Friday, May 6, 2016

Idea and Representation in Art: Satanic Black Metal and the Christian Listener

The other day I encountered an interesting topic during my daily facebook scouting. It involved the question of a Christian being able to listen to bands who produce music with visually and morally questionable lyrical content, namely metal music with satanic and otherwise blasphemous themes. It is a discussion that I am well familiar with, given my history as both a Christian and someone very intimate with the metal underground. That it is a question of such burning relevance to what we have posted on this blog is what prompts me to recreate that conversation here, editing my thoughts on the matter to produce a more coherent result. 

Now, to the charge that the Christian cannot in good moral standing attend the works of blasphemous artists it will be answered that, insofar as the work is experienced in a purely aesthetic way, he can indeed do so, and our argument will involve three principal points: that (1) a work can represent an ugly thing beautifully; that (2) there is an artistic standard for all things made and an ethical standard, and that only the former is mandatory for something to be well-made; and (3) that the conscience of the individual is crucial, that the listening to such artists depends both on the listener's reasons for doing so and the degree to which his conscience will allow him to do so. 

It will be remembered that anything that is made is art as such. It is not merely the 'useless' arts, painting, poetry, film, etc., that are art, but also the crafts of textiles, cabinetry, infrastructure, ship-building, etc; there is traditionally no difference between the artist and the craftsman, between the 'fine' and 'rougher' arts, because this concept of art refers to everything that was made by human hands. Plato said that there is an idea, and the artisan, by a process called mimesis, imitated that idea through his work; the idea of a fireplace, for example, is subsequently represented by the building of an actual fireplace. That is what is called art.

The degree to which a thing is beautiful is the degree to which it is well-made, and the degree to which a thing is well-made is the degree to which it accurately represents its idea. This is the basic standard of art, its first judgment.  It follows from this that even ideas of ethically repugnant things, such as the Devil, can be represented beautifully, because it is not the thing represented that is being judged as good or bad, but its representation instead. This is exactly what St. Bonaventure argued, that an accurate representation of something ugly is infact beautiful:
'[St. Bonaventure] distinguished two reasons for the beauty of an image, even when the object imitated was not beautiful in itself. An image, he said, was beautiful if it was well-constructed, and if it faithfully represented its object. "An image of the devil can be called 'beautiful' if it is a good representation of his foulness and thus foul itself." The image of something ugly is beautiful when it is "ugly" in a persuasive manner....' (Umberto Eco, Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages)

It is therefore easy to imagine how black metal, the best of black metal, that is, fulfills such requirements. The foulness of demons is wonderfully represented in the cold, vicious, dissonant, sad, and destructive tones of black metal; the tremolo guitars, the blast beat percussion, the shrieking vocals, the insane and vulgar blasphemies against Our Lord, all of this is conducive to creating in our minds the foulness of demons. The aspect of ugliness is effected, but it is founded on a solid artistic basis, on well-crafted songs written according to objective musical laws that accord with what is aesthetically pleasant and intellectually sound. The ugly idea is therefore shown as something ugly by strong, imaginative virtues of artistic creation; it is well-made, 
therefore it is beautiful. 

There is the question, however, of whether a piece of art is still beautiful if the artist represents the ugly idea, i.e., Satan, as something which is actually beautiful, that it is worth subscribing to, to indeed worshiping. If a Satanist band proclaims the glories of Satan, describes his great beauty and wisdom, and asks us to devote ourselves utterly to him, is their work still a beautiful work of art? If Satan is no longer professed as something foul and dark, but as something wondrous and enlightening to behold, is it no longer something that accurately represents its subject, and is therefore no longer a beautiful work of art?

It can firstly be answered that, in black metal, the musical ambiance remains the same: dark, screeching, violent, and tempestuous. The words might change, but the music remains truthful, loyal to the right representation. It is for this reason that Christian black metal, or 'unblack metal', is almost never successful; it is using a highly inappropriate medium for its content, namely the love and peace of Jesus Christ, which of course is highly misplaced in the swirling venom and uncompromising malice of black metal songwriting. It is only when exploring darker, more mystical themes that 'Christian black metal' can be salvaged, as these ideas are more consistent with the music which carries them (see: Reverorum Ib Malacht). Nevertheless, this answer being too easy, we shall use this as an excuse to endeavour to answer this interesting question by explaining the distinction between the artistic and the ethical standards of things made. 

The artistic standard has already been explained. To use Coomaraswamy's example, the atom bomb that demolished Hiroshima is something beautiful because it did what it was designed to do; its representation perfectly matched its idea. The ethical standard, however, is whether that idea is good, and more critically of whether the thing made is good, in the sense of whether it is worth making at all. The nuclear bomb that demolished Hiroshima is infact something ethically monstrous, whatever its artistic qualities. In this case, the ethical negates the artistic, because there is no use for the artistic beauty of the nuclear weapon besides fulfilling its incredibly destructive telos.

In the modern aesthetic realm, however, where beauty has become its own end, a work of art does not necessarily have to be good in the ethical sense, as long as it is good in the artistic sense. This is because beauty, while principally dwelling in the ultimate Good, also extends to the beauty of this world. Part of that beauty is possessed by musical creation, so an artist may share in that beauty by composing something artistically good. The representation of demons, then, even as something positive, may ethically be written off as bad, but insofar as the music used to represent the subject is well-made and appropriately constructed for that subject, so that representation is good. The truly bad is something ugly, and something that is poorly made is ugly, and therefore bad, and therefore more truly of the Devil than a beautiful imitation of the Devil. 

Good music produces beauty, regardless of its content. Therefore, where there is no healthy use for the atom bomb, there is a use for satanic black metal, because we get to experience its beauty in a way we never could with a nuclear weapon; we get to experience black metal sensually and intellectually, aesthetically delighting in it as an authentic portion of this world's beauty.  The existence of black metal is therefore justified on artistic grounds.

As another challenge to our main thesis, it might be argued that pop music is a good representation of promiscuity and depraved antisocial behaviors and general moral degeneracy - does that mean that pop music is artistically beautiful? Moreover, it portrays such things as worthwhile pursuits, exhorting the listener to follow the artist's lead and dive into a feast of corruption and vice - does that not mean that pop music is ethically bad? This charge can be answered by simply stating that it is, with few exceptions, not good music; it may represent ugly things, but it does so with ugliness, and therefore cannot share in the beauty respective to the artistic standard.  It thus fails both the artistic and the ethical judgments because it is bad music representing bad things. It is artistically ugly because bad music is never a good representation of anything other than the artist's own impotence, and it is ethically bad because of the moral dangers of creating that sort of popular music to negatively influence the masses who hear it. 

Now it must be mentioned that it is true that ideally the artistically beautiful and the
ethically beautiful are one and the same, that they cannot be separated - the works of Palestrina, the Gregorian liturgical chants of the Middle Ages, the masses of Haydn, the fugues of Bach all exceed the highest expectations of artistic and ethical judgments. These things are perfect inasmuch as they represent that which is most truly beautiful, and more importantly represent them beautifully. The contemporary gospel song claims to worship God, to portray him beautifully; the artists behind such a song allegedly have the highest ethical aims. Yet they fall flat on their face in the end, because they fail to represent God meaningfully, with power, with beauty, because they have no artistic quality. In this example we see that the thing which worships God is ugly, and the thing which worships Satan is beautiful, as long as we remember that it is purely the aesthetic portrayal of satanic worship, and not the real thing. 

This does not mean that the devout Catholic may be able to share in the appreciation of that beauty; it is more than understandable for him to be repulsed by such representations, for they offend his faith and his notion of goodness. That is all well and good; beauty is subjective to an extent, and for that person his taste is unable to comprehend the beauty of a foul thing. Yet this does not preclude the beauty of the thing in itself, nor does it preclude the possibility that we may delight in such a work of art. 

As long as the music is listened to in the right light, with the right mentality, the dangers are mitigated; the influence of such dark themes is limited if we bear in mind only the beauty of the creation, and not the ugliness of the creation's subject, that we do not suppose that they are both beautiful. For the listener doing this will indeed be effected by it, because he has lost the idea of what is good. We see this most typically in the dissociated, confused youths who reach out to forlorn subcultures, desperate to attain some kind of meaning for themselves when the meaning of their education has failed them; the music becomes a superficial crutch for them, because they have supposed Satan for something he is not, namely a helper of Man. This is essentially nihilism, for in voiding the values of Christian society and adopting those of the Devil, the estranged soul betrays meaning altogether, because Satan is pure privation, lacking in all reality; he is the absence of the real. 

It is a fact that in the truly Christian city such music would be censored altogether, as it would play a disruptive influence upon an otherwise rightly ordered society, and would moreover have no use as a symbolic reflection of society's diabolical undertones. Nevertheless, given that our society is far from ideal, and certainly not Christian in any meaningful way, such music may indeed have a use to reflect those 'diabolical undertones' to the listener conscious of this significance.

In order to listen to ethically questionable material, it is necessary to do a thorough search of one's conscience, to determine how deeply it affects him, and to aspire to listen to such music for the right reasons, which are purely aesthetic in the case of Satanic black metal. It is music that we listen to not for our edification, but for how it pleases our aesthetic faculties; it is music that we listen to not for the celebration of its subject, but for the contemplation of how that subject might be related to us and our world, to reality as a whole. Milton's Satan, for instance, is obviously an evil figure in his rejection of God and for the corruption of his fellow angels and especially of man. He is nevertheless a tragic figure, and says a great deal about the human character and the Christian narrative, so he should be contemplated in that light. The final word on this matter, however, is that if the conscience in any way feels burdened, it is the surest sign for the listener to put the music away - it is clearly not for him. 

