Liszt (1811-1886)


“Sorrowful and great is the artist’s destiny.” – Franz Liszt

It’s one of music’s great tragedies that no recordings were ever made of Liszt playing the piano. Inspired as a young man by the virtuosic violin performances of Niccolò Paganini (arguably music’s first rockstar, complete with legions of fawning admirers), Liszt went on to be regarded by many of his contemporaries as the greatest pianist of all time. His feats at the piano are legendary – for example, he is said to have once sight read (!) Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor from start to finish (a piece I plan to include in a later entry, which will show just how incredible this feat really is). Grieg recounted this event in a letter to his parents:

“I really wondered if he would play my concerto unrehearsed from the score. I myself believed this was impossible. Liszt, however, obviously did not share my view…

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Sacrificial Food an the origins of society…a good, concise presentation with implications and analogies to be drawn.

The Orthosphere

I recently finished another of my favorite sort of book, the sort that brings order and intelligibility to a mass of fascinating facts, many of them new to me: The Cuisine of Sacrifice Among the Greeks. It is a collection of papers by European classicists and folklorists, mostly French, edited by the eminent scholars Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant. Three key insights inform everything in the book:

  1. In the ancient world, essentially all the meat available for consumption in human settlements was the fruit of sacrificial rites.
  2. Cookery and sacrifice were therefore aspects of the same procedure. Sacrifice was the way animals were slaughtered and butchered in preparation for cooking; cooking the meat was part of the sacrificial rite.
  3. Participation in the communal feast on the fruits of the sacrifice was the rite of social assimilation. To share the common meal was to declare loyalty to the cult, and to…

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The final installment of a 3-part series from the desk of Thomas Bertonneau, discussing gnosticism in modernity.

The Orthosphere

Gnosis 02

This is the third in a series of four articles exploring the phenomenon of Gnosis or Gnosticism from a “Non-Voegelinian Perspective.” Eric Voegelin (1901-1986) in The New Science of Politics (1952), Science Politics & Gnosticism (1965), and elsewhere used the term “Gnosticism” to refer to the “closed” or ideological-totalitarian systems that, for him, expressed the essence of modernity. Voegelin was a critic of modernity, just as he was a critic of the ideological-totalitarian systems, and in his usage the term Gnosticism (taking it out of quotation-marks) always carried a strong pejorative connotation. In Voegelin’s view, as expressed especially in the multi-volume study Order and History (1957-1965), Gnosticism sought to triumph but failed to do so in Antiquity, but then emerged anew in the early modern period to become the dominant Weltanschauung of the later centuries. Voegelin did not mean – as some took him to mean – that specific Gnostic…

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Insightful thoughts as always from Pater Edmund at Sancrucensis.


A few days ago a was in Bratislava to give a lecture at the “Hanus Days,” organized by the Ladislav Hanus Fellowship. One of their organizers had read my undergraduate thesis on monarchy, and had decided to invite me to speak on monarchy and democracy. It was good fun preparing. My basic position hasn’t changed much in eight years, but I think that I at least have a better understanding of the strength of the democratic position now from reading defenses from very different perspectives, including Aelianus on “Arthurian Republicanism,” Matthew Peterson on the common good and the American founders, and Owen White’s defense of leftist egalitarianism (see e.g. his comments on Daniel Nichols’s blog here and here).

I was very impressed by the people from the Ladislav Hanus Fellowship–by their hospitality, their eagerness to think things through, and the excellent questions they…

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Hildegard von Bingen.

Part II of Thomas Bertonneau’s exploration and critique of Gnosticism and its various incarnations..

The Orthosphere

Gnosis 02Part I of this series posed the linked questions whether Eric Voegelin’s characterization of Gnosticism in his various books on the topic was valid – and whether, as Voegelin asserted, modernity, in the form of the liberal and totalitarian ideologies, could be understood as the resurgence of ancient Gnosticism. The purpose of Part I was not to furnish definitive answers to those questions, but rather to explore two critiques of Gnostic doctrine from Late Antiquity. These were the essay Against the Gnostics by the Third-Century Neo-Platonic philosopher Plotinus and the discussion in Saint Augustine’sConfessions (Books III, IV, and V) of the Manichaean religion, a late variant of Gnosticism. The exposition concluded that the two accounts of Gnosticism although written more than a century apart (Augustine being subsequent to Plotinus) were convergent and largely similar. The argument did not propose that Plotinus and Augustine, in their critiques, anticipate Voegelin…

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Excellent post, as usual, from the desk of Thomas Bertonneau, regarding Plotinus and Augustine on Gnosticism. ..with an interesting comments section to boot!

The Orthosphere

Gnosis 02The trend of politics in the Western nations since Eric Voegelin’s death in 1986 has made his work increasingly relevant to any philosophically rigorous Conservatism or Traditionalism. In particular, Voegelin’s argument that liberalism and its Leftwing metastases constitute an evangelical religious movement, mimicking and distorting Christianity, has gained currency. The pronounced irrational character of the “Global Warming” cult and the obvious messianism of Barack Hussein Obama’s presidency have together sharpened the perception that contemporary Leftwing politics shares with history’s specimen-type doctrinally intransigent sects an absolute intolerance for dissent, even for discussion, along with a conviction of perfect certainty in all things. The sudden experience of Leftwing triumph attests that, indeed, utopian radicalism draws its strength from a deep well of resentment that puts it in conflict, not merely with those whom it regards as heterodox, but also with the unalterable structure of reality. Voegelin argued – in The New Science…

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