — a curious coincidence — two supremely melancholy artists of the beautiful lived and died almost synchronously.

It would be a strained parallel to compare Chopin and Poe at many points yet the chronological events referred to, are not the only comparisons that might be made without the fear or flavor of affectation. There are parallels in the soul-lives as well as in the earth-lives of these two men — Poe and Chopin seem ever youthful — that may be drawn without extravagance. True, the roots of Chopin's culture were more richly nurtured than Poe's, but the latter, like a spiritual air plant, derived his sustenance none know how. Of Poe's forbears we may hardly form any adequate conception; his learning was not profound, despite his copious quotations from almost forgotten and recondite authors; yet his lines to Helen were written in boyhood. The poet in his case was indeed born, not made. Chopin, we know, had careful training from the faithful Elsner; but who could have taught him to write his opus 2, the variations over which Schumann rhapsodized, or even that gem, his E flat nocturne — now, alas! somewhat stale from conservatory usage?

Both these men, full fledged in their gifts, sprang from the Jovian brain and, while they both improved in the technics of their art, their individualities were at the outset as sharply defined as were their limitations. Read Poe's To Helen, and tell me if he made more exquisite music in his later years. You remember it:

Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.

I refrain from giving the third verse; but are not these lines remarkable in beauty of imagination and diction when one considers they were penned by a youngster scarcely out of his teens!

Now glance at Chopin's earlier effusions, his opus 1 a rondo in C minor; his opus 2 already referred to; his opus 3, the C major polonaise for 'cello and piano; his opus 5, the Rondeau a la Mazur in F; his opus 6, the first four mazourkas, perfect of their kind; opus 7, more mazourkas; opus 8, the G minor trio, the classicism of which you may dispute; nevertheless it contains lovely music. Then follow the nocturnes, the concerto in F minor, the latter begun when Chopin was only twenty, and so on through the list. Both men died at forty — the very prime of life, when the natural forces are acting freest, when the overwrought passions of youth had begun to mellow and yet there were several years before the close, a distinct period of decadence, almost deterioration. I am conscious of the critical claims of those who taste in both Poe's and Chopin's later music the exquisite quality of the over-ripe, the savor of morbidity.

Beautiful as it is, Chopin's polonaise-fantaisie opus 61, with its hectic flush — in its most musical, most melancholy cadences — gives us a premonition of death. Composed three years before he died, it has the taint of the tomb about it and, like the A minor mazourka, said by Klindworth to be Chopin's last composition, the sick brain is heard in the morbid insistence of the theme, of the weary "wherefore?" in every bar. Is not this iteration like Poe's in his last period? Read Ulalume with its haunting, harrowing harmonies:

 Then my heart it grew ashen and sober,
As the leaves that were crisped and sere —
As the leaves that were withering and sere.

In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings until they trailed in the dust —
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust —
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

This poem, in which sense swoons into sound, has all the richness of color, the dangerous glow of the man whose brain is peril ously near the point of unhingement.

Poe then, like Chopin, did not die too soon. Morbid, neurotic natures, they lived their lives with the intensity that Walter Pater declares is the only true life. "To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame," he writes "to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. Failure is to form habits."

Certainly Chopin and Poe fulfilled in their short existences these conditions. They burned ever with the flame of genius and that flame devoured their brains as surely as paresis. Their lives, in the ordinary Philistine or Plutus-like sense, were failures; uncompromising failures. They were not citizens after the conjugal manner nor did they accumulate pelf. They certainly failed to form habits and, while the delicacy of the Pole prevented his indulging in the night-side Bohemianism of the American, he nevertheless contrived to outrage social and ethical canons. Poe, it is said, was a drunkard, though recent researches develop the fact that but one glass of brandy drove him into delirium. Possibly like Baudelaire, his disciple and translator, he indulged in some deadly drug or perhaps congenital derangement, such as masked epilepsy, or some cerebral disorder, colored his daily actions with the semblance of arrant dissipation and recklessness.

There are two Poes known to his various friends. A few knew the one, many the other; some knew both men. A winning, poetic personality, a charming man of the world, electric in speech and with an eye of genius — a creature with a beautiful brain, said many. Alas! the other; a sad-eyed wretch with a fixed sneer, a bitter, uncurbed tongue that lashed alike friend and foe, a sot, a libertine, a gambler—God! what has not Edgar Allan Poe been called! We all know that Griswold distorted the picture, but some later critics have declared that Poe, despite his angelic treatment of his cousin-wife Maria Clemm, was not a man of irreproachable habits.