That the vast majority of good art emerges from the secular world today should not be a prohibitive factor for us; it is simply our reality that the good, the true, and the beautiful are divorced, that the 'aesthetic' standard of the Middle Ages which marries all three is no longer upheld. It is an irony of some significance that beautiful music today is more often of dark things than of good things, for our age is itself dark; yet that does not negate a beautiful thing. We might listen to works that recreate darkness because that is what our present age is - an enslavement to the flesh, an engorgement of the self, the worship of demons. Such works do not have to be an encouragement to follow suit; they also have the potential to be contemplated indifferently, in a different way, namely to view them as the ethos of our age essentialized and purified into artistic form. Satanic, antichristian music possesses an extra power and relevance for modern man because modernity is satanic. Black metal music epitomizes and reflects the chaos of the zeitgeist, and insofar as that is true it truthfully represents its subject, and insofar as that is true it is beautiful. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Culture & Race: A Confusion of Causes


The illusion of biological racism consists in its confusion of causes. The genetic, strictly physical nature of a race is supposed to be the primary cause of culture, of the entire range of expression that that race produces. The civilization that flowers forth from a race, in all of the diverse manifestations peculiar to it, is said to be rooted in the blood and soil of the people which created it. The intent of this brief essay will chiefly be to show three things: that race is not the primary cause of social phenomena, as the racists claim, but also that race is hardly negligible or meaningless, as the anti-racists claim, and finally how race has been traditionally understood.

The best way to think of the 'race question' is to do so in the light of Aristotelian theory of causation, his Four Causes: (1) material, the physical substance out of which something is made, (2) formal, the shape or form that the material is being arranged into, (3) efficient, the artisan or the mover of the material into the formal, and (4) final, the purpose for which the thing is made or for which an event happens. To put this into a 'for instance', consider the construction of a building. The material cause is the wood that will be the main ingredient in the building's formation; the formal cause is the blueprints, the style and type of building being made, in this case let's say a home; the efficient cause is the architect, the contractor, the homeowner, and anyone else who has a role in planning the house; and the final cause is to provide shelter and a place to live for a growing family, and the enhancement of the community.

Now, if we think of race in its strictly biological context, as the vast majority of racialists of the past two centuries are wont to do, every race has certain unique or semi-unique features that demarcate it from the others; it has a history and a nature that are expressed in the cultures in which they live and in its individual members. All of this is true so far, as even the most elementary and cursory glimpse into the physical nature of the various races show wide discrepancies in athletic performance, intellectual and medical achievements, responses to different diseases, and so forth, not to mention genetic variation between diverse haplogroups. (Whereas this was exaggerated and endlessly expounded upon in the positivistic 19th and early 20th centuries to a disturbing extent, particularly in Nazi Germany and WASP elites in the USA, in the last fifty years or so the genuine aspects of this science have been silenced in the name of 'political correctness', the social opiate that conceives of the differences between races consisting almost wholly of 'skin pigmentation').

Thus, biologically understood, race is, in the formation of human societies and civilizations, the material cause. Race subsists as an essentially physical substance that is composed of numerous material elements and relationships; it is moreover malleable, both within itself, as a racial nature can change over time and by interbreeding with other groups, and beyond itself, meaning that it can be altered into different forms 'from above', as it were, by an organizing principle distinct from the race in itself. Remember that we are considering race purely in terms of its physical constitution, its genetic make-up and so forth, so at no point does its sphere of influence extend beyond the material dimension. It is thus perfectly equivalent to the material used to build the house, as its influence is limited to interacting with other material things.

The formal cause in the equation is the society or civilization that is formed from its racial constituencies. This could be as small and homogeneous as a tribe of African Basarwa or as massive and diverse as the country of Canada. It is the conceptual arrangement of the thing that is made, the 'Platonic idea' that is reflected in ordinary reality through its material completion. Race, or the material identity of the people, comprises the basic, physical nature of the society which it represents; the society itself is the form of what those people have been moulded into, like wood becomes a table or glass becomes a bottle.

The efficient cause is where the argument becomes clear, because rather than supposing, like racialists do, that racial, material quantities are the primary and fundamental causes of phenomena, we contend that intellectual, spiritual, and cultural qualities constitute that function. The ideas that come from these qualities, the truths that dictate the shape of society, are not dependent on the racial nature of those who create them; they are separate, existing in a transcendent realm which this world mirrors materially. While it is true that the members of a certain race are seemingly more capable of apperceiving such ideas than those of other races (mostly because of the difference in flourishing cultures and ones deprived of even the most basic cultural conditions), the ideas themselves exist in a separate space, and can more importantly be shared with other races, meaning that none of these ideas, in their most essential aspect, are totally isolated in this or that race. This is because every race shares in human nature, and every idea apposite to human nature is available to every human being. The ideas of justice, of monogamy, of what is beautiful, of everything that aggregates natural law, these are not dependent on race per se so much as on individual prophets of a particular race, and more importantly on the cultural traditions that such prophets both create and emerge from.

To clarify what we are saying further, we can illustrate with examples. Consider the Celts and Germanics of the Classical era, their undeveloped culture, their simple means of life and unschooled systems of thought. Now consider them as they were gradually civilized by the Roman Empire, first in its pagan incarnation as the legions marched north, and then in its Christian form when the Catholic missionaries converted the British Isles and Scandinavia. The progression from barbarism to meaningful participation in European civilization did not happen as a result of racial genesis or awakening; it happened because they were gradually exposed to a superior order of being, and could start to share in a culture that was imposed upon them from above, and which ignited in them a more creative part of their soul that longed to express itself. We can observe the same thing in the pagan societies of America, namely the particularly primitive Aztecs, whose means of connecting to God included human sacrifice and the merciless oppression of neighboring tribes. This changed dramatically when they were conquered by colonial Europeans, who brought with them the crucifix and Catholic culture, thereby humanizing the continent and drastically hastening its ascent towards a genuinely civilized society. Yes, their racial nature changed somewhat with the incoming colonials, but the main part of the change was driven by the substitution of a cruel, dark religion with the creed of Christ; what happened was an improvement of efficient cause, switching one inferior order of ideas for one that is far superior.

Consider once more the metaphor of the building's construction and its analogy to our subject. The race is the material, which means that it has peculiar qualities of its own, which means that we cannot ignore the reality of race; it has its own importance, namely as the basic material which we use to make our world. Just as wood has its own distinct nature, so does the Latin race; just as stone has its own distinct nature, so do the Han people. The building made out of wood will look different than the one made out of stone; likewise the society composed of Germans will look different than the one composed of Slavs. This is because the racial identity of these peoples will understand the transcendent ideas, the eternal laws that are manifested through human culture, in different ways.

The differences between the various Christian communities is evidence enough of this. Despite the shared culture and communion of transcendent ideas, which of course unite the different communities spiritually, there is a wealth of difference between, say, Irish Catholics and Mexican Catholics, just as there is a wealth of difference between Russian and Greek Orthodox. This is because the two cultures, the 'formal causes' of human society, are composed of different races, the 'material causes' of human society. Once more, the house made of stone, even if it shares in the same architectural ideas of the house made of wood, will nevertheless possess its own distinct identity, its own particular qualities that distinguish it from houses made of other materials.

To summarize this first segment, the efficient cause of culture and civilization is the culture creators, the elites of a race who are borne physically from its physical aspect, yes, but who are more importantly borne spiritually from its spiritual aspect, and are thus tempered by the traditions in which they were raised. The origins of true culture are transcendent, and given to man by God in order to maintain close proximity to him; this proximity is called the Sacred, and as the culture grows older, it loses sight of the Sacred even as it increases in other domains. Once it becomes crystallized with age, a culture requires a renewed connection to God, which only happens through exposure to elites who possess race in the real sense of the word, which brings us to our next segment.


19th Century racism derived from a positivistic mode of science employed by those who surfaced from the Enlightenment, or the worldview that there is nothing beyond the ratio-empirical reality of this world. The Enlightenment moreover revived Renaissance humanism, and further secularized it through deism and atheism to the point where man, and man alone, was celebrated as the master of the universe; through the rationalism of Descartes and the empiricism of Bacon, the idea of God and of a transcendent realm of being were either discarded altogether or understood purely through the myopic lens of the 'human perspective'. The objective was rendered as reality only insofar as it was subject to the subjective.

It is from this intellectual milieu that the scientific naturalism of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer emerged. Now that it was widely conceived that our world, immunized from any kind of supernatural order or means of intervention, was dependent only on physical laws, it was assumed that the natural order was dominant, that 'nature knows best'. While this originally abrogated the Augustan humanism of the Enlightenment in the hands of the Romantics (perhaps best exemplified in Coleridge's albatross or Melville's whale), humanism made its recurrence in a strange fusion with naturalism, namely in the racist doctrines at the turn of the century, which supposed that all human history and behaviour could be explained in terms of race alone; like Gibbon before them analyzing history in terms of relative factors, Chamberlain, Gobineau, de Lapouge, etc. all championed a view of reality in which things were reduced to a biological context. This was then used as an instrument to superficially elevate the value of race, alleging that Whites, by virtue of their 'superior genetics' alone, had the natural right to dominate and subjugate other races. The humanism of the Enlightenment thus became the racism of the 19th Century, an ideological tool which enabled the Europeans to conscientiously conquer lesser lands not because of their superior culture, but because of their superior 'race'; they were, in other words, more human - that is, if we go by the secularist's idea of 'human'.

