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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Culture of Holocausts: From Kinkakuji to Notre Dame

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Temple of the Golden Pavilion Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Many Remnant readers will probably have heard of Mishima Yukio. Japanese literary star Mishima was one of the most famous novelists of the twentieth century. (In my humble opinion, he was also the best.) Although not a Catholic by any stretch of the imagination, Mishima wrote sensitively, at times searingly, about questions of faith.

Among Mishima’s many masterpieces is the 1956 novel Kinkakuji, which Ivan Morris translated into English in 1959 as The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The real Kinkakuji—the Temple of the Golden Pavilion—is among the few instantly-recognizable buildings in the world. Anyone who has visited Kyoto has surely been to this breathtaking architectural triumph. 

Gilded and yet not glittering, ostentatious and yet subtle and even reserved, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, which is also known as the Rokuonji, marks a high-water point of medieval Japanese culture. Built by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the late fourteenth century, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion was a Zen Buddhist enclave as well as, eventually, a world-renowned artifact of Muromachi brilliance.

But there is a dark side to this resplendent structure. 

In 1950, a crazed monk, Hayashi Yoken, followed the derelict dictates of his diseased imagination—it is suspected that Hayashi was suffering from schizophrenia—and set fire to the Kinkakuji. Before escaping the Kinkakuji and attempting suicide on a little hill behind, Hayashi watched with mad delight as the flames spread throughout the timbers and walls. 

He survived, was arrested, and died in custody of tuberculosis a few years later. The damage to the Kinkakuji was total. It was reduced to a smoking frame of flame-whittled sticks by the blaze. The Kinkakuji that visitors to Kyoto see today is a complete recreation. The building and everything in it were utterly destroyed.

Mishima’s novel is an intense exploration — “vivisection” might be the better word — of the psychological state of the young apprentice who set the fire alight. Why would someone torch a cultural treasure? What would drive someone to such an act of wild, hateful vandalism? The Kinkakuji had survived civil wars, world wars, firebombing, earthquakes, typhoons, insurrections, and every manner of social upheaval and natural disaster, only to be reduced to ashes by someone working on the inside. What drives people, Mishima wanted to understand, to take the very best of the world and willfully subject it to ruination?

Mishima Yukio’s analysis of lunacy was much on my mind last week as I watched Notre Dame cathedral in Paris go up in flames. As a heroic priest (the traditionalist Jean-Marc Fournier) scrambled to save the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns, the church of Our Lady was crowned with its own terrible suffering, a crown of thorns made of fire and smoke that wrapped the Blessed Mother in Her own anguished Good Friday sorrows. The metaphor that the cathedral inferno presented for the modern world was inescapable. Here was a crown jewel of Western civilization, on fire. What in the world was going on?

Speculation swirled that the blaze had been deliberately set. This was hardly idle gossip. Before the horrors unfolded at Notre Dame, there had been hundreds of church attacks in France over the past several years. In March of this year there were a dozen church vandalizations in France in just one week. In July of 2016, Fr. Jacques Hamel was murdered by a gang of Muslims in Normandy while he was celebrating Mass. And it isn’t just France. Germany, England, Spain, Italy—wherever one turns in Europe, one finds the Faith in sprinting retreat, the pursuers desecrating and sacking everything that has been left behind.

In the event, it turns out that the Notre Dame fire was, it now seems, an accident. But that hardly matters. It is not the moment that concerns us, but the mood. Last week, Notre Dame was made a horrible symbol of what Europe has done to its Christian heritage for five hundred years. 

Since the first Satanic stirrings of Protestantism and the “Enlightenment” there has been a slow-motion burning of all of the old country’s Kinkakujis. There is not just one Hayashi Yoken in Europe—there are hundreds of millions.

Legions of mad monks and deranged prelates, wicked priests and craven cardinals have set fire to one corner of the Catholic Faith or the other in what now has become a competition, led by the pope himself, to burn all of Christendom to the ground. 

Every revolutionary, secular humanist, Enlightenment devil, and full-bore Modernist since the Wittenberg Revolt and even prior have been civilizational arsonists. Notre Dame burned in Holy Week of 2019, but it was gutted long before that, by people working on the inside. Europeans have been taking a flamethrower to our Christian heritage for half a millennium now.

Sadly, “heritage” is the right word. It is surely more than just a coincidence that, when the treasures of Notre Dame were rushed out of the church by a few local heroes, they were trucked over to the Louvre—one museum, in other words, to another. Clueless reporters in the mainstream media of the world referred to Notre Dame as though it were a kind of archives or antiques repository, and not as a living church. And they were right. The Faith has long since become a kind of cultural legacy in France. 

The most damning indictment of Notre Dame’s demotion from cathedral—house of God—to tour stop, came from Geneva. According to a press release, “UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay said her organization was standing by the French people’s side to safeguard and restore the invaluable heritage of the Notre Dame Cathedral.” The French state had been in control of Notre Dame since 1905. Now, the moneymaking operation is run by the thoroughly godless bureaucratic statists at the UN. When French president Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild Notre Dame, it was to please Brussels, not God. (Yes, fellow moderns, there is a difference.)

We all watched Notre Dame burn as though in a waking dream, a nightmare that would not end. The spire collapsed in a rage of orange and black and anyone with any sense of the sublime, the holy, the civilizational, the grand, gasped in horror. But multiply that by a hundred, a thousand, a million and more. 

The day is upon us when the Faith is losing even its status as a relic. It will soon be a memory (if that), for those who have insisted that their continent get rid of everything that made it beautiful and fine. 

One mad Japanese burned down the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Twenty generations of mad Europeans—and, now, North Americans, too—have burned holocausts of the old God on the altars of the new: liberalism, multiculturalism, gender ideology, sexual revolution, relativism, and more. In the end, it was all just the same old idolatry. And it is not likely that the bonfires of this centuries-long round of vanity will soon be put out.

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Last modified on Thursday, April 25, 2019
Jason Morgan | Remnant Correspondent, TOKYO

Jason Morgan is an associate professor at Reitaku University in Chiba, Japan, where he teaches language, history, and philosophy. He specializes in Japanese legal history. He’s published four books in Japanese and two book-length Japanese-to-English translations. His work has also appeared at Japan Forward, New Oxford Review, Crisis, Modern Age, University BookmanChronicles, and Clarion Review.