After a recent podcast with William S. Lind in which we discussed the nature of conservatism, I believed further explanation would be helpful. I consider the Permanent Things to be faith, family, and freedom. Faith is the foundation of all civilization, family is the vehicle by which the generations are preserved, and freedom is what makes life livable.
Faith is, referring to my earlier article “Traditionalism, The Anti-ideology”, that aspect of life pertaining to the transcendent immaterial world that undergirds reality. Plato saw this world as the world of forms. For Plato the immaterial world was the world of ratios, proportions, and order. It was a cold and abstract beauty; an impersonal beauty. The Judeo-Christian element brought a greater level of refinement to this transcendent realm. The divine was no longer impersonal, but personal. God of course contained the elements of the immaterial that Plato saw, but Plato, lacking special revelation, saw only so far. The difference between Plato and Moses was not their intelligence but their access to revelation. Faith in the usage throughout this essay is not to be understood as faith in any particular Christian doctrine, but the general Christian belief that Jesus Christ is the sole master of man’s affairs and that from Catholic to Protestant to Orthodox men have tried to glorify Christ in word, music, and architecture.
Man can understand the divine in one of two ways : (1) natural revelation and (2) special revelation. Natural revelation is those aspects of the divine revealed through the natural world and discernible through unaided human reason. For example the propositions that God exists, God is good, the universe had a beginning (hence was created), the universe was not created five minutes ago with the appearance of age or nothing outside the contents of my mind exist. Special Revelation is that portion of divine revelation revealed through God’s spoken word (Moses on Mt. Sinai) and his written word (Holy Scripture).
Faith, particularly the Christian faith, is the bedrock of Western Civilization; the period from 313 to about 1914 is known as Christendom. This is the period in which the principles of the Gospel were the air men and women breathed. The central feature of Society from Ohio to Kent to White Russia was the Church. God, His Word, and His ministers were given the sort of respect and prestige that is today given to scientists and athletes. This culture generated the greatest minds in history in every conceivable field. Through faith Newton and Mendel pioneered physics and biology. By Faith Dante, Milton, and Tolstoy wrote works of literature that steal one’s breath. By faith Handel and Bach wrote sublime music. By faith Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles engineered Haiga Sophia, Bernardo Rossellino engineered St. Peter’s and Christopher Wren engineered St. Paul’s. Faith is the warp and woof of Western civilization and its greatest cultural, moral, and artistic accomplishments are inconceivable without it.
Family is the cellular level of society. No viable social unit exists below it. By viable I mean able to (1) reproduce itself and (2) pass on its values to the next generation. For obvious reasons homosexuality and contraception are not viable. The family according to Aristotle is that unit in society by which man’s needs are met. This is related to the original meaning of economics, which is a compound work from oikos (household) and nomos (law), or household law. Economics was the study of how families provided the basic needs of life for the community. For the purposes of this essay family is composed of minimally one man and one woman united in a monogamous relationship. The family is fundamentally an economic unit. It is necessary to raise self-controlled disciplined individuals who are able to contribute to the well-being of society. Aristotle as well as C.S. Lewis believe that ideally families should be attended with a modest land base. This view is also Biblical as can be seen by referring to my four-part essay on Christian economics. As an economic unit the family must be self-sufficient (hence the need for a modest land holding, a yeomanry if you will), must be defended by the force of law and social convention and must be seen as the building block of civilization.
We can look at men like Mozart, who in order to aggravate his father would play a musical note and then not finish it; his father would without fail stop what he was doing and go to the piano and finish it; or Pascal; or Pat Buchannan to see the necessity of and positive influence of connubial tranquility in the formation of great men of Western Civilization. The clear failure of any post Christian alternative to the family, single-mothers from the inner city, homosexual unions and general pick-up culture which leads to a sterile, loveless, crime-ridden world, demands a return to the tried and true method of civilization-building monogamous households.
Freedom is not as is commonly misconceived as having a plurality of choices. Freedom–true freedo–is being free to live as man was intended. From Aristotle we derive the notion of teleology which is a compound work from the word telos (goal) and ology (study) or the study of goals. Man has a goal and the Greeks understood that goal to be eudaimonia, or flourishing/fulfilment, and for the schoolmen as beatitude. True freedom is man acting in accordance with his purpose. That purpose being most perfectly comprehended in Christ. Man’s end, to quote the Westminster Catechism, is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. Or as Augustine said: “Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.” Through the freedom of conforming to man’s natural end, however imperfectly, Western Civilization has produced music that reaches the most sublime heights of ecstasy, literature that moves and nourishes the soul, and moral truths that ended human sacrifice, gladiatorial games, slavery, and cannibalism. No social movement in history has ever achieved the social, moral, cultural, and intellectual results of Western Civilization, which in turn is inconceivable without Christianity.
So, what are the permanent things? Faith, Family and Freedom; these form three legs for the stool of western civilization and remove any one of them and Western civilization falters. Remove all three, as we have currently done, and Western civilization will die, to be replaced no doubt with cannibalistic Africans, human sacrificing Mestizos, and scimitar-wielding Muslims.