The demonstrably humanistic character of racialist thinking reached its zenith in the first half of the 20th Century, particularly in the voice of the National Socialists, where race was more and more attributed with greater, even mystical qualities. Where the Renaissance and especially the Enlightenment praised the reason of man to no end, National Socialism and its American and English counterparts limitlessly praised the blood of man; where man became the substitute for God in prior generations, race, as the highest and most fullest instance of man, likewise became a divine surrogate. The words of the 'neo-pagan' Alfred Rosenberg, for example, one of the primary ideologues of the regime, even shared many of the same cliched and monstrously untrue lies about medieval Christian society with the Enlightenment. The theories of Rosenberg and others did not exist in a vague, airy space, but actually deeply influenced the social policies of the Third Reich; the renewed Kulturkampf against German Catholics, for example, was a direct product of the monopolization over the German soul that its leaders sought. Many German Protestants were coerced into the state-promoted national church, into so-called 'Positive Christianity', a profoundly damaged church in which the Christian faith is 'Aryanized' in the bizarre attempt to eviscerate any semblance of its 'Jewishness'. The evidence of Hitler's own social darwinism is rife in his own book, as you can hardly turn the page without seeing some instance of his argument that man is determined above all by evolutionary methods, which are epitomized in the evolution of race.

So much for racialist history, which has overwhelmingly been of a biological and materialistic nature, despite whatever spiritualist, mystical glosses its bearers have superimposed on it. There is, however, an alternate perspective of race that has been too often ignored by those today who are preoccupied with immediate, symptomatic problems rather than systemic and fundamental ones. This perspective, which we hope to promote as a healthy contrast to what we have just explained, was perhaps best formulated by the Italian philosopher Julius Evola, who elucidated the classical and medieval comprehension of race in the metaphysical context of the traditional school and of his own unique style. Evola taught a tripartite view of race in which each race has a 'body' and a 'soul' and, if it were healthy or 'pure' enough, a 'spirit', and the truly impure or mongrelized race would not necessarily be characterized by physical miscegenation, but rather by a disharmony of race within oneself:

'One's idea of race depends on one's idea of man: the nature of each racial doctrine is determined by its conceptualization of the human being. All distortions in the field of racism derive from a materialist view of man, a view informed by science and naturalism. By contrast, at the very basis of my racial doctrine I placed the traditional idea of man as a being comprised of three elements: body, character and spirit. I argued that an exhaustive racial theory has to take all three elements into account by examining race in its threefold manifestation: as race of the body, race of the character, and race of the spirit. Racial "purity" is found when these three races stand in harmonious balance with one another, each race shining through the other two.... The most unwelcome consequence of the various cases of miscegenation which have occurred during the historical development of human society is not the alteration of the physical race and psychosomatic type - what ordinary racism is chiefly concerned with - but, rather, the divide and contrast between the three kinds of races within the same individual. As a consequence of such miscegenation, one finds men whose body no longer reflects their character, and whose emotional, moral and volitional dispositions no longer agree with their spiritual inclinations. "Spirit" should here be distinguished from "character" as that component of man in touch with higher values that transcend life. In this sense, the "race of the spirit" manifests itself in the different approaches to the sacred, to destiny and to the question of life and death, as well as in world-views, religions, etc.'~Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar

The body, for Evola, is simply the physical phenotype to which any one race belongs; it is the weltanschauung that fostered a higher level of sanctity and imagination that is promulgated through all of a race's doings, even if only its elites were conscious of their spirit and its efficacy. Evola moreover differentiated between a race's inner quality and its outer quality, saying that the biological or mental characteristics of a race were only important insofar as they were subordinate to a race's essence, which was considered by Evola to be a kind of 'universal' in the Platonic sense: The spirit is how a race approached God, established a sacred order, and divulged a certain external form, the physical manifestation of a race's inner qualities. The forehead of a Nordic person, for instance, or the nose of a Semite, are peculiar to these races because they express something deeper within. The soul is the behavioural or mental inclinations that a race has, or how it performs things common to humanity in an uncommon way. This 'character' or 'style', as Evola called it, of doing things, i.e. how a race built cities, prayed to gods, made war, further delineated it from other races much like a man's personality sets him apart from his fellows.

'[The] inner race ought to be regarded as superior to the external and merely biological form. A similar approach called for a radical reassessment of the views of materialist racism, not least with respect to genetics and heredity. I rejected the fetish of merely physical racial purity, on the grounds that the purity of the external race of an individual is often preserved even when his inner race has dimmed or deteriorated (a common example of this is that of the Dutch and Scandinavians).... The notion of an "inner race", and of its pre-eminence over the external race, was particularly useful in two regards. On the one hand, from a moral point of view, this doctrine presented each race as an independent essence regarded as a universal in itself, almost as a Platonic "idea" - although each race might empirically be understood in conjunction to a given physical race, among a given people. A similar analysis could practically be applied to the use of the terms "Aryan" and "Jewish", here understood as indicative of a series of attitudes that may or may not be found among all people of Aryan or Jewish blood. Such a use of the two terms would have provided a safeguard against conceit and one-sidedness: for what ultimately counted the most, in my view, was the inner form of each individual.' Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar

By pointing out the essential archetype that persists within a certain race, Evola hearkens back to Oswald Spengler's argument of Cultures and Civilizations having underlying and fundamental qualities that are exclusively their own, and which have an organic Destiny to accomplish in this world before fading back into eternity. There is no room here for any kind of accidental or merely 'social' explanations of racial attitudes and behaviour in history because they derive not from chance, but from the actual nature of a race's being; every thing and every event has a cause, and while it might seem to be devoid of higher meaning by modern sociologists and historians trained in the Gibbon mould, a thing or an event inevitably has its roots in the suprabiological essence of the race which produced it.

To return to our earlier point, we can generate a parallel between Evola's notion of the 'inner race' and Aristotle's efficient cause, or our 'culture-creators'.  The inner race, as the antecedent cause of more sensible phenomena such as a race's historical or biological characteristics, subsists in eternity, as it were, 'inner race' being a transcendent idea that motivates things in this world to conform to its image. This is less abstractly known as 'tradition', or the profound worldview that arranges a people's thoughts and actions through the mechanisms of religion, history, philosophy, art, education, various political edifices, and more recently the media. It is this tradition that performs the dominant role in the shaping of culture and ethnos, but it needs elites to thrive therein, elites who possess body, soul, and spirit in a harmonious relationship, and who are inspired by the ideal of their race which is actualized in their attitudes and worldly endeavours. This communion between tradition, the essential idea of a race, and its elites who make manifest that tradition, is what truly shapes a culture and a civilization:

'Moreover, the notion of inner race implied the idea of race as a moulding energy. Thus, the development of a definite human type free of ethnic miscegenation might be explained on the grounds of an inner moulding power, which finds its most direct manifestation in a given civilization or tradition. A notable example of this phenomenon is provided by the Jewish people: originally lacking any ethnic unity (in a physical sense), the Jews came to possess recognizable hereditary traits thanks to their tradition, ultimately coming to embody one of the clearest historical examples of strenuous racial unity. A more recent example is that of North American society: for Americans have come to show rather constant racial traits (particularly in terms of inner race) thanks to the moulding power of their civilization, which has shaped an extraordinarily mixed ethnic whole. My approach, therefore, ruled out the possibility that populations might be conditioned by biological factors alone.'~Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar


The story of Western Civilization births the hubris that those who belong to it are innately superior to those who remain outside of it, or who belong to it only due to the charity of the West. The more nefarious form of this hubris comes in the shape of those who presume that the global domination and seemingly obvious 'cultural superiority' that the West has exerted over everyone else is due chiefly to the racial nature of those peoples who lead it. The reason why we have conquered the world, built the tallest buildings, accumulated the most wealth, explored the furthest reaches of the galaxy, written the most beautiful books, is because of our higher IQ, the 'Bell Curve', evolutionary development, a physically inherent moral sense - the reason why, in short, is because our brains and bodies are simply hard-wired better than those of others. It is the reasoning of a materialist.

While there is a degree of truth in this (because there is a difference in nature between races, it would be naive to suppose that there would not also be a difference in quality as well, just as there are different qualities of wood or stone), it is wrong to think this way for two reasons. The first is that something higher does not proceed from something lower; biological race cannot be a greater influence on society just as body cannot be a greater influence on a man than his mind or spirit. It is that way for an animal, but a man is organized by higher principles, and the healthier he is, the more he obeys them. It is the same for a society of men: the greater society will heed the higher laws, respond to a spiritual intuition, and practise its tradition; the lesser society will disregard all this because it is more strongly influenced by its instinctual impulses, and it will make war without justice, surrender to carnal passions, accumulate wealth disproportionate to one's needs, and generally be based around the pursuit of temporal gratification.

