IV. Identifying the Enemy
(The Remnant, January 31, 1991)
“Society, as such, may be said to be separated from Christ, and to have renounced its connection with the Incarnation of the Word.” (La Civiltà Cattolica, V, v, 141)Catholic counterrevolutionaries like Taparelli d’Azeglio and Louis Veuillot combined encouragement of the cult of the Sacred Heart with fervent support for the spread of the adoration of Christ as King of the Universe. They did so because these devotions clarified so well the consequences of the Incarnation for human nature and the cosmos as a whole. No devoté of the Sacred Heart and Christ the King could fail to grasp the fact that all of Creation presumes the model and scepter of the Incarnate Word, must bend itself to the divine will, and is perfected and exalted in the process.
“Re-establish the Legitimate Monarchy. Give it a Parliament elected under the most favorable conditions, made up only of the most zealous Legitimists themselves. Let it impose upon the Press draconian laws. There will still be an opposition in several months, and a revolution in several years. If it takes that long.” (Veuillot, Mélanges, IV, 314).
The Evil One targets the Incarnation and its consequences in intelligent, logical assaults, just as a gifted general might take aim against the cornerstone and central strength of an enemy force. Does Christ’s appearance on earth, flesh and blood united with the Eternal Word, both confirm the value of nature and yet raise it far beyond its innate abilities? Then Satan will try to denigrate nature, whether it be the animal and vegetable world in general, or the body, marriage, property, music, art, or anything else in particular, arguing that spirit alone is worthwhile. Does the Incarnation entail submission to the Whole Christ, to a visible Church which continues the Savior’s presence in historical time beyond the specific date of His Death and Resurrection? Why, the demon will claim that this is an impossibility, since Almighty God would never allow Himself to be limited by matter, and manipulated by depraved creatures. Is it the case that a visible Church makes real for us in endless ways the truth that the human Christ was also Divine? Fallen angels will point out that the spiritual Church which they encourage suggests that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity never honestly became a man. Is the principle of perfection through submission to community and authority taught by the Incarnation? Making abandonment to the Whole Christ the crucial means of salvation? Does the model of the Incarnation imply that this principle is valid throughout all of nature? So that an obedient member of a family (to take but one example) can be sure that he is building virtues which can work together with grace towards fulfillment of God’s plan for him? Is that the idea? Then the Enemy of Mankind will bitterly deny it, insisting that every legitimate society, along with its rulers and its laws fetters the individual soul, preventing its liberation, its actualization, and achievement of its potential. Condemn the flesh. Lash at the visible Church. Make it difficult to picture God Himself every walking the earth as a man. Laugh at the concept of humble obedience. Tell the individual to grind his teeth at the mere mention of the words society, authority, and ruler. Assure that nothing incarnational in character has any impact on man and the universe. Thus runs the satanic script.
Yes, logical demonic intelligences are at work in this attempt to thwart the effects of the Incarnation. Nevertheless, the satanic plan necessarily must operate through unpredictable, often illogical human action on an historical plane as well. And historically, Taparelli and Veuillot argued, following the lead given them by the great Savoyard counterrevolutionary, Joseph de Maistre (1759-1821), this plan has unfolded in five stages.
To begin with, it advanced in general attacks upon the value of Creation as a whole, assaults which were common in medieval Europe from the late 1100’s onwards. Then, in the 1500’s, the Protestant Reformation started dismantling the visible side of the Whole Christ, so spiritualizing the idea of God that the very concept of the Incarnation was immediately brought into question. By the 1600’s, political leaders and thinkers denied the need for the State, one of man’s most important natural institutions, to submit to direction from a purely spiritual God in order to achieve its legitimate earthly goals. Next, the Enlightenment of the 1700’s showed that nothing else in Creation was bound by the dictates of this ethereal God, and argued for the emasculation of all authoritative communities in the name of individual freedom and perfection. Finally, the violence erupting in France in 1789 eventually gave practical shape to an infinite variety of different anti-incarnational notions, carrying them to their logical extremes. But the message of the Incarnate God had itself been incarnated by faithful Christians in every nook and cranny of Creation, thereby assuring that the desire to destroy it would involve a true world war. And this world war has been the history of our own era.
The Revolution. It is the entire movement, satanic and human, all-encompassing in its logical demonic goals even if narrower in the minds of many of its historical proponents, above time and yet within it, pre-Albigensian, pre-Lutheran, pre-Statist, pre-Illuminist, pre-Jacobin but nevertheless given flesh by all such groups and ideas; it is this entire movement that Taparelli and Veuillot identified as The Revolution. But why worry about identifying it so much? The fate of Legitimism, the first major counterrevolutionary effort, revealed the answer to that question all too readily.
