• Michael Martin

Well, I had to retire another rosary this week. It happens. Since I pray the rosary every day—sometimes while driving, sometimes in the house before everyone in my crowded house wakes up, sometimes in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, sometimes in the garden—I like to have one with me at all times. Since I’m both a scholar and a farmer, my pockets are a poor choice for a place to carry a rosary. Rosaries tend toward tangling in pockets anyway, but when in the company of loose change, pens, screws and nuts, and other assorted things, that makes things even worse. Add to that the many times I have to lift heavy objects—logs into the bed of my pickup truck, for example—I have often broken the chains—or even beads!—of rosaries so many times I needed to find a better way. A better way, as it turns out, has been to wear it around my neck. Rosaries still can get broken there, but not as frequently, although, inevitably, repairs need to be made or a replacement is in order.

That’s my recently retired rosary in the picture. If you look closely, you can see where the silver coating has worn away from the beads. It’s not that I have such an intense prayer life; it’s only the usual wear and tear of any tool on the farm (which, by the way, we named Stella Matutina in honor of the Virgin). The crucifix you see is probably the third one that’s hung on this rosary. Its predecessors must lie somewhere in the soil of my farm, or in the barn, maybe in the pasture or woods. But this past week I had to repair the rosary almost daily. Then I lost a bead. So, I found another, a crystal rosary with a pendant of the Virgin instead of a crucifix (I think it belonged to my grandmother) which is now hanging around my neck.

A priest once asked me what my spiritual practice was like. I probably disappointed him. My spiritual practice revolves around saying the rosary and contemplative paying attention. I pay attention, for example, to literature (including scripture), and especially poetry (what I have called, following William Desmond, agapeic reading), as well as to music (we’re all musicians at my house). I also pay attention to the way things grow and to changes in the animals (not to mention people!) who share this farm with me. Farming is a contemplative activity (an oxymoron, I know), at least biodynamic farming is. We do most farm work by hand, only using a rototiller once in a while, though I have a deep affection for my chainsaw. I try to turn as much of what I do in the course of a day into a contemplative activity. It’s called presence. Parousia.

Now, my way of praying the rosary is (big surprise) pretty idiosyncratic. We never said the rosary in my Catholic family when I was growing up —though rosaries were around—and I didn’t know how to pray it until I was in my late twenties. I could never get with the maudlin prayers added to the rosary from the visionaries of Fatima (“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell…”). Coupled with the children’s version of The Baltimore Catechism, I bet this little number has inflicted untold neuroses on the Catholic soul. Instead, I kind of do my own thing. In place of the Fatima prayer and the Creed (not that I have anything against the Creed), I have, for the last year or so, been offering Valentin Tomberg’s “Our Mother” prayer on the centerpiece and at the end offering the prayer of the Lady of All Nations. I also invoke the Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy Soul (I only hope the Inquisition doesn’t find out). At other times, I’ve prayed the Trisagion on the centerpiece. I have even offered Dante’s beautiful prayer to the Virgin from the Paradiso.

I follow the more-or-less traditional sequence of the Mysteries, praying the Joyful Mysteries on Mondays, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesdays and Fridays, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. I also pray the Luminous Mysteries (the Baptism, the Marriage at Cana, the Preaching of the Gospel and the Feeding of the Five-Thousand, the Transfiguration, the Institution of the Eucharist) on Thursdays. I know a lot of my traddie brothers and sisters dislike the Luminous Mysteries as a Modernist innovation of that heretic John Paul II, but—come on already!— they belong!

I have learned much through this single religious discipline I have chosen (or has chosen me). Primarily, I have learned that a spiritual practice is as simple as living a life in parousaic attention, as messy as that can be. If you will recall (and many don’t), at the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost an important figure was at the center of the cenacle: “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). That’s all it takes. As Christopher Bamford writes in his beautiful essay on the rosary, “I learned it with the force of revelation through the Rosary at the feet and in the presence of Mary Sophia.” [1]

That’s all it takes.

Tomberg’s Our Mother Prayer

Our Mother, Thou who art in the darkness of the underworld,

May the holiness of Thy name shine anew in our remembering,

May the breath of Thy awakening kingdom warm the hearts of all who wander homeless,

May the resurrection of Thy will renew eternal faith even unto the depths of physical substance.

