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The Fiery Angel

Michael Walsh's new book, The Fiery Angel, takes its title from a novel by Valery Brusov (which inspired a later opera by Sergei Prokofiev of the same name). It's an allusion to Madiel, the demon who deceives a maid into loving him in both works, and as some would have it, in "both worlds."

In both opera and book, "does [the audience] accept the supernatural as a real and constant presence, or are the unnatural happenings merely symptomatic of Renata's unbalanced mental state? Is Madiel good or evil?"

The recursive references are intentional, for Walsh's goal is to demonstrate that culture -- religion, the arts, language itself -- are the core libraries of civilization built in a stack one upon the other. His thesis is that culture stores and slowly modifies a civilization's foundational libraries -- its attitudes toward eternity, dominant narratives and ultimate ground for hope -- which eventually underpin our entire world. To illustrate the unbreakable connection between the elements, the book examines two historical sequences showing how culture, politics and war are linked.

Beaumarchais -- Mozart -- The French Revolution -- Beethoven -- Napoleon

Count Gobineau -- Father Jahn -- Wagner -- World War I -- Communism and National Socialism -- Hitler

Walsh convincingly demonstrates that culture anticipated and even precipitated great events. There should be no surprises there. It seems self-evident that culture, especially language, art and religion, provides the "framework" for the more "practical" functions of civilization. Indeed it would be shocking if they did not. Yet it is even more shocking to realize that many believe the exact opposite: that Western culture is irrelevant -- or worse, antagonistic to our modern conveniences. The deliberate Leftist amputation of culture from Western civilization and its replacement by a "Woke" prosthesis is the second great theme of Walsh's book. The cultural Left are on a mission:

... to reduce the stories -- call them exemplars -- to the status of mere myths or fairy tales ... is precisely the aim of those who would separate Western civilization from its origins ... they can be made to seem manifestations of, say, the “patriarchy,” or clear evidence of a conspiracy against women, homosexuals, and people of color. This is the essence of cultural Marxism, the Left’s answer to Lukács’s famous question, “Who will save us from Western culture?”

Answer: the wrecking ball. What Lukács forgot to ask was who would save his hijacked civilization once the core libraries were deleted. No one in the captured institutions was prepared for malfunctions displaying the missing-dependency error message. Yet every system, including the one the Left paradoxically relies upon to keep its programs in clover, depends on a non-obvious chain of libraries going all the way down to the foundation.