The truth of Western Civilization's superiority cannot be found in the racial constitution of its members, because body is something which is primarily used rather than something which is a primary user; it is an instrument which someone else plays. We can determine this by appraising our own history wherein we crawled from the remains of the Roman Empire, renewed it in a more glorious style, constructed a society organized around the laws of God, and existed as a European community as close to him as is possible since his Ascension. This was then followed by a steady retreat from him, drafting ideology after ideology that drew us further and further away from what we had attained, even as our global influence and practical accomplishments grew.

The glory of man waxed as that of God waned. The results were catastrophic war, apocalyptic weapons, 'Lebensunwertes Leben', concentration camps, collapse of the nuclear family, mass infanticide, and an overwhelming materialism that seeped into all aspects of life; the secularization of society, caused by 'humanism', meant man's dehumanization even as it exalted him as greater than God, who no longer existed as anything of meaning to us. From being as close to God as we were, we fell to being inconceivably distant from him. Is this ruin, then, also the result of race? If our triumphs can be attributed principally to race, surely logic would have it that our failures can as well:

'The racist argument that the whites, and among them the Europeans, have more genius than other races, obviously loses much of its value — to say the least — in the light of what we have said about humanism and its consequences; because it is all too evident that neither a hypertrophy nor a deviation constitutes an intrinsic superiority. Still, when considering genius under its natural and legitimate aspect, one has a right to ask whether this phenomenon is also met with among peoples without writing, given the fact that they do not seem to have any such examples to offer; we reply without hesitation that genius lies within human nature and that it must be possible for it to occur wherever there are men. Obviously, the manifestation of genius depends on such cultural materials as are at the disposal of a racial or ethnic group....' Frithjof Schuon, 'To Have a Center'

Clearly, then, considering the fact that our 'genius' has been exhausted or corrupted into vile, godless uses, it must have been of a relative value to begin with, and not absolute as the racialists claim. Race is relative to the force which puts it into motion, whether it is Evola's 'race of the spirit' or 'tradition' or the elites who comprise the creators of culture. Race is ideally the vassal of something transcendent which longs to be expressed in this world, and its prophets perform that mission to the best of their ability. After the transcendent or the ideal in a race has been lost, however, which Spengler says is as inevitable as the death of any organic life form, what remains is a shadow of its former self, either fading into oblivion or usurped into doing evil. It is not merely the 'Jews' or a select few 'traitors' who are responsible for the decline of the West; it is a collective effort on the part of its pseudo-elites, that is, the almost entirely gentile intellectuals and merchant caste and false nobility, to extinguish the flame of the West for their own personal 'benefit'.

(An aside: it is moreover intriguing to note how, in the chief cultural organ of the West, the Catholic Church, the alleged racial superiors, the Whites, are generally on the side of liberalism and the corruption of authentic European values, while the alleged racial inferiors, the Blacks - to say nothing of the Polish -, are overwhelmingly on the side of tradition and of the new, inspiring values of African culture. How could this be anything but an instance of how culture trumps race in the causal order? Despite the 'lesser genetics' and 'inferior IQ' and all the rest, the exemplars of African religion are far exceeding their White counterparts in the defense of the Roman Church and the core moral security of the West, whereas the White clergymen form almost the entirety of the assault upon it! The same thing is true, by the way, in the White parts of the Anglican church and the 'Global South', as recent debates on the issue of homosexuality threaten to divide the Anglican Communion along these lines.)

The second reason why it is wrong to think of ourselves as innately superior to the rest of the world is simply the pride of doing so. There is infact a certain legitimacy to such a claim, because God did not choose the Western world to bear his salvific message for no reason, as St. Paul hinted at: 'For both the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom' (1 Corinthians 1:22). The Hebrews God chose to reveal himself to, the Greeks God used for their philosophy, and finally the Romans, the rightful rulers of this world, God used for their legal and political authority.  The Europeans who were initially converted and soon comprised Christendom, such as the Franks and the Germans, likewise possessed special gifts which God providentially chose to use for the purposes of his Church. All things considered, it would be foolish indeed to suppose that these 'special gifts' were accidental, simply the results of circumstances outside of God's knowledge; it would be far more consistent to assume that they were implanted by God inside these peoples well ahead of their being utilized.

The problem with taking pride in such things, then, becomes analogous to the pride that a
professional athlete or a world-renowned chess player might take in their own achievements, simply for the fact that they are not using something which wholly belongs to them. The showy sportsman or egoistic chessmaster is right to celebrate his own excellence, but is absolutely wrong to take pride in it as something deriving purely from his own abilities, for doing so would suppose that he himself as a greater cause than he really is. The body that allows the sportsman to win, the mind that allows the chess player to win, these are carved for them long before they even make use of them. Yes, they exercise mind and body and make the best use of them, for which they deserve all the credit that they get from others, but the real and essential credit belongs to the God who created them, and the wisest players will recognize that and thank him for it.

It is the same thing with race: we are imbued with important qualities at birth that extend beyond our own generation. We take care of them, we recognize them, we make use of them; but God forbid we take pride in them as things which make us better than others or are the result of our own success. We share in a race, and yes, we love our race for it, and do our best to uphold the values which have made it what it is, but we do not suppose that race is separate from God, that race is separate from culture, that race is anything but a tool of God and culture. To do so is to suppose that race functions in a role higher than it really does, which is an error all the more grievous when we derive pride from it. It is the same kind of pride that 'humanists' commit when they glorify man's achievements when they more properly belong to God, and it is this pride that has driven us apart from him. When racialism reached its crescendo in the Third Reich, Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, which attempted to curtail the growing worldview that considered the organization of a society around racial lines to be of the highest importance:

'Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community - however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things - whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.' Pope Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge


All this being said about the problem of racialism, it is nevertheless of relevance only to a small minority in contemporary schools of thought, which is due to a problem on the opposite side of the spectrum, namely the error that race does not exist at all in any meaningful capacity. Race exists, we say; that fact is increasingly undeniable, even as liberal outlets proceed to persecute any scientist who labours to present research supporting that fact. The underlying goal, of course, the fundamental reason for denying race, is the standardisation of society. While truly reality is made up along vertical and horizontal lines, a hidden hierarchy that the best of human communities emulate, ever since the Enlightenment and even earlier the aim has been to reduce everything which is raised up to a standardised level. Thus the Revolutionary calls of 'Liberty and Equality' of the French and 'All power to the Soviets!' of the Russians, which epitomize the destruction of hierarchy insofar as they stress the 'power of the people', the flattening of order by the removal of anything higher than that
standardized level. First the highest in the Chain of Being was eliminated, God, as man set up himself to rule in his place; then his Church as a participant of political significance in society; and then the political elites themselves were castrated, as the old nobility were stripped of land and title, and kings and queens were executed or reduced to merely ornamental figureheads.

All that remained once the hierarchy was paved down was 'democracy', 'communism', 'populism', 'totalitarianism', 'libertarianism', 'anarchism', seemingly disparate ideologies which were nevertheless united by one heresy: materialism. Once there is no longer comprehension of anything above itself, there can only be comprehension of something on its own level, which is why materialistic ideologies cannot conceive of things like hierarchy, an order of values, the distinction of vocations, the sanctity of what is Sacred. This is because these are all things which inherently mean something transcendent, something beyond the material plane and therefore beyond its comprehension. But just as the 'vertical' dimension is ignored, so too are differences along the 'horizontal' dimension, because these also fail to be understood by the myopia of modern ethnological methods.

'Races exist and we cannot ignore them, less than ever now that the time of closed universes has come to an end and with it the right to purely conventional simplifications; in any case what it is above all important to understand is that racial determination can only be relative, man thus determined never ceasing to be man as such. The modern movement towards uniformity, which causes the world to become smaller and smaller, seems able to attenuate racial differences, at any rate at the mental level and without speaking of ethnic mixtures. In this there is nothing surprising if one reflects that this standardizing civilization is at the opposite pole from any higher synthesis, based as it is solely on man's earthly needs; human animality provides in principle a rather facile ground for mutual understanding and favors the breaking down of traditional civilizations under auspices of a quantitative and spiritually inoperative "culture." But the fact of thus depending on what gives mankind a "low level solidarity" presupposes the detaching of the masses, who are intellectually passive and unconscious, from the elites who legitimately represent them and in consequence also incarnate both the tradition, insofar as it is adapted to a given race, and the genius of that race in the most lofty sense.' Frithjof Schuon, Castes and Races

So, not only is the spiritual aspect of race eliminated, but the physical differences are as well, because they interfere with the socio-political programmes of certain pseudo-elites whose designs require the utmost 'cohesion' between their subjects. The 'time of closed universes has come to an end', broken open by a 'multiculturalism' which infact means monoculturalism, the 'culture' of finance and utilitarianism. Whatever truths bonded a society prior to its infusion into the globalistic one are destroyed and forgotten; what replaces them are no longer of a transcendent nature, but subsist strictly on the human level. Avarice, gluttony, pride, and sloth are codified into a hidden system of values that drive the modern world; we are no longer authentically differentiated into various groups all striving after the same common, perennial truths because we are superficially conformed to a standard that 'unites' us all by the sins that we share. The Muslim moving into the West does not effectively evangelize the West, restoring a sense of the Sacred to it; the West evangelizes him by appealing to his lower instincts and thus compelling him to live in the same materialistic way his new neighbours live.

