Draco Layer Three: The Moral or Tropological Sense

Learn to discern.

We all know what sin is, right? Right?! 

Once upon a time in the desert, the hermit Evagrius Ponticus (d. 399) set out to make a list of the most deadly ones, albeit he called them “deadly thoughts,” not “sins.” You probably know the list, even if you don’t think you do: gluttony, impurity (a.k.a. lust), avarice (a.k.a. greed), sadness (a.k.a. feeling sorry for oneself), anger or wrath, acedia or sloth, vainglory, and pride (two different things). 

Not quite the list you were expecting? That is because some centuries later—we’re talking ancient times here, when centuries passed like decades do now (or vice versa)—Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604) revised the list, somewhat accidentally, in his commentary on Job. 

Gregory had been expounding Job according to its multiple layers—yes, that’s right! Job, like Shrek, has layers!—and he happened somewhere in book XXXI to mention the “seven principle vices” to which Pride,  the “Queen of Sins” gives rise: Vainglory, Envy, Anger, Melancholy, Avarice, Gluttony, and Lust. 

But wait! There’s more! According to Gregory, these several sins (Pride’s generals) each comes with its own army: 
  • Vainglory gives rise to disobedience, boasting, hypocrisy, contentions, obstinacies, discords and the presumptions of novelties. 
  • Envy gives rise to hatred, whispering, detraction, exultation at the misfortunes of a neighbor and affliction at his prosperity.
  • Anger produces strifes, swelling of mind, insults, glamour, indignation, and blasphemies.
  • