Friday, November 30, 2012

Subsidiarity is released!

Yes, I have very good news for this feast of St. Andrew:

The long-awaited book Subsidiarity is now available!

You can order it here. And there is also a blogg.

You don't know what that means? Or you might be wondering what on earth a Chestertonian and a computer scientist might have to do with such an obscure topic?

Oh well... then you are in for a surprise.

Monday, November 26, 2012 – or Eetook AGAIN?

Did you hear that silly whine about the world ending "soon" because of some old maya calendar? Well, the world doesn't end regularly every four hundred years (tha is, if you are a Catholic, or at least accept the Real World as it is, like the Scholastics) so we don't have to worry very much, since the predicted transition is just a minor turning of the Maya "Long Count" odometer, from to - that is the end of a baktun, or 20*20*18*20 days. (That comes out to a little over 394.5 years.) It's not worth my wasting time to recount (pun) the curious mechanisms they used; they did not do intercalations, and like some other cultures left their New Year's to drift across the seasons.

It appears that several archaeologists and historians have made guesses about how the Maya "Long Count" (written as five numerals with periods between) aligns with ours. One indeed brings the End-of-the-Baktun, to be sometime this year; another puts it sometime in 2013 or 2014, and a third has the new baktun,, begin on December 23, 2015.

It is this version of the computation which I have used in my latest book,, which is the ninth installment of my Saga, De Bellis Stellarum. This chunk has a lot of action and some very terrifying scenes... but I must not reveal too much here.

Visit here for more information, or to order it.

Oh, yeah, I forgot. If you are wondering about what "Eetook" is, that was the last little "end-of-the-world" whine to hit the Media, about 12 years back, the famous comet denoted as "Y2K", doomed to annihilate all technical things at the end of December 1999... See here for more about that, and also its remedy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy feast of St. Albert the Great!

On this day when we recall one of the truly great minds of history, a great scholar, writer, historian, naturalist - a scientist in so many ways - we should pause and think about education - yes, education writ large, as Father Jaki liked to phrase it. For Science is just the Latin word for knowledge, and education is about communicating knowledge to others. Since I have a lot going on just now, I will give you some meat from Chesterton to chew on. In the first, he is rebutting Shaw's wacky view about the Middle Ages - a view far too many people have even now: is not true, to begin with, that mediaeval education was not a release, or was not an invitation to participate. It is rather particularly and peculiarly untrue. If ever men did regard learning as a release, I should say it was those eager students of Paris and Oxford who found the whole world illuminated for them by the universal sun of Aristotle. If ever men were invited to participate it was those crowds of poor scholars who came to the feasts of Abelard and Albertus Magnus. Nobody with the least living logic in his head can read the greatest of the Schoolmen without realising the true relish of intellectual activity; the appetite for the abstract. Nobody with the least popular sympathy in his heart who reads of those ragged crowds, living on crusts and onions at the Sorbonne and the other colleges, solely for the sake of the wine of words to be poured into them, can fail to recognise the one historic case of real popular education. To represent this learning as a leaden and crushing dogma, imposed by priests, is to go against every detail, every humour, every song, every satire of the period. It was perhaps the only period in which the word "grammar" had a fresh and festive sound, as of the flowers of spring. The mood was most certainly not one of subjugation; and the mind was only subjugated in the sense that the mind was instructed. And what else can you do with the mind, except leave it uninstructed, or give it some particular kind of instruction? For the real question here is not that of mediaeval education but of modern education, or any education. If a man really objects to every kind of subjugation of the mind, his consistent and respectable course would be to object to any kind of education.
[GKC ILN Sept 25 1920 CW32:96]
Just one other brief quote - which is so descriptive of the truths of that great era - and also so suggestive about what may someday come for us who love Albert and Albert's work - and Albert's Lord:
...the greatest of all German Professors, Albertus Magnus, was himself one of the glories of the University of Paris; and it was in Paris that Aquinas supported him.
[GKC St. Thomas Aquinas CW2:444-5]
St. Albert the Great, pray for us, and lead us to the supreme knowledge taught by the One Teacher.

Oh yes, by the way, I have today released the eighth part of my Saga: Os Olhos do Condor. See here for more information or to order it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Just in case you have not been keeping track, we are now halfway finished with the publication of the great Saga, De Bellis Stellarum. Seven of the 13 volumes are now available!

1. The Wreck of the PHOSPLOION

The Three Relics
2. The Black Hole in the Basement
3. The Creatures That Live in the Walls
4. The Horrors in the Attic

5. The Tree of Virtues

From Darkness Into Light
6. Three Things Which Go Well
7. What More Do You Want?

You can click on the titles to learn more, or to order. Also see the Saga web-site,, for more information. Check back periodically for new stuff - I am trying to coax our art department into making a map - or something.