In the interests of creating vague mega-societies that are centred around nothing higher than a common pursuit of wealth and momentary pleasures, the pseudo-elites of the present are against the notion of race as a delimiting factor. It is for this reason that public education and Orwellian propaganda organs like Hollywood or VICE are constantly promoting sentimental attitudes toward race that target the audience's emotive faculties rather than his intellectual ones; we are supposed to feel something for the plight of others, and we are supposed to want racial harmony in our societies, so the misfortunes of non-Europeans and the contrived justice of 'getting along' with other races are pushed to no end. This happens at the same time as, in the real world, communities naturally segregate on racial lines, and members of different races get along with one another, but without the artificial sort of 'you are Black, I am White, together as friends we will overcome our differences and the hostile attitudes of others' sentiment. The result is nevertheless the breakdown of ethnic communities, as the culture of work and making money ultimately means more than the preservation of neighborhood and community; in North America, instead of which parish and which religious bloc you adhered to defining where you live, it is now where you are employed which is the deciding factor in an individual's or a family's choice of residence (which overwhelmingly is in the rootless, individualistic suburbs, thanks largely to the convenience of the automobile).

So, races exist and we cannot ignore them, because ours is the age of uniformity and standardization, wherein any authentic difference between us is seen as an 'evil' because it interferes with 'social cohesion', that is, the accumulation of wealth for corporate and political 'elites' (they are essentially the same oligarchical class). It is for this reason that ethnic mixtures in today's world are, certain exceptions notwithstanding, usually of a malign character, because, as Evola says, 'miscegenation certainly has negative consequences in those cases where the inner race is weak' (The Path of Cinnabar), and presently there are very few of us who can say that our 'inner race' is strong. Should our culture be of a higher order, should we still have race in the sincere use of the word, it would indeed be possible to miscegenate and propagate our superior order amongst the other peoples of the world. Contemporaneously, however, this is not so, and it is infact of the reverse situation, wherein those of less developed cultures are propagating their more barbaric worldviews and attitudes and behaviour on people of the West, people who are currently enduring a steep cultural decline. It was this way amongst the ancient Romans (in the era between when their paganism was virile and spiritual and when they were converted by the Christians), when their culture and ethnos suffered under the influx of barbaric Germans and other outsiders, thus degrading it and hastening its demise, from which it only recovered when a new cultural order was created and spread.

By acknowledging race, by accepting the racial discrepancies, even those merely of the bodily dimension, we are helping to fight against the standardizing influence which seeks to diminish all differences to a purely 'environmental' status. In this worldview, there is no such thing as a German or a Greek; there is no such thing as a White man or a Black man; there is only a 'human being', and his 'rights' are universally the same. This is a superficial kind of humanism which appeals to an abstraction of man rather than who he really is, i.e., a man of different parts and members. Genuine humanism is Christian humanism, because, yes, it too conceives of man in the universal sense: we are all embodied souls longing to share in communion with God, and thus have the same fundamental virtues and vices, inner strengths and inner weaknesses. We nevertheless recognize that we behave differently according to the many splendidly different natures that characterize the human species, across all its forms, and only try to unite them insofar as we believe in the eternity of souls and in the absolute necessity of elevating them to heaven. Here on earth, however, there is plenty of room to allow every racial constitution the space to express itself in its own unique way.


The perceptive reader might have noticed how we never finished relating Aristotle's Four Causes to how we conceive of race. Well, the fourth cause is the final cause, which is what makes it suitable for our concluding statements.

If the material cause is the substance out of which a thing is made, and the formal cause is the form of the thing which is to be made, and the efficient cause is the thing's maker, the final cause is the purpose for which the thing is to be made. The final cause of a calculator is to swiftly answer mathematical equations, the final cause of a chair is to sit upon it, the final cause of a cinema is to view films inside of it, etc. Aristotle calls the final purpose a thing's telos, or end, or the reason for its existence. Thus, the reason for a caterpillar's existence is to become a butterfly, or the purpose of a seed falling into the ground is to become a tree; a thing's telos is intrinsically bound up with its being, meaning that it cannot exist separately from its final purpose, from what it is supposed to be. Furthermore, Aristotle says that, 'everything that Nature makes is a means to an end' (Parts of Animals), because Nature itself is a means to an end, man's end. With this in mind, and bearing also in mind how Spengler's racial life-forms are emergent from organic forces, we can begin to see how race is purposed for a higher end than that which it has in itself.

Now, there are actually two different ends for the races of man, one natural and temporal, and the other supernatural and eternal. So, starting with the natural end, race is, once again, the material cause of the formal cause, which is society or civilization, which is created by the efficient cause, its outstanding members who apperceive eternal ideas transcendent of any single race and integrate them into their tradition (members who Evola more or less identify as the 'race of the spirit'). The final cause of this society or civilization is what Spengler calls its Destiny, its cultural narrative where the historical life-forces wax and wane as it is born, matures, and finally expires. It is the equivalent of a man who goes through his youth in a brazen flash of creativity, who enters his adulthood with greater  power but decreasing intuition and energy, who then enters old age with superior knowledge and a wealth of recollection, but is overwhelmed by the weight of it and suffering from amnesia, forgetting that which made him great, and who finally dies, perhaps to be succeeded by his grandchildren. The final cause, then, is the same as that of an oak seed newly sprouted: to become that which it really is. Just as the seed is meant to become the tree, so the sons of Romulus are meant to become the Romans.

The second or supernatural end of race is necessarily bound up with the end of mankind as a whole, there being absolutely no difference in the terminal and highest stages of human development, hence Galatians 3:28, which reads: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.' There is likewise no difference between castes, which are actually of greater distinction than the difference of race (since they are vertically organized rather than horizontally), as Shankara reminds us when he asks:  'Is there any difference between the untouchable and the Brahmin in the eye of the knower of Truth?' Anyway, the second end of 'race', and now of course we would be more accurately speaking of entire cultures rather than races per se, the latter being bound up in the former, is really the end of man: the salvation of man's soul. Cultures which more closely connect us to God, cultures which engender a societal spirit that fosters greater understanding of God and his works, and cultures that ensure natural law is universally recognized and obeyed to the maximal extent, are more successful cultures insofar as they achieve what they are purposed for and therefore fulfil their final cause.

The aim of all culture, then, is ultimately to direct us toward God, the Heavens, and a more accurate understanding of ourselves and this world. This is hardly merely a Christian idea, either, as all traditional cultures have elaborate and inspired devotions to the deities which govern their existence; ordinary realities such as harvesting crops, crafting woodwork, bartering, eating, making war, making love were all analogous to the Divine, and were patronized by some deity thereof, thus elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary, and thereby achieving a higher meaning. Obviously this was not relegated to the merely 'religious' domain, either, as the entirety of their society was oriented around a pantheon that was replicated all around them, injecting them with a sort of 'sacramental' spirit even before they were given the Sacraments. In reality there was no 'religious domain', since their whole world was religious:

'Primitive man made no real distinction of sacred from secular: his weapons, clothing, vehicles and house were all of them imitations of divine prototypes, and were to him even more what they meant than what they were in themselves; he made them this ''more'' by incantation and by rites. Thus he fought with thunderbolts, put on celestial garments, rode in a chariot of fire, saw in his roof the starry sky, and in himself more than ''this man'' So-and-so.' (Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, 'Christian and Oriental Philosophy of Art')

That this was profoundly echoed and exceeded by virtue of the Christian light need not be given any more attention (we touch on the matter here), as the central point is this: man's mission is to restore himself to his pristine, pre-fallen condition, and to do this he has to reconnect himself to the Divine, from which he is severed due to his own primordial error. This is apparent in Christian as well as pagan cultures, because it is deeply ingrained on our being, regardless of whether we profess a faith in the words of Genesis or not. While salvation is ultimately a matter of personal conviction and the individual courage of free will, there is no doubt that collective influence plays a key part in the success of the soul; the values of a man will almost definitely be inherited from those of his family and, by extension, the culture to which they belong. 'No man is an island', as Donne's cliche goes, and it certainly goes for the state of a soul, which is dependent on patient instruction and constant good influence to be kept in orderly and virtuous shape. The medievals created a world that was universally and mythically symbolic, meaning that everything they created or experienced here on earth had a divine image for its archetypal reference; the result was, despite the deficiencies in 'living conditions' and corruption which was not nearly as widespread as some historians have claimed, a culture that understood its role in seeing man as a spiritual animal, and that his real hunger was for things not of this world, but of this world's author:

'[Cathedrals] actualised a synthetic vision of man, of his history, of his relation to the universe.... In arranging this figurative discourse, the Gothic masters used the mechanism of allegory. The legibility of the signs which they employed was guaranteed by a solid sociological fact, namely, the medieval habit of grasping certain analogies, by interpreting signs and emblems in ways that tradition had determined, of translating images into their spiritual equivalents.' (Umberto Eco, Art and Beauty in the Middle Age) 

It is just as true in the opposite case, as the cultures of the present are making abundantly clear in the normalization of perversions, the illegitimate rule of the rich, the vulgarization of art, the evisceration of religion from society, and the destruction of the family. These are things with consequences, both temporal and eternal in nature, and they emanate from a culture that has been growing increasingly hollow and corrupt for centuries. Just as a culture which understands the nature of man and what we really need will normally condition man into someone who is virtuous, or at least someone who understands what virtue is, that which does not will likely condition man into a base and craven creature, obedient to his rulers only insofar as they supply him with his material demands, which grow in correspondence to his fall from the spiritual life. We can see this man today: bloated and tepid; materially healthy but never satisfied by it; more concerned with the trivial than the serious; ordinary not in the sense that Chesterton meant it, but mediocre in the sense of not excelling as a person; and most importantly he is selfish, as our individualistic ethos has taught him to prize the affairs of his own self above those of his fellows. even those whom he claims to love.