This much I have heard; at the time Poe lived in Philadelphia, where he edited a magazine for Burton or Graham — I forget which — my father met him several times at the houses of Judge Conrad and John Sartain, the latter the steel engraver. Poe, my father has repeatedly told me, was a slender, nervous man, very reticent, very charming in manner, though, like Chopin, disposed to a certain melancholy hauteur; both men were probably poseurs. But after one glass of wine or spirits Poe became an uncontrollable demon; — his own demon of perversity; and poetry and blasphemy poured from his lips. John Sartain has told of a midnight tramp he took with Poe, in the midst of a howling storm, in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, to prevent him from attempting his life. This enigmatic man, like Chopin, lived a double life, but his surroundings were different and this particular fact must be accented.

America was not a pleasant place for an artist a half century ago. William Blake the poet-seer wrote: "The ages are all equal but genius is always above its age." Poe was certainly above his age — a trafficking time in the history of the country, when commerce ruled and little heed was given to the beautiful. N. P. Willis, Poe's best friend, counsellor and constant helper, wrote pale proper verse while Poe made a bare living by writing horrific tales wherein his marvellous powers of analysis and description found play and pay. But oh! the pity of it all! The waste of superior talent — of absolute genius. The divine spark that was crushed out, trampled in the mud and made to do duty as a common tallow dip! One is filled with horror at the thought of a kindred poetic nature also being cast in the prosaic atmosphere of this country; for if Chopin had not had success at Prince Valentine Radziwill's soiree in Paris in the year 1831 he would certainly have tried his luck in the New World, and do you not shudder at the idea of Chopin's living in the United States in 1831?

Fancy those two wraiths of genius, Poe and Chopin, in this city of New York! Chopin giving piano lessons to the daughters of wealthy aristocrats of the Battery, Poe encountering him at some conversazione — they had conversaziones then — and propounding to him Heine-like questions: "Are the roses at home still in their flame-hued pride?" "Do the trees still sing as beautifully in the moonlight?"

They would have understood one another at a glance. Poe was not a whit inferior in sensibility to Chopin. Balzac declared that if Chopin drummed on a bare table, his fingers made subtle-sounding music. Poe, like Balzac, would have felt the drummed tears in Chopin's play, while Chopin in turn could not have failed to divine the tremulous vibrations of Poe's exquisitely strung nature. What a meeting it would have been, but again, what inevitable misery for the Polish poet!

A different tale might be told if Poe had gone to Paris and enjoyed some meed of success! How the fine flower of his genius would have bloomed into fragrance if nourished in such congenial soil! We would probably not have had, to such a desperate extent the note of melancholia, so sweetly despairing or despairingly sweet, that we now enjoy in his writings — a note eminently Gothic and Christian. Goethe's "Nur wer die Sehnsucht Kennt" is as true of Poe as of Heine, of Baudelaire, of Chopin, of Schumann, of Shelley, of Leopardi, of Byron, of Keats, of Alfred de Musset, of Senancour, of Amiel — of all that choir of lacerated lives which wreak themselves in expression. One is well reminded here of Baudelaire who wrote of the ferocious absorption in the pursuit of beauty, by her votaries. Poe and Chopin all their lives were tortured by the desire of beauty, by the vision of perfection. Little recked they of that penalty which must be paid by men of genius, and has been paid from Tasso to Swift and from Poe and Baudelaire to Guy de Maupassant.

Frederic Chopin's culture was not necessarily of a finer stamp than Edgar Poe's, nor was his range wider. Both men were narrow in sympathies though intense to the point of poignancy and rich in mood-versatility. Both were born aristocrats; purple raiment became them well and both were sadly deficient in genuine humor — the Attic salt that conserves while mocking itself. Irony both possessed to a superlative degree and both believed in the rhythmical creation of lyrical beauty and in the charm of evanescence. Poe declared, in his dogmatic manner, that a long poem could not exist. He restricted the poetical art in form and length, and furthermore insisted that "Beauty of whatever kind in its supreme development invariably excites a sensitive soul to tears." The note of melancholy was to him the one note worthy the singing. And have we not a parallel in Chopin's music?

