Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Enemy Ourselves

August 5, 1954

Dear Bill:

I no longer believe that political solutions are possible for us. I am baffled by the way people still speak of the West as if it were at least a cultural unity against Communism though it is divided not only by a political, but by an invisible cleavage. On one side are the voiceless masses with their own subdivisions and fractures. On the other side is the enlightened, articulate elite which, to one degree or other, has rejected the religious roots of the civilization-the roots without which it is no longer Western civilization, but a new order of beliefs, attitudes and mandates.[Ed]

In short, this is the order of which Communism is one logical expression, originating not in Russia, but in the culture capitals of the West, reaching Russia by clandestine delivery via the old underground centers in Cracow, Vienna, Berne, Zurich, and Geneva. It is a Western body of belief that now threatens the West from Russia. As a body of Western beliefs, secular and rationalistic, the intelligentsia of the West share it, and are therefore always committed to a secret emotional complicity with Communism of which they dislike, not the Communism, but only what, by the chances of history, Russia has specifically added to it-slave-labor camps, purges, MVD et al. And that, not because the Western intellectuals find them unjustifiable, but because they are afraid of being caught in them. If they could have Communism without the brutalities of ruling that the Russian experience bred, they have only marginal objections. Why should they object? What else is socialism but Communism with the claws retracted? And there is positivism. What is more, every garage mechanic in the West, insofar as he believes in nuts and bolts, but asks: "The Holy Ghost, what's that?" shares the substance of those same beliefs. Of course, the mechanic does not know, when he asks: "The Holy Ghost, what's that?" that he is simply echoing Stalin at Teheran: "The Pope how many divisions has the Pope?"

That is the real confrontation of forces. The enemy-he is ourselves. That is why it is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.


(Whittaker Chambers, Cold Friday)

Some personal comments:

I feel that this is one of the most important passages in the book. Here Chambers clearly states that Western Civilisation is a Christian civilisation. It needs to be remembered that the philosophical changes embraced by the 19th Century intellectuals did not real gain traction amongst the greater body of "thinking' men till the 20's and 30's and finally percolated down to the mass of western humanity in the 60's with its resultant social upheaval.

Atheism is the enemy and the battle field is the mind of man. Solzhenitsyn, living a different experience to Chambers, came to the same conclusion. Just as the machine and modern economy transformed society, so does atheism transform morals. Thought precedes act.

Any renewal of Western Civilisation will not come from any political arrangement, or through some legislative process, but rather a religious renewal of the West. There is no other way. This is a hard fact to accept, since it would be far easier to sell a political solution than a Christian renewal. With the exception of the U.S. , in most countries, religious devotion is synonymous with mental instability and is political suicide.  Trying to legislate Christian morals onto an effectively irreligious world will lead to a backlash against Christianity. This isn't my opinion it's logic.

Men have to be converted first, before they will accept the political program. This is what I think is the thrust of Chamber's message.


Anonymous said...

If you take a peek over the Urals it seems to be already happening in the ashes of Russia.

The East has its matyrs that fell in the war against socialism, where are the Western matyrs? The church in the West became the hand maiden of the state without a drop of blood.

Simon Grey said...

Walter Williams Touches on this a little bit in this interview (the relevant parts are between 02:00 and 04:00, though the whole video is worth watching). Spiritual decline always precedes all other decline, and it is nearly impossible to reverse in time since most don't recognize this until it's too late. As you're undoubtedly aware, this cycle is seen multiple times with the Children of Israel in the Old Testament (especially Judges).

Anonymous said...

The other Anonymous is right. No great terror was used in the West as it was used against the peoples of the East. The western peoples wilfully threw themselves headlong into adopting the new revolutionary modes & customs, such as they are. No gun was put to the head of any of the British or American or other western women who murdered their own children. There were no persecutors waiting to torture & dismember those who refused to sacrifice to the twin idols of pleasure & money. This emphasis on removing all penalties, legal & societal on the unrestrained gratification of the senses & passions has been part of the plan since at least the middle of the 19th century. ( the truth be told I think the origins of the downfall of western civilization are to be found in the protestant revolt of the 16th century, but I suppose that's best left to another time) An excellent book on this was written by Monsignor Dillon, it is called The War of Antichrist with Christian Civilization. It fully detailed the plans of the secret societies whence communism sprang, as far as they were known at the time. It's astonishing how much of it pertains to the goings-on today, just as much, sometimes more so than the events of over a century ago. When you have finished with your articles on the work of Mr. Chambers, perhaps you could take a look at Monsignor Dillon's book if you have time, as it ably describes the origins of the decay of western civilization so eloquently written of by Mr. Chambers. Going back to the original point, perhaps the East's being subjugated by force in contrast to the western surrender to sophistry & corruption is the reason that there is still a degree of natural virtue left in places like Russia, where parading sodomites are arrested rather than protected & glorified as they are in the West. Anyhow, thanks for the articles on Mr. Chambers, he is an author I'd never read to any great extent, I shall now have to read more of his writings. Cheers.

