Destroying What Other Men Cherish
The Great Mother Cult and Common Sense Emasculation
(The Remnant, March 15, 2004)Cybele, the Magna Mater, was a mother goddess whose center of worship was in the province of Phrygia in Asia Minor. The Roman religious authorities, eager to assure that all divine powers were properly placated during the crisis of the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.), ordered the removal of the sacred stone representing the goddess from its traditional site in the city of Pessinus to a new temple constructed for her on the Palatine Hill. Here, oriental priests and other ministers catered to her careful worship. The average Roman only dealt with the Great Mother in March. A number of ceremonies were performed in full view of the cityís population at that time, beginning with a procession aimed at securing successful crop production, and ending with a bathing/purification of the goddessí image in a local stream. Romans then went back to their normal business; the priests, the so-called galli, to the permanent service of their stone.
One part of this lengthy spring festival is especially worthy of mention: the Day of Blood, on March 24th, when newly committed servants and priests of the goddess imitated the crucial, life-determining action of Attis, her androgynous consort. Faces whitened, ears weighed down by showy rings, and dressed in womenís clothing, they would dance a frenzied twirl, concluding with a self-castration. Other adepts of the Magna Mater, including those who had undertaken this emasculation earlier, displayed their continued devotion by participating in this exuberant jig, administering the numerous self-lacerations that added further meaning to the dayís name and promise. Everyone gained the blessings of protection of the Cybele in recompense for their actions. The price of those blessings would seem to have been just a tad too high.
We moderns often look back on these tidbits of ancient religious lore with a horror or an amusement that comes from our sense of either intellectual or spiritual superiority. It seems to us to be almost impossible to imagine that anyone could take seriously the benefits of a cult allowing for such an obvious degradation of the human person.
And yet our sense of enlightened transcendence of this madness is undeserved. We ourselves have been deceived by the lies of our own rhetoric-driven world, which hide the deeper meaning of the things that we appreciate. Yes, it is true that reference cannot be made at my doorstep on Carmine Street to any literal, local sacred stone before which sacrifices are offered to an honest-to-goodness Great Mother Goddess. True, no one can draw attention to a celebration labeled the Day of Blood taking place down the block each year when Spring has sprung. Indeed, with the disappearance of the specific words used to describe such particular phenomena, my neighbors and I are tempted to leap to the conclusion that the essential spirit of this type of pagan worship and self-inflicted disfigurement has disappeared from our infinitely more rational city. But a fetish by any other name is just as real as that associated with the Cybele, and we possess them in abundance. We donít even wait to be asked to share their use, and export them, uninvited and gratis, as sure-fire answers to all the various crises of human life around the globe. Many of us have become priests and special adepts of the false divine forces that these fetishes represent, lacerating and emasculating ourselves in public in their honor. And we do this not merely during a single twenty-four hour period of one month of the year, but ceaselessly, on each of the ever more pagan days of our lives. Moreover, the bulk of our population, unlike that of ancient Rome--which simply watched the spectacle as bedazzled onlookers--joins willingly in on the fun.
What are the cult objects which we reverence? To what do they refer? I know that the readership of The Remnant will in no way be surprised by my insisting, yet again, that our "sacred stones" include all of the manifold documents, historical events, and heroes representing the contemporary western Cybeles of Reason, Freedom, Democracy, and Pluralism. The reason for my bringing up the obvious once more is not sheer orneriness. It is to drive home the important point that our basic modern-day symbols are really literal, traditional, down-home, pagan fetishes. This is why democratic institutions are not presented to us as structures whose benefits or detriments are subjects for intellectual discussion and assent--they are offered as totems before which every knee must bend. The events of the Second World War are not brought up as a historical realities which thinking men may study and debate--they are like elaborate, consecrated rattles shaken to frighten off the enemies of Pluralism. Pluralismís central arguments are themselves worn as amulets covering our eyes, stopping up our ears, and blocking off our mouths, so as to ward off the infernal fascist demons which might emerge, any moment, from underworld caverns closed off from the light of the Free Supermarket of Babbling and Buying. The clauses of the Constitution do not contain mere legal prescriptions for a struggling new nation; they are spells, whose recitation will conjure up the freedom leading men to the Western Paradise of the Amida Buddha.
In fact, our fetishes, as I have noted in other writings, are even housed in pagan, neo-classical temples in Washington. They float on sacred waters, just as "Lady Liberty" presides over the harbor whose passage signals entry into the Promised Land. Our bishops once recognized such cult centers and objects for what they were, their extremely interesting comments on the arrival of the French republican statue in New York City in the late nineteenth century being one clear witness to this truth. And, yet, any nefarious comparisons with ancient cultic counterparts are laughed off in these days of the total victory of mindless rhetoric. For, after all, isnít L-i-n-c-o-l-n M-e-m-o-r-i-a-l spelled completely differently than T-e-m-p-l-e of C-y-b-e-l-e? Isnít there one more letter in the first set of words than the second? Why, the terms are so different that only a fool could point to some similarity of their deeper meaning. Who even knows how to pronounce the Magna Materís proper name anyway?