He is morbid, there is no gainsaying it and, like Poe, is at his best in smaller art forms. When either artist spreads his pinions for symphonic flights, we are reminded of Matthew Arnold's poetical description of Shelley "beating in the void his luminous wings in vain." Poe and Chopin mastered supremely, as Henry James would say, their intellectual instruments. They are lyrists and their attempts at the epical are usually distinguished failures.

Exquisite artificers in precious cameos, these two men are of a consanguinity because of their devotion to Our Ladies of Sorrow, the Mater Lachrymarum, the Mater Suspiriorum and the Mater Tenebrarum of Thomas De Quincey. If the Mater Malorum — Mother of Evil — presided over their lives, they never in their art became as Baudelaire, a sinister "Israfel of the sweet lute." Whatever their personal shortcomings, the disorders of their lives found no reflex beyond that of melancholy. The notes of revolt, of anger, of despair there are, but of impurity, no trace whatsoever. Poe's women — those ethereal creatures whose slim necks, willowy figures, radiant eyes and velvet footfalls, encircled in an atmosphere of purity — Poe's women, while not being the womanly woman beloved of William Wordsworth, are after all untainted by any morbidities.

Poe ever professed in daily life, whatever he may have practised, the highest reverence for "das ewig Weibliche" and not less so Chopin, who was fastidious and a very stickler for the more minute proprieties of life. Am I far fetched in my simile when I compare the natures of Poe and Chopin! Take the latter's preludes for example, tiny poems, and parallel them to such verse of Poe's as the Haunted Palace, Eulalie, Annabel Lee, Eldorado, The Conquered Worm or that incomparable bit, Israfel:

        In Heaven a spirit doth dwell
Whose heart-strings are a lute -
  None sing so wildly well
  As the Angel Israfel.

Poe's haunting melodies, his music for music's sake, often remind us of Chopin. The euphonious, the well sounding, the wohlklang, was carried almost beyond the pitch of endurance, by both artists. They had however some quality of self-restraint as well as the vices of their virtues; we may no longer mention The Raven or The Bells with equanimity, nor can we endure listening to the E flat nocturne or the D flat valse. In the latter case repetition has dulled the ears for enjoyment; in the former case the obvious artificiality of both poems, despite their many happy conceits, jars on the spiritual ear. The bulk of Chopin's work is about comparable to Poe's. Neither man was a copious producer and both carried the idea of perfection to insanity's border. Both have left scores of imitators but in Poe's case a veritable school has been founded; in Chopin's the imitations have been feeble and sterile.

Following Poe we have unquestionably Algernon Charles Swinburne, who is doubly a reflection of Poe, for he absorbed Poe's alliterative system, and from Charles Baudelaire his mysticism, plus Baudelaire's malificence, to which compound he added the familiar Swinburnian eroticism. Tennyson and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning felt Poe's influence, if but briefly, while in France and Belgium he has produced a brood of followers beginning with the rank crudities of Gaboriau, in his detective stories, modelled after The Murder in the Rue Morgue; the Belgian Maeterlinck, who juggles with Poe's motives of fear and death, Baudelaire, a French Poe with an abnormal flavor of Parisian depravity super-added and latterly that curious group, the decadents, headed by Verlaine, and Stephen Mallarme. Poe has made his influence felt in England too, notably upon James Thomson, the poet of The City of Dreadful Night and in Ireland, in the sadly sympathetic figure of James Clarence Mangan. Of Chopin's indirect influence on the musical world I would not care to dilate fearing you would accuse me of exaggeration. Liszt would not have been a composer — at least for the piano, if he had not nested in Chopin's brain. As I said before, I certainly believe that Wagner profited greatly by Chopin's discoveries in chromatic harmonies, discoveries without which modern music would yet be in diatonic swaddling clothes.

On one point Poe and Chopin were as dissimilar as the poles; the point of nationality. Poe wrote in the English tongue but beyond that he was no more American than he was English. His milieu was unsympathetic, and he refused to be assimilated by it. His verse and his prose depict character and situations that belong to no man's land — to that region East of the moon and West of the sun. In his Eldorado he poetically locates the country wherein his soul dramas occur. Thus he sings:

    "Over the mountains
     Of the moon
 Down the valley of the shadow,
      Ride, boldly ride,"
    The shade replied,
"If you seek for Eldorado."

