Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Return to the Ideals Inherent in Time

You are responsible before the divine for the form of government to which you give assent, for from that form shall either flow or be obstructed the justice, balance, love, compassion, discipline, and generosity that characterizes the divine, and which shall rule the everyday interactions of your people. Let it become corrupt, let it refuse to find justice, let it slip from wise foundations and basic freedoms, and the instrument through which the divine may, with human consent, in large part bestow their blessings upon the world is wrecked and made crooked. Ancients knew the profound connection between rulership and corn, for wise laws, seeking harmony with nature's flows, and allowing each to eke and share the earth's produce in equity and justice, are the husband of fertility and prosperity. Let the instrument of law be bent from truth and freedom, be twisted from equity and justice, and large measures of well-intentioned actions become vain, neutralized by a crooked law. The stakes are life and death, freedom or slavery, as the sovereign body of the people is where war or peace is declared, the fount of blood or good harvests, and from where laws uplift and edify already good customs, or engrave the worst of the worst, binding the good of heart in chains of ineffectiveness or worse.

The constitution of your polity, therefore, is the bedrock of your relation to the divine, for it has power to affect even the other channel of divine influence, nature. Although natural catastrophes may dwarf at times the power of human beings, the polity may magnify or diminish this power, in both its good and bad aspects, so that a catastrophe of polity only magnifies a natural catastrophe, while a just and benevolent polity heals, soothes, and brings back into balance nature when she is shook by giant storms. When the constitution is sound, the imperfections inherent in human nature may be slowly corrected, and small errors, soon to be addressed and made right, are prevented from bursting out into greater errors which breed even worse mistakes. Such steady, if rough, justice, smooths out the jagged edges of culture over time, so that a good constitution becomes a tumbler in which the rough ore of a people is gradually polished into a gleaming gem. This happens not so much through positive interference, but a via negativa that releases the chains from the good, allowing it to freely flow, by binding that which would interfere with it.

In the beginning, gifts of spirit and soul, wisdom and cognition, transcendence and immanence, striving and satisfaction, were given to humankind. Yet in those same beginnings were sown the seeds of greed and envy, and fraud and deceit. When such mendacity combines with such unending coveting, the results are the strangulation of the people from within, the spread of pestilence and dis-ease, and unending, devouring war. The polity of a nation conditions the soil that inhibits or allows these seeds to grow. Good governance is weeding out the rampant thorns and composting them to generate in time, gradually but steadily, fertile soil. It is taming the axe to respect the trees, from which all good flows.

Far more profound than an uncritical celebration of ancestors, then, who embrace both the wicked and the benevolent, the indolent and the industrious, is a study, veneration, and dreaming-on of the laws of the founding fathers and mothers, who, clear in their naked and terrible responsibility towards the divine, set out to perfect the good customs of the kingdom. This study allows us to assess the progression or deviation of our present laws from the principles, plans, and rede of our forefathers. Inasmuch as they acted as judges over the laws, and therefore as priests before the divine, we may through them come closer in communion before the divine, correcting our own errors and deviations. For bad customs, allowed to propagate by ill laws, are like the gradually slanting supports of a house, which in time, uncorrected, cause the house to fall. In time, one begins to accept as normal that which is odious. Fidelity to the principles of the founders, in tune with profound meditation upon the divine, given perspective by communion in wild nature, allows the proportions of things to reemerge from their distortions. Fidelity does not imply conformity to the entirety of the founders' actions and statements, but it does imply a loyalty which gives benefit of the doubt, and which stays true to the course of the principles. History, being such an imperfect medium for the intentions of eternity, decrees that the proclamations of the ancestors were made under imperfect conditions, which new conditions in time may allow correction. But there is a punctiliousness and attention to the deeds and statements of the founders which amounts to a kind of veneration, which is necessary in order to correct whatever errors their imperfect conditions may have thrust upon them.