The Social Pathologist said...


The East has its matyrs that fell in the war against socialism, where are the Western matyrs?

It depends what you define as the West. Poland, the Baltics, Hungary, Croatia, all paid dearly.

To a certain degree, I agree, but I feel that the possibilities for turning the clock back are better now than before. The efficiency of modern communications means that fads and fashions rapidly spread throughout the world. Hitler, for all his faults, was able to rapidly "re-energise" Germany through control of the centralised media. I'm not saying that his ideology was right, rather the powerful effect the modern media has of shaping human opinion and behaviour. Something the ancient Israelites never had access to.


I'm not sure that I'd lay the boot into the Protestants for our current troubles, they have contributed to them, but so has the Catholic church. I honestly think that any Western Religious revival will have to involve the Catholic church incorporating some Protestant concepts.
But this is something I want to post about later.

I'm glad you appreciate the Chambers posts. Sometimes I wonder if I'm getting any traction.

JMSmith said...

Anonymous Number 1: It is not entirely true that the Church(es) of the West capitulated without a drop of blood. A good deal of specifically Christian blood was shed by atheist governments in France, Spain, and Mexico. In the anglophone world the battle against secular humanism was fought with words, but it was fought. I've read a good deal of the polemical and apologetic literature written by both sides, and can honestly say that the Christian writers were working harder. I think the secular narrative steadily gained ground because it required no understanding of philosophy or metaphysics, and, in an increasingly democratic age, men without philosophic training were rejecting authority and choosing the worldview that made sense to themselves.

Anonymous Two: I've only flipped through Dillon's book, but have read a couple of his key sources (Barruel and Robinson). Both make mistakes and in places let their imagination run wild; but they also get some things right. Here are the three key things they got right. (1) Christianity was attacked; it did not simple "decline." The strategy of the attackers was to capture (2) public education and (3) the media.

Robert Brockman said...

Unfortunately, a religious revival at this point will require a religion that makes sense. If it's not internally consistent, it won't sell with the people who count.

Christianity needs a lot of patching up before it can meet this standard. Catholicism is in better condition, but still needs a lot of work. Amusingly, the problems that the "culture" has with Christianity are not the real weaknesses.

I'm still waiting for people in Team Jesus to man up and really deal with these issues. The more effectively this is done, the faster we can bring about the necessary religious revival and clean up the mess of our civilization.

Mike T said...

I honestly think that any Western Religious revival will have to involve the Catholic church incorporating some Protestant concepts.

The thing which holds back many devout Protestants the most are the devotions to Mary which go far beyond mere veneration to actual worship. I am sympathetic to Catholicism because I doubt that this is what your Church really intends. However, most of the Protestants I know are fervently anti-Catholic in no small part because the Catholic hierarchy won't unequivocally denounce groups like those who want to make Mary the "co-redemptrix" as heretics.

Were the Catholic Church to adopt a position on the saints and Mary that is similar to that of the Anglican church, I think you would see a mass conversion over a decade or two to Catholicism.

Mike T said...

Just to be clear, I'm referring to your comment that when Catholics abuse their religion they become pagans (where Protestants become open theologists).

I happen to know Catholics who are serious Christians; I've also known quite a few cultural and nominal Catholics who are pagans because of their overemphasis of the power and authority of the saints and devotion to Mary instead of Jesus.

JMSmith said...

Robert Brockman: I think we've already tried a Christianity that "makes sense." It started in Germany in the Eighteenth Century and was called Rationalism. Here in the U.S. it's purest expression was Unitarianism. Basically they chucked out everything that didn't "make sense" (to them) and called what was left "pure" Christianity. Ironically, one of the removed impurities was the "Christ." Jesus was, at first, an inspired man, then the wisest of all men, then one of the wisest men, then . . . Well, you see where this is going.

Setting aside the historical example, I'd venture to say that a religion that makes perfect sense doesn't make much sense. We Christians are told to address and think of God as "Father." A lot is entailed in this metaphor, but one important idea is that God is not altogether comprehensible. My young sons don't understand everything I say and do, and I wouldn't be much of a father if they did. Without this "mystery," there can be no authority or faith.

I'm not calling for mystification or needless mumbo jumbo. We should follow reason as far as we can, but we shouldn't expect it to fully illuminate the trail to its very end.

If I'm reading Chamber correctly, Humanism is the essential problem. We are worshiping ourselves, and WE are a false god.

Black Death said...

It is worth noting that, in parts of eastern Europe, the downfall of communism was sparked be the Christian churches (Catholic in Poland, Lutheran in eastern Germany)

The Social Pathologist said...

@Black Death.

I think the collapse in communism was more complicated affair. JPII lamented that after the communist revolution the Church became less attractive to Poland. A lot of people gave up on communism because the standard of living was higher in the West. It was a materialist imperative.

Still you are quite correct. In many instances the Churches were to only opposition. It's not like there were large covert Objectivist movements trying to overthrow communism.

The Social Pathologist said...


Very good comment.

One of the books that I have recently finished reading is the Logic of Failure. It's a non-religious book about the cognitive limitations of individuals. A lot of people are just plain stupid and things which are unintelligible to them are perfectly intelligible to smarter people.

As you rightly imply, the being that is God may not be fully comprehensible by even the most superior human intellect. Of course this does not mean that anything goes, rather the premise of a fully understandable religion is probably false. Still the religion if it is true, must be reasonable, i.e it must not contradict observable truths.

The "Mysteries" of the Catholic Church are good examples of this. Here the church proclaims a teaching that she knows is true, but can't explain.

The Social Pathologist said...

Mike T.

Catholicism when it is abused by the unintelligent faithful does have whiff of paganism. My own religious habits tend toward God the Father, rather than through intermediaries, and I too find a lot of this saint celebrating stuff a bit off putting.

Still I've spent a bit of time with lots on unintelligent Catholics and I can't ever recall anyone praying to Saint X with the hope that Saint X will grant him something. It seemed obvious to me that these guys were always praying to Saint X in order in the hope that Saint X would put a good word in for them to God. God being the source of all graces. (I've always been the type of guy to go directly to the top)I know its only anecdotal, but I've never heard a Catholic say that St Theresa etc. can forgive sins, and I've known some pretty dumb Catholics.

As for the co-redempritx movement. I think that it is ultimately futile, since it is Catholic Dogma that Christ alone redeems us. Were the Church to adopt a position of her co-redeeming mankind it would contradict prior dogma and hence invalidate the Church. I do however think that there is some validity in according her a special place in assisting the redemption of man, by allowing herself to be the vehicle through which Christ was made corporeal. She is the first servant of the Redeemer.

As for why the Church does not come down harder on the more "enthusiastic" elements, I don't know. I probably would, but then I'd do a lot of things differently than the Church does.

I do think that there are many good Protestants who are adrift of their official leadership. Believe it or not, I view some of the latest liberal theological developments amongst some of the Protestant denominations with sadness. Many of what I think have been the best developments in the Catholic church, i.e conscience and tolerance, have come about through the influence of "good" Protestantism on the Catholic church. It's always my hope that things will develop in such a way that such men will want to join the Church. I think they have much that they can positively contribute.

Black Death said...

In one of the little-known ironies of history, Erich Honecker, the ruler of the DDR (East Germany, but the Germans themselves never use that term), fled to the home of a Lutheran pastor, Uwe Holmer, after his regime collapsed. Honecker was afraid he would be lynched by his former subjects and thought he would be safer with a pastor (turned out he was right).

Anonymous said...

The Holy Catholic Church teaches that there are four types, or levels so to speak of worship. There is Latria which is the highest, the supreme worship rendered to Almighty God alone, for He alone is worthy of it, then there is Hyperdulia which is the veneration which is rendered to the Most Holy Immaculate Mother of God. This is inferior of course to Latria but superior to the other two, protodulia which is the veneration given to Saint Joseph, the Holy Foster-Father of Our Lord, & Dulia which is the veneration given to the other Saints. Being devoted to Our Lady is a mark of predestination, it is the devil who stirs up enmity against God's Holy Mother in the hearts of those who are outside of Our Lord's One True Church. Would any Protestant find the idea of asking his minister to pray to God on his behalf to be sinful? I rather doubt it. What then is wrong with praying to God's Holy Mother to intercede with Her Divine Son for us that He would have mercy on our souls? Who is more likely to be heard? Those who have offended Him grievously many times, or His Immaculate Mother, Who was never guilty even of original sin. "If Moses, by the force of his prayer, stayed the anger of God against the Israelites in a manner so powerful that the Most High & Infinitely Merciful Lord, being unable to resist him, told him to let Him alone that He might be angry with & punish that rebellious people, what must we not, with much greater reason, think of the prayer of the humble Mary, that worthy Mother of God, which is more powerful with His Majesty than the prayers & intercession of all the Angels & Saints both in Heaven & on earth?" Taken from True Devotion to Mary, by St. Louis de Montfort. The Protestant doctrine that no one needs any intermediaries to intercede with God on one's behalf, originates in pride. It in effect means that every individual Protestant should consider himself to be an exalted being, fully equal with the greatest Saints. No real Saint ever thought of himself thus, but rather as the most wretched of sinners. The Desert Fathers who fasted & mortified themselves all their lives still thought of themselves as unworthy servants of the Most High on their deathbeds & prayed that their sins would be forgiven. They remembered Our Lord's words "Because every one that exalteth himself,shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 14, verse 11. I pray for the conversion of heretics, schismatics & infidels, that they would be saved. Our Lady of Fatima pray for us.

knightblaster said...

Were the Catholic Church to adopt a position on the saints and Mary that is similar to that of the Anglican church,


nominal Catholics who are pagans because of their overemphasis of the power and authority of the saints and devotion to Mary instead of Jesus.

This movement towards the Anglican approach would seal the rift between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Protestantization of the faith will simple be "not on" for us Eastern Orthodox.

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