Tonight I finished In Quest of Catholicity: Malachi Martin responds to Wolfgang Smith. I picked up this book thanks to my further interest in Sophiology and the writings of Jakob Boehme (whose works I have on order!) I also have a profound respect for both Malachi Martin and Wolfgang Smith, for their fervent Catholic orthodoxy and awareness of the fiasco that is the post-Conciliar Church. This book serves as less of a treatise on a specific topic, but a series of letters between Wolfgang Smith and the late Fr. Malachi Martin during their friendship in the late 1990’s. Their discussions range from the aforementioned Jakob Boehme, to Thomism, to the preternatural “middle plateau” Fr. Martin so frequently spoke of, to the esoteric writings of René Guénon. Now, this post isn’t going to be some in-depth analysis of the book or even a review, but some personal thoughts I’ve had regarding the subject matter they cover. Beginning with the notion of the “middle plateau” Fr. Martin would often speak of in his radio interviews.
The Kingdom of Lucifer
I had recently started a topic in the “other religions” sub-forum on the Fisheaters Catholic forums trying to wrap my head around this idea of pantheism and Lucifer which came to me. In brief, I made the assertion (with some spotty theology) that Lucifer is the pantheistic “god” which so many eastern traditions adhere to. I made some connections between the fall of Lucifer from heaven and his condemnation to the world below. I argued that this fall fundamentally linked Lucifer and the fallen angels with the natural world. I stated, poorly, that the will of Lucifer was “melded” to the material world forever condemning him to association with the natural world of man. I cited the penchant for pre-Christian religions of nature worship and the eastern pantheistic view of Brahman as everything and anything in the universe, Brahman is the universe. And based upon this idea, I argued that Lucifer is in a similar role through mastery of the natural world through his own subjection to it (if that makes sense). Rather than summarize the whole thread, you can read the rest here.
This, let’s say hunch, ties into the first couple of letters from Wolfgang Smith to Fr. Malachi Martin, where Smith addresses the cosmology of Jakob Boehme:
“Boehme maintains that the creation described in the first chapters of Genesis is not the original ex nihilo creation, but constitutes rather a restoration, one could say, of the world or kingdom of Lucifer, which had been in a sense destroyed-but not altogether annihilated-by his Fall. Boehme makes it a point to maintain that the remains of Lucifer’s kingdom and our world are situated “in the same place”-which seems to imply that the latter is somehow “superimposed” upon the first. It suggests, in other words, that the ruins of Lucifer’s realm exist to this day “underneath” the corporeal domain in which we find ourselves, like some primordial paleontological stratum deeply submerged beneath the earth.”In Quest of Catholicity, pg. 14
This idea proposed by Wolfgang Smith of a world superimposed upon on our own reminds me of my own ideas of pantheism. I was incorrect in stating that Lucifer became “melded” to the corporeal world, but he is fundamentally tied to it through this destruction of his own kingdom. Boehme’s idea of the kingdom of Lucifer coincides with a concept of the “middle plateau” which Fr. Martin would often speak of. This plateau is where the preternatural forces, namely the demons, angels, and other spirits, operate. Smith elucidates further on this concept in the same letter:
“Now, this would explain many things, beginning with the notion-so much emphasized in Orthodox Christian sources-that the aerial realm or “middle plateau” is indeed the habitat of demons. And it would moreover lend credence, I believe, to the ontological interpretation of Bell’s theorem…to the effect that the corporeal domain differs from the intermediary by the imposition of quantitative constraints, in accordance with the Biblical verse: ‘He set His compass upon the face of the deep.’ It is, perhaps, as if God wanted to stabilize a world that had grown dangerously amorphous by virtue of having become disconnected from its spiritual source or prototype.”Ibid, pg.14
Therefore, since the natural world falls within the “jurisdiction” of Lucifer’s kingdom, he claims a right to rule over it and therefore us. And if you know much about demonology, demons are extremely legalistic (hence why consent is the key to all diabolic interference). For God to restore the world on top of the fallen kingdom of Lucifer, tells Lucifer that he has some sort of right to influence the corporeal and God allows this to occur. Hence, Christ refers to Satan as the “prince of this world.” And it is this rule which had been established from the dawn of creation that has lead to this deception of god being one with his creation rather than immanent. Which ties into why the world is considered an adversary alongside the flesh and the Devil, because it has been perverted by this imposition of the ruins of the middle plateau with the corporeal. And this perversion could only be corrected through the Incarnation of Christ.
“The Sheerest of Gifts”
Further reading of In Quest of Catholicity by Wolfgang Smith once again produces fruits of the ripest order. In the tenth chapter of the collection, Dr. Smith speaks of a Cambridge professor named Catherine Pickstock who is a Catholic philosopher who proposes “radical orthodoxy.” The profound thing about her thoughts on Thomism is that she argues against the fixed notion of immanence that was purported by Aristotle in antiquity. Rather, she argues that both Plato and Aquinas never thought of essences as something that was immanent, but rather given by God. She explains this idea by stating that rather than things possessing their being within themselves (immanently) they are constantly receiving this gift of being which directs them towards their essence.
Therefore eliminating the issue surrounding whether man has a supernatural quality within him from conception or whether man receives it later. Man is constantly receiving the supernatural within his natural form because of the being that he receives from God. And in order for a man, Wolfgang Smith surmises, to become “fully human” he must embrace the supernatural aim of his gift of being. This is what Christ spoke of when He expressed the importance of following the Will of the Father. We follow God’s Will by conforming ourselves to our own essence, because our own essence is already directed towards God.
And this aligns with something which I realized months ago, that we do not actually have possession of “ourselves,” rather, we are given our being continuously. It is not something that is given once and then becomes our own, but it instead is a constant gift which perpetuates throughout our natural state.
This gift of being which Fr. Malachi Martin often called “the sheerest of gifts” through his emphasis on the supernatural reality above that of the natural, we can further identify this as the esse of scholastic thought, or “actualizing principle.” With esse as that which “makes a thing to be.” The actualizing principle, or the Will of God. As a creature cannot actualize themselves, they are merely potential until God acts upon them and they are made to be. And this is the core of what Catherine Pickstock is trying to point out within the metaphysics of Aquinas and the Platonic tradition.
Esse is the key which perpetuates being. To not have the actualizing principle inherent to being, is to return to potentiality to non-being. And since beings cannot impose this upon themselves, it must come from some other Source, which is the Godhead. This actualizing principle is the sustaining force behind the being of forms. And it plays nicely into the metaphysical notions proposed by Augustine through the idea of a “composite” of body and form. The esse is the third component to the composite being. It activates the form of a creature so that they have being.
And it does this continuously, as the form of a man is directed toward the supernatural. Therefore, as I said above, in order for a man to realize his humanity he must orient himself toward the supernatural. This is the essence of perfection, to realize that there is the actualizing principle of God working within us and to submit to it in order to fulfill one’s essence or form. Original sin plays into this relationship between being and non-being. As this stain on our very souls prevents us from completely realizing the supernatural end of our essence, therefore causing imperfection within man. It was not until the Redemption through the Sacrifice on Calvary that man was once more given the keys to the Kingdom of God and was able to pursue perfection.
The Logos Religions
I would like to conclude with some thoughts on the “pre-Christian Christology” which Fr. Martin pursued throughout his career in archaeology. This idea ties directly with my own thoughts that culminated in my conversion to Catholicism, so to see them vindicated is profoundly uplifting.
When looking at pre-Christian religions throughout the world, the so-called “Logos religions” (Smith’s term), heralded a veiled conception of Christ throughout the various traditions of men. It was not until the Incarnation that all of these elements of the Logos manifested within the Person of Jesus Christ. And therefore, the establishment of the Christian religion was not the sudden emergence of a completely new religious tradition, but a revelation of the True Religion which has been present through veiled fragments within the various religions of men. It is a notion which is backed up by the likes of St. Justin Martyr, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and even St. Augustine.
This underlying perception that there was always a glimmer of truth within all of these traditions which was not fully revealed until the establishment of Christ’s Mystical Body. Now, how does this relate to Catherine Pickstock’s point? Well, if we take this macro-view of the religions of men, we can see that through history they are slowly culminating to an underlying essence among them all. Much like the essence of man is ultimately directed toward supernatural union with God. And this essence did not finally converge until God took flesh through Jesus Christ. He is the Summit of all religious meaning, as He is the Divine Logos incarnate. And this is the true ecumenism, the identification of veiled commonalities of the false religions so that they can more readily accept the Truth of the Catholic Faith.
Excuse the sort of rambling, bumbling, stream-of-consciousness that comprises this post. I’m simply bursting at the seams with excitement over a rediscovery of esoteric ideas upon an orthodox Catholic foundation. I will be sure to share more of these thoughts as they come to me. Until then, God bless.