This man is modern man, and he is the fruit not of physical impurities, but of cultural death. He is the product of miscegenation, yes, but it is a miscegenation of spirit, namely the spiritual surrendering to the material, the inner race being suffocated and subsumed into the outer race. To have race, or to be 'racially pure', is not to possess an unblended ethnicity (if that even exists) stretching back centuries or millenia; to 'have race' means to possess in oneself all the defining characteristics that a man's race possesses as a type. That man need not even belong to that race on a biological level, since what counts as the principal cause is the man's spiritual conditioning, which is provided via his successful connection with the host race's culture (though this is an anomalous example, as most men will naturally be best suited for the race which matches them physically). The point is that today's Western man truly is without race, because he has become divided from what made his race great, from what his race really is.

(It is moreover true that he is in a way simultaneously ceasing to be man, since in ceasing to incarnate the defining qualities of his racial type, he is lowering himself to a undifferentiated state, not in the transcendent sense of the monastic who 'is no longer Gentile or Jew', but in the sense of mass man, who is in reality closer to an animal than a human properly considered.)

This essay has been our attempt at clarifying something that neither side of the modern political spectrum has grasped, namely that race is relative. It is not absolute like right-wing racialists claim, but neither is it relative merely to 'environmental conditioning', as though race is merely the byproduct of sun or snow, or of more or less arbitrary skin pigmentation, as the left-wing sociologists claim. Race is real, but it is relative to something more real, i.e., its spirit, or the tradition which births its best and most sanctified sons who keep that tradition strong. It is a debate which perhaps was most vibrant in the first half of the previous century, but certainly it still has relevance today, especially as we reach the zenith of the liberal weltanschauung and approach a changing paradigm. In order to influence this movement positively, its intellectual dimension must be first and foremost cleansed of all major errors, since any action on the behalf of false doctrine will only serve to aggravate the problems rather than solve them. This is why important subjects such as the question of race must be clarified. (We do not presume to have the gumption to suppose that we are in any way capable of performing this task, but to every man his duty, however small.)

So, in summation, race is the building blocks of a society, the material which forms its most basic foundations and colours it with idiosyncrasies particular to it. It is material shaped by a designer, however, the role of which is played by the best its 'inner race' has to offer; the culture-creators, the genius of any which race decide its form, which is sometimes subsumed into the form of a conquering culture. The racial matter corresponds to the wood or the stone of a building, and there are things which each possess in and of themselves. Let us say for simplicity's sake that the White races have certain qualities and behave in ways that are foreign to Black races - just as wood is of a certain nature and can do things that stone cannot do, and vice versa. The architect of a building, however, who corresponds to the inner genius and cultural tradition of a race, moulds the wood or stone as he sees fit to shape them in the best way possible in respect to their actual nature. The master-builder of a stave church, for example, uses wood, while that of a cathedral uses stone.

It is thus with racial material as well, which is all the more evident considering the splendid diversity
of forms certain ethnicities have produced beneath the Catholic cultural umbrella while nevertheless remaining true to the essence of the Church. The Church, traditionally the principal genius and agency of Western culture, shapes the races of men into their final forms according to their racial nature, and therefore the differences between Polish, Nigerian, and American Catholics. The final cause of culture and so of race is to bring man closer to God, and we do this by both mimetically recreating the Divine on earth and by observing natural law, which is implanted in humans by God.

So it is hopefully clear by now that just as a solid brick plays a crucial role in the construction of a castle, which is used to protect the people, so does a man who has race play an essential role in the perseverance of his society, which is used to glorify God and bring us closer to him. As long as we remember the proper causes of things, and never praise the wood when we should praise the carpenter, we will be drawn more nearly to Truth, and therefore more nearly to God.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Faith in Profane Cinema

This is the republication of a work written in a private forum by Bakhos Najm

Philosopher and theologian Jacques Maritain once wrote, “By Christian art, I do not mean Church art… I mean Christian art in the sense of art which bears within it the character of Christianity (…) Everything belongs to it, the sacred as well as the profane. It is at home wherever the ingenuity and the joy of man extend. Symphony or ballet, film or novel, landscape or still-life, puppet-show libretto or opera, it can just as well appear in any of these as in the stained-glass windows and statues of churches.”

That being said, it is no surprise that, for the faithful –in this case, the Catholic faithful– observes the expressions of art seeking and detecting shadows that, in some way or another, manifest the Catholic “shape”.  This essay will refer to the cinema of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, containing that “Catholicity” in their profane art.  More specifically, it will examine the implicit ideas of Guilt and Redemption in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and  Raging Bull, whilst Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy culminates with the ideas of Grace and Hope.

It was pointed above that the believers will see through a subjective eye set by the Catholic culture and idiosyncrasy.  It often happens that the spectator finds in films things that perhaps were not intended to be seen, or even misinterpret events (nothing grave), but this is not the case in the masterful filmography of Martin Scorsese and Francis F. Coppola.  The first calls himself a lapsed Catholic; the later has always struggled with his Catholicism.  In a 2007 interview, when asked whether he is an observant Catholic, Coppola replied, “I was raised as a Catholic, but I didn’t like the Catholic Church at all. I thought the nuns were mean.” But how theologically acute is the faith of the film directors is not important here.  What matters is the fact that their Catholic backgrounds are passed along in their films, or at least, in those the essay refers to –which are arguably their most powerful gifts to Cinema.

Both Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola belong to the post-New Wave of American filmmakers.  But they also share the Italian American milieu, typically Catholic.  However, the differences are immediate almost everywhere between one director’s films and the other.  The set for The Godfather is that of socially high ranking families and how they thoughtfully operate in the world of organised crime, and situations, such as the protection of family, end in harrowing acts of murder.  Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, for example, is quite the contrary.  Scorsese’s characters are the forgotten men, the socially unfit, victims of a world they didn’t choose.

 Martin Scorsese is considered to be what in film criticism is known as Auteur.  This theory of Auteurism, first advocated by François Truffaut, says that, in spite the industrial process that a films goes through, the signature, or influence, of its director still shines through.  Scorsese is known for crafting world acclaimed films that still contain a very personal meaning for him, and for displaying a singular mise-en-scéne.  Both narrative and aesthetics of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull are charged with those personal stages of Scorsese’s life, marked by an inescapable relationship with the Catholic Church.  Unlike  the influential personages of The Godfather, Taxi Driver is the story of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), a mentally unstable Vietnam vet who struggles to live up a moral life in a terribly immoral world, leading him to nerve-racking violence he thought was the way to Redemption.  

"All the animals come out at night: whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.”  That’s how Travis Bickle describes the hell he lives in.  Martin Scorsese’s modernist cinema has the quality of portraying the world the main character perceives.  Travis Bickle’s perception results from rejection.  He is the loneliest of the lonely; he writes in his diary, “I am God’s lonely man”.  This isolation makes him incapable of sustaining common social relations, including, of course, relations with the opposite sex.

 Scorsese has always been haunted by Catholic Guilt,  especially sexual guilt, also during his year in the seminary.  And this is a theme explored in most of Scorsese’s films since his experimental feature Who’s That Knocking At My Door?  Travis  falls in love with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), described as a virginal image of women.  She is dressed in white in her first apparition –in a cameo take where Martin Scorsese himself appears staring at her.  She is blond, blue-eyed –an angelical figure– and caring in social and political matters of justice.  Notice the contrast of Betsy with the hell of “whores”, “skunk pussies”, and “queens” Travis mentions first.  Socially inept, Travis invites her to the movies to watch a Swedish porn film, at which Betsy feels gravely offended and leaves Travis alone in the theatre.  “And it is guilt, conceived in masturbation and prolonged in maturer symptoms of sexual bad faith, that is a recurrent motif, perhaps the recurrent motif, in Scorsese’s life and art alike”, writes Lawrence S. Friedman in his book The Cinema of Martin Scorsese.  

As previously said, Betsy is an activist concerned with social justice.  That is explained in her support for president candidate Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris), an obvious Democrat.  Travis Bickle, in a very Western fashion (the whole film is an allusion to John Ford’s The Searchers, a Western classic), prepares to attempt murdering Senator Palantine.  His use of sleeve-gun becomes a device for his paranoid vigilante fantasies after Betsy had rejected him.  The reasons for Travis to kill the Senator are debatable; some argue its a hint to the assassination of George Wallace by Arthur Bremer in 1972.  But to put in in the film’s context of Travis Bickle’s mind, Palantine represented a potential rival to Travis’ love for Betsy.  She described him as "a dynamic man, an intelligent, interesting, fresh, fascinating..”; then her friend, Tom (Albert Brooks), remarks, “You forgot sexy”, to what Betsy replies, “I did not forget sexy”.  In a from-the-heart performance of De Niro, Bickle enters the office and confronts Betsy by yelling “You’re in hell! You’ll burn in hell!”.  The fascination for religion in the script cannot go unnoticed.