And, oh, modern fetishes, contemporary Cybeles! How many self-lacerations and emasculations of spirit and body are perpetrated in thy honor! How frequently has the Churchís obeisance to the fetish of aggiornamento with vigorous, modern, rational culture forced us into the most blatant and shameful mugging of the human mind that one could possibly imagine? Theology, philosophy, history, why, even the natural sciences themselves, have been tossed into the buckets provided for collection of the life blood of our holy religion. No mental disfigurement has been too severe for those in the service of this dubious illuminating force. Saints who attempted to convert Sultans have been transmuted into apostles of Ethical Culture; Protestants denying the slightest trace of individual liberty hoisted onto pedestals intended for statues of Freedom Fighters; a Diaspora "Judaism" that is merely a reaction against the real Christian fulfillment of the religion of the Prophets has been hailed as our elder brother; unjust rejection of the supposedly obscurantist deeds of past pontiffs has been replaced by a personality cult that refuses all logical description and reasonable critique; cardinals attending a recent conference in Upper Manhattan have been emboldened to express an overwhelming appreciation for the courageous willingness of Jewish theological students to "bring their faith to bear on political and social matters", while Catholics who have dared to infringe the sacred boundaries of Church and State have been regularly pilloried as probable anti-Semites; the Ramadan fast has been depicted as an example of that deep sense of self-denial which proves the necessity of learning spirituality from non-Catholic sources, even as our own traditions of popular ascetic practice are left in Limbo. We have sacrificed our minds on the fetish stone of modern Reason, just as we have been forced to sacrifice personal and communal desire, as well as life and limb, to democratic institutions which oppress and stifle all expressions of Christian popular will. A history professor recuperating in hospital during the First World War says it all when he warns Cťline in Journey to the End of the Night to be on guard against the priests of the modern mystery religion. For whenever they inform us that blessings are about to be poured forth, one had best be prepared for a jab with a sharpened knife. Such Horns of Plenty spew out orders to pay, march, grow sick, and die; nothing else. There is a price for worshiping the Cybele, however her name is spelled, and that price is still too high.
Whenever anyone asks me about what they might do to make the reality of our subservience to modern cultic beliefs and symbols better known, I warn them, first and foremost, to steel themselves and others against overpowering Pluralist demands to reverence the Fetish of All Fetishes, Il Fetishissimo. This is the mantra summoning everyone, without exception, to absolute slavish obedience to the dictates of "Common Sense", and her consort, "Prudence".
Now I do not mean to disparage a rationally-rooted "Common Sense". Neither do I intend to deny what my Faith tells me about "Prudence" as a virtue. Still, I definitely must insist that that which is passed off as Common Sense and Prudence, especially by conservative cultists, is actually a call to self-lacerating, self-emasculating ceremonies in honor of a gigantic, divinized Circle rolling nowhere. "Common Sense" is defined as the obvious British wisdom standing behind the axiomatically-good American Founding. "Prudence" is the attitude which recognizes the need to avoid the questioning of Common Sense. Such inquiry would, ipso facto, open the door to the horrors either of pre-Founding irrationality or post-Founding radicalism. But heeding the directives of the mantra chanters means never studying the validity of the definitions of Prudence and Common Sense that they provide, never seeing the real fallacies in them which link them firmly with support for the other fetishes listed above, shutting oneís mouth as firmly shut as any Crazy Glue could accomplish, and enduring identification of oneís silence as solid proof of agreement with a vision one might actually have come to detest. In short, it means a prudent emasculation in the service of our Common Sense Magna Mater, more spiritual than that of the galli, but just as real.
Prudent acceptance of Common Sense has been held up to me more times than I can lift a gin and tonic to press me to lacerate and emasculate my own critique of the fetishes of Americanism. It was called upon at a lecture that I attended to justify "protecting" a Cardinal from any questions that might reveal just how little he had done to protect the flock entrusted to his care. It was summoned by two Opus Dei aspirants with whom I once spoke, to censure the "undignified" behavior of Bishops whom our censured history shows ought to be open to martyrdom for allowing themselves to be arrested in Pro Life demonstrations. It has been and will continue to be evoked to lacerate and emasculate anyone who still has some body and spirit left in him to sacrifice.
The great Roman poet Catullus poignantly depicted the condition of an adept of the Magna Mater who finally awoke to the realization of the horror of what he had done to himself through his self-emasculation. We must fight to make certain that no more Catholics disfigure themselves, so as never to have to suffer similar bitter regrets. Defense against temptations to such disfigurement can only be secured once we admit that our enemies are not primarily battling with intellectual arms; that they are counting on the strength of evil fetishes producing the kind of disturbed and self-destructive psyches that would prudently emasculate themselves. Should we realize that we are dealing with what amounts to a psychological-medical problem, and, to paraphrase Plutarch, spit out this pagan religious hoo-ha in modern garb, we have a better chance to make some progress. Every soul we save from subservience to our contemporary fetishes is a soul who potentially can play his role in the great Drama of Truth, instead of prudently keeping a common sensical silence regarding it. Every one of them is saved from our own never ending Day of Blood.
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