One is faced, for example, with a historical condition of raiding tribes at the dawn of Germanic history, and yet soon thereafter, a body of laws that clearly circumscribe theft, and one is left to wonder about such a contradiction. Only dialectics can allow us to grasp the circumstances of both and reconcile them, because the situations of a time inflect and draw out differing values from the background principles of a people. What is appropriate in one situation may not be appropriate in another. Under conditions of liberty, whereby prosperity may blossom, respecting laws of property is simply a way of recognizing liberty and right ; and yet, where liberty has given way to institutionalized plunder, given color of right (but nothing more than color) through crooked laws, treaties, or even their abrogation through war, reappropriation may be appropriate, as a way of expropriating the expropriators. As the internal contradictions of the Germanic tribes, given rough harmony and balance by their constitution, crashed up against the intrusions of Roman Empire, equilibrium was disrupted, and in the process, Rome was able to take advantage of the resulting divisions in order to further their conquests.

Fast-forward some seventeen-hundred or eighteen-hundred years, to the times of an English people on a new continent trying to perfect their ancient laws to the time, but also to perfect the time to the ancient principles, and we discover in the debates surrounding the Federalist Papers, statesmen attempting to reconcile the ancient liberties with protection against division. Such concern against division was apparent in the original constitution of the Teutons as gleaned by Julius Caesar, as their own jubilee-like legislation, annually redistributing the agricultural land (bound about by common lands, woodlands, and pastures) to transform fluctuations of inclement to equity of fertility, was designed to prevent the emergence of factions and class war. While enterprise and adventure might be met by luck with increased wealth, and boldness and courage met by the people with increased esteem, every one having holdings roughly equivalent to everyone else meant that mild, existent inequality did not transform into widespread inequity. Unfortunately, due to the triumph of feudalism under the adjustment of Teutonic law to Roman institutions (and we are in the debt of our courageous forefathers that that Teutonic law did not dissolve entirely against such overwhelming odds), the jubilee-odalism of the Teutonic constitution had already dropped out of the laws that English folk received from their ancestors, and thus was unavailable for consideration or improvement by America's founding fathers. Nevertheless, their attention to Anglo-Saxon heritage was pronounced, with Jefferson announcing that the goal was to restore the pre-Norman integrity of the common law through adjusting it to the history (and all the lessons of a tyrannous, contested history) of the times. Jefferson had hoped that guarantee against monopoly would be enshrined in the bill of rights, but unfortunately, this did not pass. Had it passed, at least in part the spirit of the old redistribution laws, a bulwark against monopolistic power, would have received recognition in our constitution.

When I despair over present-day corruption (and such despair is rational in the face of such widespread breakdown of liberty and its blessings), my recourse is to attention to the basic principles of law, the constitution which is only partially articulated in the United States Constitution, but receives greater explication in Magna Charta and all its reaffirmations, and which stretches back to the principles underlying the Teutonic tribes living in their forests, as described by Caesar and Tacitus ; for it is by these laws, and moreso the principles enshrined in them, that the imperfections of the time may be adjusted to the ideals of the divine. Inattention to these principles is hazardous indolence before the divine. The reason the founders may be treated with a kind of veneration is due to their awareness of their responsibility to the divine as it manifests in history. If we do not share an equal anxiety over the portentiousness of our laws and deeds, we may be rightfully accused of being cosigners to monstrous corruption, and subject to the indignation and indictment of our descendants. Everything in Teutonic tradition suggests that a return to origins, grounded in this present moment of time, but exploring its roots to the deepest sources, is the fountain of renewal, and the way in which we wash ourselves from the accumulated dirt of error and inevitable flaw. The concept of Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Time, should not be reduced to the lowest common denominator, lest it become the demon or thurs of the time and not the spirit, nor simply to reigning opinion, but rather the call of the majority and its leaders to the Ideal that is pregnant within the times, and which it is possible to midwife if all capacities are given full reign and exercise. Zeitgeist may be stillbirthed by clumsy, inattentive hands. It is, properly, a gift from the Gods inseminated into history, which we may, in the emergence of this moment, either attend or neglect, but such neglect is a tort, a twisting of right. Thus, while we must attend to the practicalities of the present, if we do not condition our perception of those practicalities by equal attention to the Ideal which is really and actually present in potential in this moment, we will not even grasp what is possible to achieve. Moreover, the degradations of corruption degrade our souls, and too much attention given to corruption begins to rot our enjoyment of life. One must return to the ideals encapsulated in principles behind law (and true religion) in order to find one's renewal.


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