His creations are mostly bodiless and his verse suggests the most subtile imagery. Shadow of shadows, his prose possesses the same spectral quality. Have you read those two perfect pastels — Silence and Shadow? If not, you know not the genius of Edgar Allan Poe. Chopin is more human than Poe, inasmuch as he is patriotic. His polonaises are, as Schumann said, "cannons buried in flowers." He is Chopin and he is also Poland though Poland is by no means Chopin. In his polonaises, in his mazourkas, the indefinable Polish Zal lurks, a drowsy perfume. Chopin struck many human chords; some of his melodies belong to that Poe-like region wherein beauty incarnate reigns and is worshipped for itself. This then is the great dissimilarity between the artist in tone and the artist in words. Poe had no country; Chopin had Poland. If Chopin's heart had been exposed "Poland" might have been found blazoned upon it.

But, if Poe lacked political passion he had the passion for the beautiful. Both men resembled one another strangely, in their intensity of expression. Both had the power of expressing the weird, the terrific, and Chopin in his scherzi, thunders from heights that Poe failed to scale. The ethical motif was, curiously enough, absent in both and both despised the "heresy of instruction." Art for art's sake, beauty for beauty's sake alone, was their shibboleth.

Will the music of Chopin ever age? Louis Ehlert thinks that music ages rapidly like the beauty of Southern women, and Baudelaire says, "Nothing here below is certain, no building on strong hearts, both love and beauty go." An English critic, Mr. Vernon Blackburn, puts the case plainly: "I do not merely and baldly mean," he writes, "that an artistic production, like man, like the flowers, like the sun, grows older as the years go; I mean that those years do actually steal from it an absolute quality which it once possessed."

Much of the early Chopin has become faded, but the greater Chopin, like Bach and Beethoven, will last as long as the voice of the piano is heard throughout the land.

Frederic Chopin is as Robert Schumann declared, "the proudest poetic spirit of his time."

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Why Learn Latin? by Hartley Burr Alexander 1922

Why Learn Latin? by Hartley Burr Alexander 1922

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The Chairman of the Latin Section asks me to address you, teachers of Latin. just because I myself am not a Latin teacher. To Latinists in the Public Schools, he says, is constantly being put the question, Why Latin? Why not a live subject, or at least a living language? And he feels, I take it, that an answer to this recurrent question could come more convincingly, if not more capably, from one who is not professionally committed to the subject. For my part, I am very glad to raise a voice for a study for which so much can be said.

First of all, the question is a part of a more general query: Why should we have any liberal education at all? Why not simply the technical subjects? Why not convert our Schools into apprentice shops? The just reply is, of course, that we have liberal Schools in order that we may maintain liberalized minds. We happen to live in a democracy; democracy rests its case wholly upon the assumption that its citizens can think freemen's thoughts, responsible for self, fair-minded towards others; and for the maintenance of such a power in society liberal education is the one instrument. Furthermore, it is the liberalism of the litterae humaniores which is a vital core of this education, a liberalism whose essential meaning is acquaintance with human minds engaged in thinking men's thought. Natural science owns a place in liberal training, but it is a place distinctly subordinate. Why study an amoeba when you might be conversing with Socrates? When we come to assess the whole range of human values, heights and depths, can there indeed be a moment's question as to what is “the proper study of mankind"? Certainly for us, who are citizens of a democracy, the axis of our education can be but the one theme, man's discovery of self-control through self-knowledge, of which the record is classic letters. Democracy was a Greek, law a Roman invention; and it is not for nothing that the classical facade and the Roman arch are the external dignities of our public edifices, that the emblems of Justice and the maxims of our law are from the Mediterranean ancients, and that our mottoes of State are inscribed in the Latin tongue. If, then, you are asked, Why Latin? Let your first answer be, For training in citizenship, in American citizenship; it is the straightest path.

Perchance, you will be saying, But this is not language; it is history, law, and letters! Precisely; it is history, law, letters, philosophy—the litterae humaniores, the study of the human mind at work upon man's great and foundational problems; it is just this which is the most capable training for citizenship that we know. And it is just this that spells Latin.