Yet to come are these titles:
8. Os Olhos do Condor (the Eyes of the Condor) now being prepared
10. The Elements Fight for the Virtuous
11. Ite Milites Audaces... (Go, Daring Knights...)
12. Esto Miles Pacificus (Be a Knight of Peace)
13. Et In Luna Pax (And on the Moon Peace) Or, How the Pope Went to the Moon.

(Oh yeah, great title. That subtitle ought to get some heads scratching at the Vatican - and maybe even in this country!)

There is also a companion volume of short stories:
Quayment Short Stories

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Good News!

Good News! The good news today is that Three Things Which Go Well - the sixth installment of my great Saga, De Bellis Stellarum, is now available. You can go here to learn more or to order.

Now, you may be wondering about that title. I heard someone say it's not good English. I wouldn't know, I use English, though I certainly cannot profess to be an expert on its theoretical rules; I know it far better in practice. However, as I looked around, I saw that Chesterton used it in that manner, and so did his brother. One of the GKC quotes happens to be quite apropos, ludicrously so, and I will give it to you for your amusement:
Men grow angrier with him for the two or three things which he states wrongly than for the two or three hundred that he states rightly...
[GKC "John Ruskin" in A Handful of Authors]
There are eight other instances... but these do not concern us now, since I was not quoting GKC with my title, but another Author.

Indeed, these five words are the first words of a strange and mystical "numerical proverb" which I use as a motive-centerpiece for a significant portion of my Saga. Here you go:
There are three things, which go well, and the fourth that walketh happily: A lion, the strongest of beasts, who hath no fear of any thing he meeteth: A cock girded about the loins: and a ram: and a king, whom none can resist.
[Proverbs 30:29-31]
It is sufficiently curious for it to be examined and considered - but I shall not do so here. I simply use it as a launching mechanism to get to the Good News of today's essay: just as last week we had a quick look at the languages GKC used, today we shall make a very brief study of the biblical references he makes.

This is a bit awkward; I am not going to give the nearly 300 entries my machinery was able to find, some of which are duplicates. (Recall, for example, that the essays of All Things Considered and The Uses of Diversity are more-or-less duplicates of his ILN essays.) However, even just a cursory examination will be enlightening.

Proverbs (No, he does not refer to the quote above given!)
Song of Songs

That last one is a very curious one which he liked, and referred to in three places, which I shall give you the one which has two references:
The prophecy that has come true is a dead prophecy. A prophecy that has not come true is a living prophecy. The same applies to that other elemental metaphor of the same prophet, that all swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, [Isaiah 2:4] or that less-known but admirable poem in praise of domesticity, which perhaps the lady Suffragists will not like: "In that day all the vessels in the houses shall be as the bowls before the altar, and on every pot in Jerusalem shall be written, Holiness unto the Lord." [Zachariah 14:20-21]
[GKC ILN Feb 9 1907 CW27:393]
It's this sort of enumerating thing which he suggests in a letter to Frances: idea (which is much cheaper) is to make a house really allegoric really explain its own essential meaning. Mystical or ancient sayings should be inscribed on every object, the more prosaic the object the better; and the more coarsely and rudely the inscription was traced the better. 'Hast thou sent the Rain upon the Earth?' [Job 37:6?] should be inscribed on the Umbrella-Stand: perhaps on the Umbrella. 'Even the Hairs of your Head are all numbered' [Luke 12:7] would give a tremendous significance to one's hairbrushes: the words about 'living water' [John 4:10] would reveal the music and sanctity of the sink: while 'Our God is a consuming Fire' [Hebrews 12:29] might be written over the kitchen-grate, to assist the mystic musings of the cook...
[Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, 99]
Ah, does that strike you as being very Who-like, in their decorating all things for Christmas? Very fitting indeed.

I must stress that this list is quite approximate - also that it errs by omission, since there are definitely other quotes and references which are not registered. But I would suggest that the gospels are quite easily first in frequency - it is hard to be fair in distinguishing, since so often the Synoptics say the same thing - but John does appear often also. And after that, perhaps, the Psalms would be the most frequent. I do not have the energy to examine the specific translation - though sometimes the quotes are - eh - Chestertonian in that he is quoting from memory, and does make minor (and trivial) adjustments as we hear so often at Holy Mass... but this will also get into whines which we do not need.