Legitimism, the name for that counterrevolutionary approach which sought, after 1814, to restore the “legal”, pre-1789 authorities around Europe, had many good intentions. Unfortunately, Taparelli and Veuillot complained, the average Legitimist refused to recognize both sides of the revolutionary monster. Either he ignored the logical and demonic character of the movement he claimed to be fighting, or he dismissed its historical dimension and the ability of human personalities to twist and turn the implementation of revolutionary plans down illogical pathways.
Often, our two prophets complained, the typical Legitimist was a man who was hurt or outraged by a specific event taking place in the years between 1789 and Napoleon’s rise to power a decade later. His immediate reaction was to define the Revolution in terms of the date that he recognized its evil, and the specific event that provoked this recognition. His next step was to announce that all would be well if everything returned to the state that it was in when his own pet problem did not exist. Hence, to pick one instance, he might argue that the Revolution would be defeated if the events of August 4th, 1789 overturning the remnants of the feudal order were to be reversed.
Alas, such a reversal in and of itself would achieve very little. European society on August 3rd, 1789 or in 1788 was already just as deeply infected with revolutionary ideas, and on a variety of different levels: not merely the one of concern to any given Legitimist. There was, at that time, a revolutionary logic running its course, arguing for the events of August 4th, 1789, regardless of whether or not our hypothetical Legitimist saw this to be the case. It does no good to say that people previous to the date in question did not want such events to take place. Neither does it do any good to go back further and say that Luther or Calvin or Elizabeth I or Voltaire did not want the full consequences of their own ideas and actions to unfold. Such results were logically implicit in what they said or did at the time aside from their intention. The fact that limitations of intelligence or remnants of good sense shaped by two thousand years of Catholic-Greco-Roman civilization prevented them from seeing what would happen or carrying their own folly into practice is as much beside the point as it would be for a parent to complain that a child spit in his face after he had told the youth to “do his own thing”. Regardless of whether the parent yearns for logical deductions to be made or not, other forces are at play encouraging them.
Sometimes, Legitimists did see the long-term, logical development of the Revolution, and admitted that superior intelligences were involved as well. Unfortunately, however, many of those people who recognized this truth then forgot that it was limited human beings who were the practical agents of the nightmare. Hence, they attributed to this or that given individual or group conscious responsibility for the entire debacle, as though there were no possibility for illogic, good will, or accident to enter the picture; as though the human agent were the obvious, eager, direct representative of the diabolical force concerned. Such assumptions, St. Augustine explains in the City of God, are never wise to make. Indeed, there is a cosmic battle taking place. Nevertheless, that real battle cannot neatly be translated into good guys and bad guys here on earth. After all, the good are not free from temptation. Neither are the bad totally depraved. And no one is omniscient.
The problem, in both of the cases noted above, was that the Legitimists regularly narrowed their perspective to the general detriment of the counterrevolutionary cause. Their failures led them to deal with one head of the beast while allowing the others to grow untended. They could easily (and did) gloat over the elimination of the monster while actually nurturing it in a different manner in their own gardens. The consequence was that Legitimist governments, established almost everywhere in Europe in 1814/1815, began to disappear but a few years later.
Identifying the enemy is crucially important to us in 1991 because the same error is made by opponents of the Revolution today as was made by Legitimists in the early 1800’s. All too many “counterrevolutionaries” of our own time will date or narrow the problems of the world to March, 1933 or the latest tax raise or the introduction of this or that sex education program into their parish. They forget that the enemy ranks involve Thrones and Dominations and intelligences at work for six hundred years and more. All too many counterrevolutionaries of our own time hone in on one specific head of the beast, like the Marxists, and think that they have defeated the Revolution if they conquer and decapitate it. Countless are the numbers of those who talk about returning to the principles of the Founding Fathers, without realizing that these Fathers were themselves corrupted by the Revolution, in Taparelli and Veuillot’s sense of the term to the degree that the average Protestant or Deist would have been corrupted at that date. One should not expect to go back to Luther and Calvin or the Marquis de Pombal or Thomas Jefferson to find any of them expressing exactly the same errors that one finds in The Village Voice or in the mouth of an ACLU lawyer. But one will find in their ideas the later notions in potentia.
The Revolution has a disastrous logical consequence—the destruction of nature—whatever the intentions of the people who support it. The only thing that prevents the Revolution from working its insane effects is the illogical maintenance of earlier Catholic practices shaped by devotion to Christ the King. Catholics, however, have the opposite problem. The more logically we follow our basic principles, the healthier we are. We are failures only in our refusal to accept the fullness of the Catholic vision, the fullness of the Incarnation, the fullness of grace vivifying nature. And it is in the light of this basic difference between the logic of the Revolution and that of the realm of Christ the King that our more detailed discussions of specific issues will continue.
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