Now in saying this I do not mean again to cant the rote dear to the hearts of teachers of language: that a literature cannot be understood in translation, that, therefore, it must be the ipsissima verba or nothing. The measure of truth which is in this contention is generally and often childishly exaggerated. It holds in a very important sense for poetry; it holds again for the more recondite phases of scholarship; beyond these it is of little worth, and it cannot be convincing to the general. But in another and more psychological sense I would maintain that the understanding of things classical should come through study of the classical tongues. Such study is exacting and close; it calls for attention. There is an essential difference in the thinking processes involved in the translation of a text and in the perusal of a translation, even if the result be the same English formulation. Translation is in the creative and active mode of thought, if I may so put it, and it engenders active and creative ideas, ideas which gain a double power from their duplex source. Any act of comparison demands judgment; here, on important matters, if, as should be, important texts are employed, the mind is constantly cultivating its powers of judgment. Furthermore, as every psychologist knows, intensity of effort reacts in mental images at once more intense and more deeply graven: the mind's complexion is the reflection of its hours of application, and its living thought is represented most truly by those thoughts with which we have most directly lived. It is for these psychological reasons that I maintain the pragmatic value of intimacy with the classic tongues: if the thought which the Classics express is worth having, it is worth getting; especially where those who possess through acquisition doubly possess. If you will consider carefully what I have just said, you will perceive that here in an enforced sense Latin is training for American citizenship; not only are the matters of its texts important for us, but the manner of their study, through translation, develops just those qualities of judgment and action which we so prize under the name of initiative.

Training for citizenship, then, I regard as the first answer which the teacher of Latin should give to the School patron asking him to justify his subject. There are two others which are of no less significance.

America should not only represent a democracy; it should also develop a civilization. Now I do not believe that any wise person will question the fact that civilization can neither grow nor be maintained without the presence and the activities of scholars. Civilization is so largely a thing of tradition, a cult of the past even, that without a sort of priesthood of learning it cannot exist. Scholars we must have if we are to maintain ourselves above the ever perilous brink of barbarism; and the road to scholarship — this, again, none can question — for us of European source leads oftener and more fundamentally through Latin than through any other instrument. I do not think that this needs arguing. Latin literature is not the greatest in the Occident, although it is one of the greatest; but the Latin language opens more doors to the history and the letters of the West than does any other, and in any case it is indispensable to the scholar. Our Schools, therefore, must keep ever ready the way for the youth — rare if he be — whose aptitude and inclination may lead him into the path of learning. Scholars are few, but they are precious; without them civilization must fade and the State dissolve in barbarian night.

This matter of training for scholarship is so important for society that it will fully justify all the waste incurred in the instruction of the indifferent many for the sake of discovering the capable few. But I am well aware that the public which can be made to understand how this can be is helplessly small; not from teachers themselves does the fact often get much more than lip service, and even those zealous for scholarship are frequently blind to its ends. Certainly the great taxpaying public is and will remain incorrigibly unconvinced that the scholar is more than a not very glittering ornament of the social order, and as for the youth who feels himself to be among the sacrificed many, the rebelliousness of his soul is as inevitable as it is natural. Public and pupil must be convinced of the desirability of Latin instruction for some other than the scholar's cause.