Rather, I think it would be far more useful for us to read the Bible - and later, perhaps examine what GKC had to say. This sort of thing has been done previously - there is a VERY famous set of volumes called the Catena Aurea (that's Latin for "Golden Chain") written by St. Thomas Aquinas - er - in his "spare time". Oh my, it's hard to believe... It consists of a repetition of the text all four gospels interspersed with a huge helping of the commentary of many Fathers of the Church upon the preceding excerpt. It is absolutely fantastic, and anyone who is interested in Christ will be amazed to explore it. It appears that GKC did not ever refer to it (at last I can find no use of that term) - and yet one might imagine an updated form... after all, we have another seven hundred years of great writers who have busied themselves with the Gospels. But let me remind you again - and it bears repeating - even if I sound a little like St. Paul here. PLEASE! please read the Gospels in preference to GKC or to lesser (and far more slovenly and sinful) writers like me. Let us always try to be Christians who also read Chesterton, not Chestertonians who - ah - know of the gospels. Yet I feel confident in using GKC as an assistant, since he, like St. Paul, did often speak of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.[See 1Cor 2:2]
The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies in a desperate and suicidal effort to persuade all the other people how good they are. It has been proved a hundred times over that if you really wish to enrage people and make them angry, even unto death, the right way to do it is to tell them that they are all the sons of God. Jesus Christ was crucified, it may be remembered, not because of anything he said about God, but on a charge of saying that a man could in three days pull down and rebuild the Temple. Every one of the great revolutionists, from Isaiah to Shelley, have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence but about the slowness of men in realizing its goodness.
[GKC Introduction to The Defendant]
No; that is good, but not quite what I wanted here. At the risk of repetition - and it deserves repetition - oh if only it was made into a "Sequence" or at least a great cantata for choir to render! No, this is perhaps the most astounding of all GKC's writing about that topic:
The members of some Eastern sect or secret society or other seemed to have made a scene somewhere; nobody could imagine why. One incident occurred once or twice again and began to arouse irritation out of proportion to its insignificance. It was not exactly what these provincials said; though of course it sounded queer enough. They seemed to be saying that God was dead and that they themselves had seen him die. This might be one of the many manias produced by the despair of the age; only they did not seem particularly despairing. They seemed quite unnaturally joyful about it, and gave the reason that the death of God had allowed them to eat him and drink his blood. According to other accounts God was not exactly dead after all; there trailed through the bewildered imagination some sort of fantastic procession of the funeral of God, at which the sun turned black, but which ended with the dead omnipotence breaking out of the tomb and rising again like the sun.
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:295-6]
And now, whenever I go up to receive Holy Communion, I try to recall this - even at the risk of having a very goofy grin on my face. But we ought to be quite unnaturally joyful...

Friday, November 02, 2012

A Thursday for a Friday...

Today is the feast of All Souls, and though it is a Friday, I shall take this paradoxical way of resuming my Thursday posts about G. K. Chesterton.

I feel it is necessary, mainly because there is almost nothing new going on, at least not that I can tell - and what's even worse, there's nothing old either. GKC wrote a weekly column for the Illustrated London News, and he did it for about 32 years, right up until his death, which made 1533 essays. (I have heard a rumor of some which had been overlooked in the collection, but as yet nothing further.) Anyway, the point is not about his ILN essays, but about the idea of trying to do something on a periodic basis. One of my major delights is chemistry, and I think everything ought to be carried out on a periodic basis... which we can symbolise by IO4. Hee hee.

Anyway, I have finished my Saga, and its 13 books are slowly becoming available, so there are several things I want to try to get to. A commenter asked to have a study made on the fascinating essay "The Conscript and the Crisis" which appears in GKC's A Miscellany of Men, and there are others which deserve study. There's several books which would be worth investigating in detail, much as I did some years ago with Orthodoxy... chief of these is his other masterwork, The Everlasting Man. Well... God willing, we'll get to them.

But for today, since I am already late - such a Chestertonian state when it comes to having articles written! - I shall do something else, something which is a little closer to my own discipline, and also fun to talk about.

Specifically, sometime in the past I have heard people wondering about GKC's knowledge of languages, and how that may be discerned from his writing. Now, this is one of those examples where the so-called free "search engines" of the much-vaunted INTERNET fail miserably... but let us not be critical of them. They can be useful... but no one can find a needle in a haystack when no needle has ever been present there. Moreover, this is rather an example of the famous "Cat-in-the-Hat" search algorithm which (as I recall) was termed "Calculatus Eliminatus" - finding out where a thing is by finding out where it isn't. My doctorate was akin to that, though I did not reference the esteemed feline scholar therein... Ahem. But let us not go into methodology now, which is of little interest. Rather, let us go into the results, whether they came from hard work or magic. Hee hee! Of course that dangerous word was stuck in just to enable me to quote of my favourite lines:
"You say this thing was done by spiritual powers. What spiritual powers? You don't think the holy angels took him and hung him on a garden tree, do you? And as for the unholy angels - no, no, no. The men who did this did a wicked thing, but they went no further than their own wickedness; they weren't wicked enough to be dealing with spiritual powers." [GKC "The Miracle of Moon Crescent" in The Incredulity of Father Brown]
Very well. The results of a rather preliminary study of GKC's writing reveal the following:

Language Unique phrases
Latin 543
French 521
Greman 14
Greek 31
Italian 17

There were also one or two Spanish words (en seconde noces and espada) and one which might be Russian: Realpolitik, and a handful of ones I am not sure of: firman, gamin, skoramis, pana, pani, prosha.

