Returning Spiritual Sanity to the United States


In many ways the United States are nothing more than a dreadful lump of decayed matter seething with spiritual confusion.  It would seem as though there were no hope for their recovery of a normal, healthy human life of body and soul.  But no one is without hope; repentance, a new beginning, is always possible.  And even with the States, the seeds of their revival exist even now, although they are obscured by the disorders of the present day.

But before we explain what they are, we must first remind ourselves about the normal hierarchical order of human society.  It is tripartite, as René Guénon reminds us in his slim book, Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power, consisting of the most important – those who pray (the priests) – then those who fight (the warriors), and after them those who labor (farmers, craftsmen, merchants, etc.).  This holds true for all societies, whether of the West or the East.  Mr Guénon is quite fond of the Indian classification of these classes or castes, so we will use them also in what follows for the sake of consistency.  According to Indian usage, the three classes correspond to the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas, respectively (transl. H. Fohr, edr. S. Fohr, Sophia Perennis, Hillsdale, New York, 2001 [1929], p. 31).

Now, what is peculiar about the United States is that each of the major cultural regions – New England, Dixie/the South, and the West (this is includes all the areas outside New England and the South:  the old Midwest/Rustbelt, Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, desert Southwest, and West Coast (Alaska and Hawai’i are special cases that fall outside this analysis)) – match extremely well with a different one of the classes:  New England with the Brahmins, Dixie with the Kshatriyas, and the West with the Vaishyas. 

The Yankees in New England have always been the most inclined to theological explorations and expositions of the (non-Orthodox) European settlers in the U. S.  It should come as no surprise that one of the nicknames for some Yankees is ‘Boston Brahmins’.  The most characteristic Yankee figures in her history have been precisely theologians:  the famous Congregational pastor Jonathan Edwards and the Unitarian pastor Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Southerners are the warrior class.  Professor Richard Weaver, following John Randolph of Roanoke, said of Southerners that they were fitted especially ‘to lead men, whether in the field or in the Senate chamber’ (The Southern Tradition at Bay, eds. Bradford and Core, Regnery Gateway, Washington, D.C., 1989, p. 56) – i.e., Southrons are men of the military or men of politics.  The famous figure of General and President George Washington is the most iconic of Southerners, followed closely by General Robert E. Lee.

The caste of knowledge and the caste of action:  This is how Guénon describes the spiritual power (Brahmins) and the temporal power (Kshatriyas) (p. 25), which, again, correspond well to New England and the South respectively.  Michael Oakeshott reinforces this dichotomy in his description of two moralities.  One he describes as ‘a reflective application of a moral criterion’ (for the thinking caste) and the other as ‘a habit of affection and behavior’ (for the active caste) (Rationalism in Politics, London, 1962, quoted in Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember, Cambridge UP, New York, 1989, p. 29).  Once again, it is not difficult to discern the Yankee spirit in the first and the Southern spirit in the second.

But there is still the third class in the United States, the laboring class.  These are all the blue-collar workers – miners, farm laborers, factory workers, and so on – and white-collar workers – the researchers and deskmen of Silicon Valley – who populate the vast western lands of the U. S.  Their most striking representatives are populist politicians like William Jennings Bryan and Robert La Follette, as well as the many agricultural workers who organized strikes during the Great Depression.  One may easily see in this class the Third Estate of the French, and Guenon certainly does (p. 30, note 8).

These, then, are the most basic characteristics of the three great cultural regions of the U. S.  If they are recognized, then there is hope for a better future for the peoples of the States.  With their recognition it will be possible to reform the political system so that it resembles a pre-Enlightenment, pre-Modernist, system:  the system of the three estates (the priests/theologians, warriors, and workers), which we have just alluded to – a system built around developing unity and consensus by calling for unanimous agreement amongst the estates/classes before a law is enacted; by giving each estate a veto to protect its interests from encroachments by the other two.  This is what the fine Southern statesman John C. Calhoun had in mind with his concurrent majority, and it can be put into practice by giving each of the three super regions of the U. S. such a veto over acts of the federal government.

Despite the promise offered by such visions and reforms, there will be no deep, long-lasting unity and harmony outside of the Orthodox Church.  Her faithful sing on the great feast of Holy Pentecost:

‘When the most High came down and confused the tongues, / He divided the nations; / but when he distributed the tongues of fire / He called all to unity. / Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-holy Spirit!’

Without the Holy Spirit, we will all remain more or less in post-Fall, post-Flood, post-Tower of Babel chaos and confusion.  However, just as we saw with St Brendan of Clonfert and the North Atlantic countries, there is also an Orthodox saint from the Western European lands of their ancestors who embodies and expresses the spiritual ideal of each of the three regions in the U. S., who can pray for them and help them attain that ideal, which means, ultimately, the full acquisition of the Holy Ghost.

For Brahmin New England, St Felix of East Anglia seems the best fit for a Patron.  Among other things written about him by Mr Dmitry Lapa are these pertinent lines connecting him with the spiritual life:

‘ . . . Traditions connecting Felix with numerous East Anglian locations abound, but what is really known is that this saint for seventeen years tirelessly and self-sacrificingly labored in the kingdom despite many dangers and difficulties, converted many of its inhabitants to Christ, founded a bishop’s see with a cathedral, a seminary-school, several monasteries, and many churches, chapels and erected crosses in the east of England. And he performed numerous miracles.

‘ . . . Remarkably, the school that Felix founded in Suffolk greatly developed; not only future priests, but also ordinary people studied in it. Theology, the Holy Scriptures, the teachings of the Church Fathers, and the copying of manuscripts and Latin were taught there. Spiritually, it could be said that the school founded by Felix was the ancestor of Cambridge University.’

For Kshatriya Dixie, St Alfred the Great, King of England, would serve best for her Patron.  Father Andrew Phillips writes of this preeminent man of Christian action,

‘There is no doubt that with Alfred everything was centred around Faith. Faith came first and last, communion preceded battles, which ended with baptism. His Laws were prefaced by the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule of Christ. One half of his income was dedicated to God, as was one half of his time. He was filled with the Love of Wisdom, that is, the Love of Christ. As a lover of True Wisdom, he was therefore a true philosopher.

‘King Alfred's life can be summed up as follows: Firstly, he showed patient goodness and thus overcame his own weaknesses. Secondly, he showed friendship and thus overcame the Danes. Thirdly, he showed faith in good works and thus overcame the indifference of his people. Finally, he showed love of Wisdom, and thus overcame the ignorance of his people. Surely this is greatness.’

And for the Vaishya Western region of laborers, either St Walstan of Bawburgh in Norfolk or St Winoc of Brittany.  Reverend Alban Butler says this of St Winoc,

St. Winoc saw his community in a short time very numerous, and conducted them in the practices of admirable humility, penance, devotion, and charity. The reputation of his sanctity was enhanced by many miracles which he wrought. Such was his readiness to serve all his brethren, that he seemed every one’s servant; and appeared the superior chiefly by being the first and most fervent in every religious duty. It was his greatest pleasure to wait on the sick in the hospital. Even in his decrepit old age he ground the corn for the use of the poor and his community, turning the wheel with his own hand without any assistance. When others were astonished he should have strength enough to ply constantly such hard labour, they looked through a chink into the room, and saw the wheel turning without being touched, which they ascribed to a miracle. At work he never ceased praying with his lips, or at least in his heart; and only interrupted his manual labour to attend the altar or choir, or for some other devotions or monastic duties.’

While Mr Dmitry Lapa offers this about St Walstan:

‘So Walstan left his parents’ home and set forth on his journey.  . . .  A peasant called Nalga who owned a large farm offered Walstan work. The latter agreed.

‘Thus the man of God became a farmhand on Nalga’s lands and remained at Taverham till the end of his life. Very soon he gained a reputation for hard work and piety, developed an affinity with the poor and was extremely charitable, giving both his food and clothing to all who needed them. Nalga gave him pay, but the saint would immediately share most of it with the needy. He would often carry out his work barefoot. Nalga’s wife, out of pity for him, would give him new shoes and extra food. But Walstan would instantly give all away to passing beggars. Once Nalga and his wife got angry with him for this, but Walstan explained to them that poor people are sent us by God to test whether we love Him more than ourselves. One day Nalga’s wife had a temptation: as mockery she sent Walstan to the wood to fetch briars, rambles and nettles. But by miracle the saint easily trod through the thorns, as if they were as soft as rose pedals, giving off a most sweet fragrance. Seeing this, his employers bowed down before Walstan in remorse. But humble Walstan was not offended and continued to love them.

‘Many years passed. Walstan became known and loved by everybody in the area for his gifts of prayer, fasting, hard work, purity, and abundant love for all God’s creatures, man and beast alike. The Almighty bestowed the gift of miracles on His faithful servant. Through his prayers people were cured from many ailments, and animals were frequently brought to him for healing. Every kind of work prospered through the gentle Walstan’s labors and the Creator blessed whatever he did. To the end of his life, Walstan lived on Nalga’s farm in quietness and poverty, keeping his royal origin a secret and giving away the wages he earned. It is believed that St. Walstan often retreated for quiet prayer to an ancient Christian cross nearby, took part in the building of a little church and in the final years of his life had regular visions. Even his parents who lived very close in Bawburgh did not suspect that the kind-hearted saintly farmhand at Taverham, of whom they surely heard, was their son.’

This is how spiritual sanity can be restored to the United States, by recognizing these three regions for what they really are and working to realize the ideal that each one represents.  Currently we are doing the opposite – confusing the identities of these regions by pushing them to adopt practices that are inimical to their natures.

But if any of the regions reject their place in the caste system (which is happening, e.g., with the West trying to formulate new theological creeds:  Silicon Valley’s dogmatizing about artificial life and transhumanism, for instance), then the bonds between them will be shattered, and it will be up to each of them to reconstitute within her own marches the three orders that make up the organic hierarchy of human society.  That process was underway in the South in the decades before the War of Northern Aggression because of the revolutions occurring in Yankeedom, and it may have to happen again in the not-too-distant future as much of New England and the West Coast cling stubbornly to spiritual darkness and rebellion.