Receive this day the living memory of Thee from human hearts,

Who implore thee to forgive the sin of forgetting Thee,

And are ready to fight against temptation, which has led Thee to existence in darkness,

That through the Deed of the Son,

The immeasurable pain of the Father be stilled,

By the liberation of all beings from the tragedy of Thy withdrawal.

For Thine is the homeland and the boundless wisdom and the ail-merciful grace, for all and everything in the Circle of All. Amen.

Prayer of the Lady of All Nations

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now Your Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster and war. May The Lady of All Nations, who once was Mary, be our advocate. Amen.

St. Bernard’s Prayer to the Virgin (Paradiso, Canto XXXIII)

O, Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son, Humblest and greatest of all creatures; The eternal counsel’s predestined end;

Thou hast brought such glory to human nature That its divine Creator did not scorn To make Himself the creature of His creature. The Love that was in Thy womb enflamed

Sends forth the warmth of the eternal peace Within which this flower has bloomed. Here to us, thou art the meridian face Of charity; and among mortal men, The living fountain of hope. Lady, so great are thy power and worth That who seeks grace without recourse to thee Would have his wish fly without wings. Thy sweet benignity not only brings relief To those who seek, but, indeed, oftentimes It graciously anticipates the plea. In thee is mercy, in thee is kindness, In thee munificence, in thee unites All that creation knows of goodness.

Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

1. Christopher Bamford, “Deserts and Gardens” in his An Endless Trace: The Passionate Pursuit of Wisdom in the West (Codhill Press, 2003), 275.

  • Michael Martin

I’m still pissed about Easter.

It seems so long ago that services for the Resurrection of the Lord were canceled as politicians wantonly issued edicts and bishops of every denomination rolled over and played dead. In short, both classes of authority reverted to type. Then the Ascension, Pentecost, and even the secular holiday of Independence Day were canceled. Now, eight months into this experiment in social engineering, even more restrictions are being imposed, such as California Governor Gavin Newsom’s comical-were-they-not-serious Thanksgiving rules and the threat by British authorities to break into private homes to make sure Christmas is sufficiently miserable.

None of this surprises me. As a scholar of early modern English literature and culture, I know all too well how any government can change the culture of a society through the imposition of penal codes, puishments, and fines and assure their implementation through spy networks and the desire of busybodies to rat their neighbors out. This happened in England beginning with the reign of Henry VIII and continued through the Civil Wars in the mid-to-late seventeenth century. Along with enclosure laws and the Dissolution of the Monasteries (the lands of which, when they didn’t go into Henry’s assets column, were delivered to nobles supportive of Henry’s agenda), encroaching laws forbade the practice of the Catholic religion, at first—though England was at the start of this upheaval a Catholic country and Henry was named Defensor Fidei by Pope Leo X—and later suppressed much of the Anglican Church’s conviviality. As Eamon Duffy writes in his classic account of the Henrician revolution, The Stripping of the Altars, “The orthodoxy which mattered most to the regime was to the new doctrine of royal supremacy.”[1] This all went into early modern hyperdrive when the Puritan government in 1647 banned the celebration Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, and all other feasts of the Church year.[2] You are here.

We could say that this was England’s “Great Reset.” Through the employment of governmental and military muscle, through a sophisticated (for the time) spy network and rewarding minor nobles for their support, it proved remarkably successful. The Communist revolutions in Russia and other places, the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany, and many other kinds of political revolutions used England’s as an inspiration if not a template. English history proved it could be done: that a society could be changed and controlled by design. In such scenarios, opponents, even silent ones, of prevailing power structures suffer punishment while collaborators are rewarded with cash and property (as happened in more recent history, for example, with the Romanian Orthodox prelates who gladly accepted the Romanian Byzantine Catholic churches confiscated by the state under Communism).

Of course, such change took a long time in England. If the Internet—both surveillance network and vehicle for propaganda—would have been available, they could have sewed it up in a matter of months. The English citizenry—propagandized, threatened, penalized—acquiesced through an atrophy of will. Pockets of resistance existed, of course, but, by and large, the most effective method for controlling a people is through fear and, ultimately, exhaustion.

Oddly enough, I found a fitting metaphor for this predicament in the children’s book The Little Grey Men by BB. In the story, set in early twentieth century England, the country’s last gnomes are on a quest to find their lost brother. Along the way, the creatures of the forest tell them of the horrible Giant Grum (a human) who indiscriminately murders and tortures animals and hangs their remains from a terrifying gallows. Such is ever the condition of the weak at the mercy of the powerful.

At a loss, seeing the wanton extermination of their woodland friends, and with their own kind at the brink of extinction, one of the gnomes, the eldest, Dodder, who suffers in addition of the need for a wooden leg, offers a prayer to the deity of the People of the Wood, Pan. Pan, whose presence is often felt but who has not appeared in ages, manifests himself at a gathering on Midsummer Eve. “I have come back once more to you all,” he tells them, “once more…. and then I shall indeed be gone until that day when we shall all return, yes, all, gnomes and wild forgotten things alike, to the land where once we lived.” And, finally, he asks, “What is it that you want of me, O People of the Wood?”

Dodder is very direct. “We want,” he says, “this one thing, O good god Pan, that Giant Grum should die.” All of the People of the Wood agree—except for the pheasants. The pheasants, as it happens, belong to Giant Grum. They are a sycophantic and disagreeable lot—but even disagreeable sycophants need to have their voices heard.

Pan solves the problem of Giant Grum (though it’s not clear if Grum is killed or taken out of commission in some other manner). The People of the Wood breathe a little easier, and the gnomes continue looking for their brother.

The book was published in 1942, so I’ve always wondered if Grum is a cipher for Hitler and other strongmen of the era. When I consider the problem the gnomes face, I can’t help but think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer under the rulership of Hitler.

The gnomes and the creatures of the forest in the book function as symbols for a way of life disappearing, at least for a time, and their situation must have born many resonances with that of children in Britain who had lived through the Blitz. I imagine the tale offered British children some much-needed catharsis after living through such a terror.

Our society is likewise in the midst of a sea change as a way of life vanishes for many, but is generally unmourned by the master culture. Some of those impacted, I suppose, might feel very much like the last gnomes of England and in need of disappearing from the world of men in order to find a green and pleasant land. We know it still exists.

In medieval England, and continuing well into the early modern period, it was the custom in most communities for a “Lord of Misrule” to be chosen over the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was a time when social conventions were inverted in a spirit of carnival. With the coming of the Protestant Revolution this gradually disappeared. But now we have our own Lords of Misrule, who turn common sense and conventions on their heads, but without the attendant frivolity, conviviality, and humor of earlier ages. They clearly have no sense of humor, no sense of history, so sense of communitas. But they certainly know how to lord and misrule.

A song from William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

1. Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 (Yale, 1992), 381.

2. You can read all about this in Ronald Hutton’s inestimable The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year in England 1400-1700 (Oxford, 1996).

  • Michael Martin

Edward Robert Hughes, Night with her Train of Stars (1912)

So it seems we are in the middle of The Great Reset. Don’t call me a conspiracy theorist. This plan has been out of the closet for some time, and the guys and dolls over at The World Economic Forum see the pandemic as the opportune time for its implementation. I’ve read their plan (you should, too), and though its rhetoric is equal parts alarmism and idealism, what lurks behind is a technocrat’s wet dream. The tragicomedy of NGO’s simultaneously lamenting and capitalizing on a pandemic with such a relatively low mortality rate is hard to take seriously—but take it seriously. The Great Reset isn’t about care for humanity; it’s about who retains power.

Not to be that guy, but I predicted this in my book Transfiguration. Now, I didn’t predict the coming of the pandemic (though others did), but I did predict the coming collapse and the attendant machinations of those in power (and I don’t necessarily mean politicians) to not only hold on to their power but to increase it. In discussing forms of distributism in light of our current economic environments, I had this to say:

“The challenge for any attempt at distributism, however noble and good, is that it (at this point in history) can transpire only within the contexts of monetary systems already corrupted: and this is as true for the communist and socialist contexts as it is for the capitalist. And none of these systems will ever give distributism room to breathe and grow. Not ever.” [1]

And one would have to say that, in general, the planetary Archons—BigTech, BigPharma, and other initiates into the Temple of the Corporate-Pharmaceutical-Military Complex—have more power eight months into the pandemic than they ever did before. If you don’t believe me, just think about how fear has turned so many of us into willing accomplices for The Great Reset. We wouldn’t be afraid without the constant messaging provided and promulgated by these postmodern demigods. But we are.

My message and hope, both as I was writing Transfiguration and now, is that, instead of The Great Technocratic Reset we could affect a Sophianic Reset: a reset grounded in sophiological reality, the of reality Man, Nature, and Divinity in harmony. The Real.

Of course, that preached by The World Economic Forum and its clergy is not the first reset ever to appear. The Scientific Revolution of the 17th century is certainly a great example of an earlier reset, as are the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution, not to mention the Digital Revolution. And while those things may have brought some benefits, they also wrought untold damage: to the environment and thereby to our relationship to Nature; to communitas; and even to the soul.

The way the WEF, the WHO, and other agencies and polities look at this virus is as if it were an attack perpetrated by hostile aliens and not as the kind normal viral phenomenon we experience regularly and perpetually as part of a naturally occurring reset to the environment. But you’d never know that from the hysteria constantly inundating us.

But I think this pandemic is a fitting metaphor for our fear of and hostility toward Nature. We want to (and hubristically think we can) kill the virus. We can’t. We also think the god Science will save us. It can’t. If the story about this virus as one engineered and escaping from the laboratory in Wuhan is true (and I doubt we will ever know for sure), then science is killing at least some of us—just as environmental pollution, chemically-enhanced “food,” and opioids are killing some of us. But “trust the science,” right? Right. And even if it isn’t true in the case of Wuhan, laboratories all over the world routinely monkey with the genetic makeup of viruses—as is the case in Wuhan—so one escaping and wreaking havoc on populations is not outside the realm of possibility. But it’s a risk scientists, governments, and NGOs are willing to take. Risk is implicit to human life, though some risks are avoidable. Mishaps due to genetic editing and splicing are avoidable; seasonal viruses, for example, and the inevitability of death are not.

One way I think of activating a Sophianic Reset is to live our lives as if the sophianic were already the Reality (because it is). I say we live in communitas with other human beings and stop treating them as possible agents of infection (I mean, how psychologically damaging is that gesture going to prove in the long run?). I say we return to Nature and engage practices that treat her in reverence (Goethe, represent!) as a Co-Creatrix with us and Divinity in a project of sustainable life and not as matter (mater) to be abused and exploited. I say we awaken to the sophianic splendor that shines through the universe, “Born of the One Light Eden saw play,” in Eleanor Farjeon’s glorious phrase. This as if, the way I picture it, would awaken us to a kind of holistic version of the alternate-parallel societies Philip K. Dick writes about in his science fiction, or even in the way Amish communities operate. I deal with a lot of Amish people through my farm—and they are not as “other” as you might think. They use the same currency the rest of us are forced to use, they engage with “the world” as much as necessary but as little as possible—yet still maintain their vision of what a Christian life should be. [2]

I know this seems challenging—and the pandemic and its technocratic agents are challenging enough. But fear not, little flock. In ending, allow me to share the closing words of the chapter entitled “Oikonomia: The Household of Things” from Transfiguration:

“Nevertheless, the daunting prospect of such a magnitude of change might cause even the stoutest heart to quail. This is especially the case considering the massive resistance respectively opposed by our societies’ academes, public habits and vested interests.’ [3] (Can we imagine an NPR segment on perishable currency?) Such a project does not need to be realized all at once, but could be implemented gradually as people more and more respond to an as if approach to our circumstances. If we were to live as if a sophianic oikonomia were a reality, even while we live in a world and are surrounded by a culture oblivious if not hostile to such an idea, the sophianic oikonomia would nevertheless come into being, as it already has being. Only by our attention to it, we would awaken it from slumber. Indeed, the call to economic activity, when considered in this light, is not the call to domination and exploitation, but the call ‘to return to life in Sophia.’ [4] And all of us privileged to have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity are thus called; there is simply no other way. The responsibility terrifies, as an angel terrifies, but we are summoned nonetheless.” [5]

Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

1. Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything (Angelico Press, 2018), 99.

2. I discuss all these things at length in Transfiguration and throughout this blog.

3. Guido Giacomo Preparata, “Of Money, Heresy, and Surrender, Part II: A Plea for Regional and Perishable Currency,” Anarchist Studies 18, no. 1 (2010): 8-39, at 35.

4. Segius Bulgakov, Philosophy of Economy (Yale University Press, 2000), 153.

5. Transfiguration, 101.

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