Bickle, afflicted by the corruption of the city, was close to end up dragged by the mess he so much despises, as his attempt to assassinate Palantine is hindered by Secret Service agents.  But the opposite happens, and it was through a highly graphic recreation of bloodshed in cinema by the times.  During his insomniac ramblings in the cab, Travis drives a teenage prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster).  She was escaping her pimp, Matthew “Sport” Higgins (Harvey Keitel).  Depressed and increasingly paranoid, being rejected by Betsy made Bickle obsessed with rescuing young Iris.  When he meets her in the room where they were supposed to have sex, he tells her he wants to take her away.  When they are having breakfast in a coffee, he tells Iris, “You can't live like this. It's hell. Girls should live at home”, then Iris rises the question of her time, Women’s Liberation.  Travis goes on to say, “What do you mean 'women's lib'? You sure are a young girl. You should be at home now. You should be dressed up. You should be goin' out with boys. You should be goin' to school. You know, that kind of stuff”.  Travis is a Christian reactionary, opposing the cultural revolution of which he is cast away. But he is, also, in L.S. Friedman’s words, “mirroring the virgin-or-whore concept of women held by Scorsese’s alter ego in the Mean Street trilogy”.

Travis Bickle –nicknamed “Killer” by his cabbie mates– is determined to accomplish his quest to wash all the scum off the streets.  Rescuing Iris means the action to redeem himself, and violence is the path chosen by this existential hero.  Bickle approaches Sport, who stands as doorman of the brothel, and shoots him in the stomach, giving initiation to the slaughter.  Among the countless qualities of filmmaking, there is the capacity to mimic dreams, to recreate and bring to light what is in the human unconscious.  Like in dreams, the symbolic signifiers in films are not always substantiated by the common signified objects.  Interpretation is wide open.  The famous shoot-out sequence is displayed in an almost phantasmal manner.  The sequence was shot in slow motion, an old bouncer is shot in one hand, and while the echo of his cry “I’ll kill you!” is loudly heard, a graffiti in a wall reads “Jesus loves you” while the carnage is still carried on.  Travis draws a knife form his ankle and stabs the bouncer, this time in the other hand, in the opinion of some, alluding to the wounds of Christ.  At the end of the massacre, Bickle wants to end his own life, the revolver is out of bullets, so he surrenders on a couch.  When the police arrives, he places his finger on his head, gesturing a gun and pulling the trigger three times.  In the final two takes, the camera travels from above, nightmarish harp and drum music play, putting forth the aftermath of such a slaughter, how hellish earthly life can be.

Iris returns home to her family, her father sends a thank-you letter to Travis.  Newspaper regarded the one who wanted to kill Palantine as a model citizen, the self isolated was elevated to a hero by the media.  But what happened to Bickle after the shootout remains a fascinating aspect of Taxi Driver.

Film critic and historian Roger Ebert wrote: 

“There has been much discussion about the ending, in which we see newspaper clippings about Travis's ‘heroism’ of saving Iris, and then Betsy gets into his cab and seems to give him admiration instead of her earlier disgust. Is this a fantasy scene? Did Travis survive the shoot-out? Are we experiencing his dying thoughts? Can the sequence be accepted as literally true? ... I am not sure there can be an answer to these questions. The end sequence plays like music, not drama: It completes the story on an emotional, not a literal, level. We end not on carnage but on redemption, which is the goal of so many of Scorsese's characters.”
But the film ends exactly as it started, with the jazz music of Bernard Herrmann again reaching gritty notes suggesting that threats will never end.  Paul Schrader, script writer of Taxi Driver (and Raging Bull), said that the last frame "could be spliced to the first frame, and the movie started all over again.”  In Taxi Driver, Redemption through self-destruction, but not Grace, is reached.  

Raging Bull was released four years after Taxi Driver, but this time, the film is actually a personal work of Redemption for Martin Scorsese himself.  In 1954, Scorsese studied one year at Cathedral College, seriously considering priesthood, “wanting that vocation, selfishly, so that I’d be saved… I wound up finding a vocation in making movies with the same kind of passion”, argued Marty.  Raging Bull narrates the story of Italian American middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro), a champion in the ring, but, again, a character very difficult to grasp.  Straightforwardly, he is a beast who acts out of his savage instincts.  He is cursed with an insufferable personality, whose paranoid jealousy makes him incapable of articulating no word other than profanities.  And when cornered in dialogue, he responds as in the ring: with his fists. 

Mary Pat Kelly, in her book Martin Scorsese: The First Decade, writes:  “The Jake LaMotta film.  It’s called Raging Bull.  It’s really a straight, simple story, almost linear, of a guy attaining something and loosing everything, and then redeeming himself.  Spiritually.”  And that was Scorsese himself, who, shortly after Taxi Driver, was heavily into the “high living”.  By redeeming LaMotta in the ring, Scorsese redeems himself in life.  Jake’s outmost desire was to defend his animalistic pride, symbolised in the belt.  

To achieve it he had to gain the favour of the Mafia, which convinces him to loose against Billy Fox (Eddie Mustafa Muhammad).  LaMotta was reluctant to fall, making the fix of the fight evident.  While at the dressing room, the proud Bull breaks in tears, not for being suspended as much for not surrendering to his bodily necessity to strike back.  This dependance on fighting made him interrupt his only moments of passion with Vickie (Cathy Moriarty), holding wisdom credence that sex slackens the fighter –“Maybe it’s because I’ve done bad things”, he argues after being defeated by Sugar Ray Robinson (Johnny Barnes), the same day he had sexual relations with Vickie.  The passional intimation between Jake and Vickie is watched by imposed crucifixes and Catholic iconography, a reminder of Scorsese’s mesmerism in Church imagery, and sexual guilt; it places the viewer in a position of shameful voyeurism.

In a very beautiful opening sequence, Jake LaMotta appears shadowboxing, dressed in a leopard cape, and surrounded by the ring ropes, giving the illusion of being an animal

Jake’s acquaintance with young Vickie came to happen as the result of his infidelity to his first wife.  Perhaps it is natural to a person to imagine things from their own personal experiences; if LaMotta was once irreparably infidel to his wife, he may as well think  that his wife is cheating on him.  But the problem goes further when this paranoid jealousy overwhelms the soul of a man whose concept of manliness is reduced to bestial rage, expressed both in and out of the boxing court.  He does not comprehend the magnitude of his uncontrolled temper until he does thrash his brother, Joey LaMotta (Joe Pesci), and then blows his wife’s face.  Add to it an evident masochism, the Bull willingly decides to embrace physical punishment for his rage.  And so the film reaches its climatic point when Jake invites Sugar Ray to carry out his purgation.  Joyce Carol Oates in her book On Boxing recalls Jake LaMotta as the fighters who:

“invite injury as a means of assuaging guilt, in a Dostoyevskian exchange of physical well being for peace of mind.  Boxing is about being hit more than it is about hitting, rather just as it is about feeling pain, if not devastating psychological paralysis, more than it is about winning… The boxer prefers physical pain in the ring to the absence of pain that is ideally the condition of ordinary life.  If one cannot hit, one can yet be hit, and know that one is alive.”

The sequence was partially shot in a Scorsese’s trademark of slow-motion for climatic situations.  LaMotta is washed with blood and water, in a very ritual sacrifice fashion.  Robinson begins unstoppably hammering the face of the new champion while the spectators and camera flashes heat the circus; Jake clings with his arms to the ropes of the ring, again, alluding to the Crucifixion, as blood runs down through his legs.  Vickie covers his eyes while Joey watches the cruel spectacle on television, and a sense of guilt is transmitted to all  the viewers. A blowing right punch sprays with blood the faces of ring siders, making everyone accomplice in the suffering of LaMotta, a Christ-like image of  passion.  The scene is invariably distressing, and cruel.  Although both Paul Schrader and the real Jake LaMotta had no religious purpose, the screenwriter does assist Scorsese’s redeeming aim when he wrote:  “Yes, but redemption through physical pain, like the Stations of the Cross, one torment after another. Not redemption by having a view of salvation or by grace, but just redemption by death and suffering, which is the darker side of the Christian message.”

But that was not yet enough.  While Sugar Ray Robinson is proclaimed winner and takes the middleweight title, beaten to bloody pulp, LaMotta taunts to Robinson the famous lines, “I never went down, man”, “You never got me down, Ray”.  Five years pass, Robert De Niro is now a retired, obese Jake LaMotta.  The man who had no oratory aptitudes is now a  bar owner and stand-up comedian.  His wife, Vickie, announces her decision to divorce him the morning after the 11th anniversary of their marriage.  He is subsequently jailed for pandering.  All this sequence of misfortunes were finally vented against the wall of his cell, he cries “Why?!” while punching the wall of concrete, as if attributing his pain to the hands that destroyed all his relations, especially with his wife, who had taken his three children.  L.S. Friedman notes that, “As broken as the belt, the jailed LaMotta first rages, then weeps, ‘You’re so stupid…I am not an animal.’  Perhaps the admission of the first phrase justifies the denial of the second.  If so, it may be the necessary preface to the redemptory text.”  

The film goes back to where it started, the dressing room with Jake LaMotta rehearsing in front of the mirror the exact speech of Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy in the 1954 film On The Waterfront, which says, “You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit…I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley.”  Thus, Jake manifests the emotional dependence he had on his brother, who mentored and advised him throughout his career, and life.  

Raging Bull, regarded by many as Scorsese’s magnum opus, cuts to black with the sad and beautiful music of Pietro Mascagni, Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana, and quoting the Bible:
So, for the second time, [the Pharisees] summoned the man who had been blind and said:

"Speak the truth before God. We know this fellow is a sinner."
"Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know," the man replied.
"All I know is this: Once I was blind and now I can see."
John IX. 24–26, The New English Bible

    “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”, is one of the lessons Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) provides to his heir son, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino).  Unlike the mentally unbalanced, deranged, and alienated protagonists of Scorsese, Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy follows the rise and decline of families whose members are, indeed, model characters of chasm, class, and acumen.  Another luring quality of the trilogy is its portentous presentation of moral struggle.  But morality here is not only the earthy meta-ethical pose bounding regular men and women of everywhere; the moral confrontational setting for The Godfather is that of the Catholic Church –distinctly, the pre-Vatican Two Catholic Church.  Aside the fact that the first two films are universal masterpieces of cinema, the trilogy is actually a wonderful, profoundly Catholic work of art. 

The Corleone’s way is deep-rooted in traditions, norms of genteel procedures, almost monarchical vogue, embraced from their homeland of Sicily.  Thus, the Sicilian circle, although readily immersed in the underworld of crime, is based on rituals and rules only analogous to the reverence of the pre-Conciliar Church proper to Catholic Americans of the decades before the sixties. The mobsters of The Godfather are not the same of Goodfellas; depiction of prostitution, apology to gambling, or use of narcotics, are absent here. When interviewed by Deborah Solomon, Coppola is quoted affirming, “I think I am very religious… I was raised as a Catholic, but I didn’t like the Catholic Church at all. I thought the nuns were mean… I sort of think that the people I have loved and lost are somehow still there. I can’t believe that something so specific is gone”.  And although the director ceased to practice the Faith, the sacramental beauty of the Church permeates everywhere in his gangster trilogy.  The Catholic viewer will particularly feel appealed with the venerable display of baptisms, first communions, weddings, confessions, and funerals, elevated by Catholic iconography and Latin hymns.  But the most prevalent Christian element in The Godfather is Sin, the deliberate and organised execution of murder.  And it is the unforgettable Baptism in Part I that settles Michael Corleone in his dark path of sin and tribulation.

Michael Corleone was the outsider in his family, he had assured his first girlfriend, Kay Adams (Diane Keaton), that his was a different future, distanced from the family business.  When Michael is aware of the fragile life of his father, hospitalised after being gunned down, he decides to retaliate.  He bows to kiss his father’s hand, a ritual of spiritual submission and unfailing loyalty.  Killing drug baron Virgil Sollozzo (Al Littieri) and NYCPD Captain Marc McCluskey by his own hands was his initiation as mafioso.  

But his unbreakable pact with crime was sealed during the Baptism of his nephew, also named Michael.  In the climatic sequence, D.W. Griffith’s technique of cross cutting to provoke suspense is mastered in the scenario of a High Church Catholic Baptism, and the assassination of the New York family dons and Moe Greene (Alex Rocco).  Latin verses echo with the music of Church organ, announcing the parallel cosmical events that are going to take place.  Salt, oil, and water, are prepared by the priest, Minister of Life; simultaneously, arms and weapons are prepared by Corleone’s capos, Ministers of Death.  “Do you renounce Satan?”, “And all his works?”, “And all his pomps?”, the priest asks Michael, whose guilty gaze is shown replying “I do”, aware of his perpetrated crimes happening at those very minutes.  The Baroque organ riches its highest pitches as the brutal killings occur.  Michael affirms his baptism as cuts show the aftermath of the bloodshed.  Cinematically, this scene is magnificent; narratively, long-lastingly chilling.  Michael Corleone renewed his Catholic baptism, but also sealed his pact with crime, he has been baptised in blood. 

The second key moment in the life of Michael Corleone comes in The Godfather, Part II.  Frederico “Fredo” Corleone (John Cazale), is Michael’s older brother.  He is the suave man, whose hedonist life and weakness of character, cast him away from the patriarchal order and more violent life of his brothers, the hot-head Santino “Sonny” Corleone (James Caan), and the cold minded Michael.  His imprudence served the Jewish businessman Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), an old –but untrusted– business partner of the Corleone family.  As the Sicilian code of honour –or Omertà– rules, a betrayer must pay with with his own life.  At one evening, Fredo shares his secret for a satisfactory fishing, which is to pray one Hail Mary before each try, with Anthony (James Gounaris), Michael’s son.  Anthony is called apart, so Fredo goes fishing with caporegime Al Neri (Richard Bright).  Frame is set on a middle wide shot, then camera travels toward Fredo, reciting “Holy Mary, Mother of God”, then cut to Michael, who contemplates from the boathouse, as audience is left to finish the prayer, “now and at the hour of our death. Amen”, Neri shoots.  The sky is gloomy, and only the silhouette of Neri is seen.  

In the first film,  Michael Corleone marries Apollonia Vitelli (Simonetta Stefanelli), who died in an explosion intended to kill him.  This is the first bitter loss that Michael bears on his back; that fact that it happened in Sicily is important, because Sicily was supposed to be the place where Michael would find safety, his voyage to his homeland would grant him a second chance.  Instead, he learns that the burdens of his sins followed him even there.  In the second film, an evolving, cold minded, frightening Don Michael Corleone, capable of handling intricate situations, has a hard time dealing with family issues.  His second wife, Kay Adams, had undergone an unholy abortion as she did not want another son of Michael to be born, touching the sore of Michael’s vulnerability, his children.  She then divorces and abandons him, but he keeps their two children with him.  His sister, Constanza “Connie” Corleone (Talia Shire), had chosen a life of eccentricities, “Michael, I hated you for so many years. I think that I did things to myself, to hurt myself so that you'd know - that I could hurt you”, are the words of his sister, who pleads him to forgive Fredo.  But when honour and pride posses men, they lead to tragical actions, and so does Michael killing his own brother, a decision that would burden him for the rest of his life, as shown in the third film.
Financial circumstances compelled Coppola to direct the third instalment, The Godfather, Part III was released in 1990, 16 years after part II, receiving mixed reviews.  But this was the chance for the director to make Michael pay for his sins.  The scene of Michael’s confession to Cardinal Lamberto (Raf Vallone) is particularly appealing for the Catholic viewer, not only for being a not-so-frequent case of Hollywood portraying an honest (Catholic) clergyman, but also because it tells that even the gravest offences are forgiven by God’s mercy, when the soul is surrendered to Him.  Michael admits that “it’s been 30 years”, since his last confession; but for the cardinal, the Laws of the Church are timeless, “I always have time to save souls”, he replies.  After saying that he betrayed his wife, betrayed himself, Michael breaks in tears, and finally confesses, “I killed my mother’s son, I killed my father’s son.”  He prays before the corpse of Don Tommasino (Vittorio Duse), “I swear on the lives of my children, give me a chance to redeem myself and I will sin no more.”  God’s Grace worked on Michael’s soul.
However, it seems that the purgation of the Soul sometimes begins on Earth.  Anthony Corleone
(Franc D’Ambrosio), Michael’s son, performs a magnificent debut as an opera singer in Palermo –during which killings are executed, again, surrounded by religious aura.  When the family is leaving Teatro Massimo, and Michael’s daughter, (played by the director’s daughter, Sofia Coppola), Mary Corleone, is following her father asking for answers, hitman Mosca, disguised as a priest draws a gun and shoots twice, intending to kill Michael.  Mary is hit by accident, and she mutters “Dad”, before falling dead in front of her father.  He is witness of his last and most bitter loss.  The scene, which closes with Mascagni’s Intermezzo –as with Raging Bull–  is beautiful, sad, memorable.  The shock painfully hits everyone, but not as hard as Michael.  Al Pacino here offered an outstanding performance of sorrow and grief from a man who carried all the weight of guilt upon himself.  He received his most painful punishment, and his unforgettable scream attests for it.  A montage shows Michael with all the women he had lost in his life, then a dissolve transition reveals an old, half-blind, and lonely man.  It is perhaps ironic that he would not die by the sword, but for a man who sincerely performed the Sacrament of Confession, and paid the highest price with the death of his daughter, Michael Corleone is reconciled with God, and dies peacefully in his homeland.

Catholicism in cinema is an inexhaustible theme in film literature, needless to say, there’s all time classics about specifically Catholic references.  But what fascinates about profane filmmaking is that they respond to the regular viewer’s conscious and unconscious.  Not romanticising about the infinite mercy of this saint, or the unbearable passion of  that martyr,  profane films with Catholic themes manifest our own fragilities, weakness, societal and spiritual anxieties.  The epigraph for Taxi Driver quotes Thomas Wolfe in his unpublished essay, God’s Lonely Man, saying, “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.”  While Taxi Driver talks to everyman, Raging Bull is Scorsese’s own story of Guilt and Redemption, conceived by his Catholic background.  When talking about his The Last Temptation of Christ, Scorsese explains, “My whole life has been movies and religion.  That’s it.  Nothing else”.  Francis Ford Coppola, in setting the highest standards for gang films, directed what could be considered a marvellous Catholic work of art.  Perhaps the iconoclasm of Protestantism could not offer the mystic beauty and luring darkness that permeates The Godfather trilogy, ironic as it may seem, Catholics can make better mobsters.  But what Coppola also shared with his audience was the Catholic Hope in the Sacrament of Confession, where even the most heinous sins cannot exhaust God’s desire to forgive.