Fortunately for this cause, there is a more direct and a wholly sound appeal, within which I should find my third response to Why Latin? It is usually not necessary to argue with either pupil or public for the need of some language study; the place of foreign language in the curriculum is sufficiently a matter of custom to excite little opposition. The Latin teacher, therefore — and this, I take it, is his commonest call — is but asked to justify his subject as against the other languages, and in particular to show that Latin should have a place along with, or before, the great vernaculars of the modern world. Now this should not be difficult even with the ordinarily obtuse. For there are cogent reasons why Latin is to be preferred to any other foreign language as a Public School discipline. One of the minor, but none the less effective of these reasons is the fact that Latin is and is likely to continue to be better taught than are the Modern Languages; centuries of usage have given its pedagogy a scientific cast which the others acquire mainly in so far as they imitate the Latinist model. This means a maximum return on the effort expended, for teacher and pupil alike; it means instructional economy, which is surely in itself a practical appeal. But over and beyond this, of all languages which are studied as by the great majority of School and College youths languages are studied, short of a reading mastery, Latin is the only one, I believe, which can show a gain overcoming the waste. This is because it is structurally and materially so integral to English. It was my fortune for a number of years to be professionally a lexicographer of the English language, and I will do no more than suggest that you ask your next inquisitor, anent Latin, to run through but the dictionary pages which record our words in the letter a, if he would see to what an extent English is a Latin tongue. About four out of five of our English words are of Latin origin, and great numbers of these are Latinous in sense, that is, they demand some knowledge of Latin word-formation if they are to be correctly used. Moreover, English grammar (I believe that it is rarely mentioned by pedagogues nowadays except through euphemism) gets a better understanding via the tough path of Latin conjugations and constructions than along any of the seemingly nearer, and mainly untrod, courses. The language of a people is the most precious instrument of its culture; no labor can be too great which is devoted to the whetting and refinement of public skill in the use of this instrument; and no instruction will give speedier or more effectual returns herein than will elementary Latin. A year with the grammar of this language, even for the boy who goes not a step beyond, is worth all the time and effort it costs; and I do not know of any other foreign language of which this can be said. Proof, if proof be asked, will be found in the records of any College, where the ranking students in English will consistently be found to be those who have come up with Latin preparation.

I have given, then, three reasons justifying Latin in the curricula of our free Public Schools, three answers to Why Latin? The first is that Latin is demanded for the best training for American citizenship. The second is that Latin is a sine qua non of the cultivation of that scholarship which alone can maintain an American civilization. The third is that the study of Latin is, in the best sense, a study of English, and that best through it may we keep fine-tempered and resilient our American tongue.

One word I would add in closing. There is a sorry ad prejudiciam fallacy in the description of Latin as ‘dead'. Languages which have great thoughts expressed in them do not die, and Latin has had two great periods, the Classical and the Mediaeval, when it was the vehicle of great thoughts. Its lives, indeed, are as many as the wide human interests which its letters have touched, and law, politics, and religion are but a few of its vivifications. Even Latin teachers sometimes overlook the range and currency of their subject's vitality; and this, I fear, is a fault; for at least in their day the life of the language is in their hands; it is through them that Latin lives.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

King Arthur and the Occult by Lewis Spence 1920

King Arthur and the Occult by Lewis Spence 1920 

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The character of Arthur is strongly identified with the occult. Not only do we find his Court a veritable centre of happenings more or less supernatural, but his mysterious origin and the subsequent events of his career have in them matter of considerable interest from an occult standpoint. This is not the place to dispute regarding his reality, but merely to deal with the romances which cluster around him, and their contents from the supernatural point of view. We find him first of all connected with one of the greatest magical names of early times—that of Merlin the Enchanter. The possibilities are that Merlin was originally a British deity, who in later times degenerated from his high position in the popular imagination. We possess many accounts concerning him, one of which states that he was the direct offspring of Satan himself, but that a zealous priest succeeded in baptising him before his infernal parent could carry him off. From Merlin, Arthur received much good advice both magical and rational. He was present when the King was gifted with his magic sword Excalibur, which endowed him with practical invulnerability, and all through his career was deep in his counsels. His tragic imprisonment by the Lady Viviana, who shut him up eternally in a rock through the agency of one of his own spells, removed him from his sphere of activity at the Arthurian Court, and from that time the shadows may be seen to gather swiftly around Arthur's head. Innumerable are the tales concerning the Knights of his Court who met with magical adventures, and as the stories grew older in the popular mind, additions to these naturally became the rule. Notably is this the case in that off-shoot of the Arthurian epic, which is known as the Holy Grail, in which we find the knights who go in quest of it constantly encountered by every description of sorcery for the purpose of retarding their progress. Arthur's end is as strange as his origin, for we find him wafted away by faery hands, or at least by invisible agency, to the Isle of Avillion, which probably is one and the same place with the Celtic other-world across the ocean. As a legend and a tradition, that of Arthur is undoubtedly the most powerful and persistent in the British imagination. It has employed the pens and enhanced the dreams-of many of the giants in English literature from the time of Geoffrey of Monmouth, to the present day; and with the echoes of the poetry of Tennyson and Swinburne still ringing in their ears, the present generation is quite as justified in regarding the history of Arthur as a living reality as were the Britons of the twelfth century.

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