Given the rather imprecise comparison I was using, Latin and French are definitely neck-and-neck. (I say imprecise because this includes footnotes and writing of others which may include these tongues.) Obviously, GKC studied French, Maisie Ward tells us "Gilbert's mother was Marie Grosjean, one of a family of twenty-three children. The family had long been English, but came originally from French Switzerland." [MW, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, 4] He certainly studied Latin, and we know from his autobiography that "I should always have chosen rather to idle at Greek than to idle at Chemistry." [CW16:107, see also 60] The German is no surprise given his journalism during World War I, and Italian comes in from contact with the arts... but perhaps I ought to leave that sort of speculation to others.

Unfortunately, the lists are too long to include here, but let us just take a brief look at some of his uses. I know little French beyond critical words like Burgundy and Chapagne, so I cannot comment on them. But a few of GKC's Latin phrases deserve highlighting.

Ver non semper viret; sed stiltonia semper virescit ["The Poet and the Cheese" in A Miscellany of Men] Roughly, this is "Spring does not always grow green, but Stilton always turns green." GKC proposed this as the engraving on a monument to the cheese - he proposes several other monuments, to the man who invented Stilton, to the cow who provided its foundations, and to the courageous man who first ATE the cheese... this is all paralleled with the very famous proposal he gives in The Everlasting Man [CW2:200] for veiled statues to those unknowns who established the great inventions of our civilisation. (I have used this idea in my Saga; see my book The Horrors in the Attic III.18 for the scene.)

De maximis non curat lex. [ILN Apr 1 1922 CW32:349] Roughly, "the law does not care about the greatest things." This is GKC's splendid revision of the famous legal maxim, De minimis non curat lex, roughly "the law does not care for, or take notice of very small or trifling matters". [Black's Law Dictionary, 482, referencing Cro.Eliz. 353.] This should be cross-referenced to GKC's parallel: "When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws." [DN Jul 29 1905 quoted in Maycock]

Franciscus franciscat! [Well, both you and I expected this to be in SFA, but it's not. It's in his A Short History of England CW20:467] This was not GKC's, but a joke he heard somewhere, when a Franciscan heard a Benedictine say grace with the words Benedictus benedicat. And obviously, if Benedict blessed, Francis could "franciscify"... which is "something of a parable of mediaeval history; for if there were a verb Franciscare it would be an approximate description of what St. Francis afterwards did." [ibid.]

Then there is this powerful word-study of two important words, which deserves to be quoted in full:

The general notion that science establishes agnosticism is a sort of mystification produced by talking Latin and Greek instead of plain English. Science is the Latin for knowledge. Agnosticism is the Greek for ignorance. It is not self evident that ignorance is the goal of knowledge. It is the ignorance and not the knowledge that produces the current notion that free thought weakens theism. It is the real world, that we see with our own eyes, that obviously unfolds a plan of things that fit into each other. [GKC The Thing CW3:170-1]
There are other fascinating word-studies, such as the famous one on omnibus:
"Omnibus" may seem at first sight a more difficult thing to swallow - if I may be allowed a somewhat gigantesque figure of speech. This, it may be said, is a Cockney and ungainly modern word, as it is certainly a Cockney and ungainly modern thing. But even this is not true. The word "omnibus" is a very noble word with a very noble meaning and even tradition. It is derived from an ancient and adamantine tongue which has rolled it with very authoritative thunders: quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus. [GKC ILN Jan 13 1917 CW31:22]

...if a mediaeval State had an omnibus company, the omnibus company probably would have an official religion. It would probably have a patron saint: an advocate in heaven supposed to be protecting that particular omnibus company and no other. It would quite certainly have religious services invoking blessings on that particular omnibus company and pledging it to those social duties. It would have processions in the street on its feast day, carrying omnibuses garlanded with flowers, with the image of the Patron Saint of Omnibuses carried above torches or lighted candles; and perhaps an illuminated blazon of the company motto, whatever it might be - presumably "Quod Ab Omnibus." [GKC ILN Dec 28 1929 CW35:224-5]

There is his insight into eight great words from Aquinas: Sumit unus, sumunt mille; quantum isti, tantum ille. [STA CW2:509] And then there is that grand switch of endings he makes when he considers ancient Rome, when the great Delenda est Carthago! of Cato finally becomes Deleta est Carthago. [in TEM CW2:282] Given our present state of affairs, let us fervently pray we may someday soon say the same thing.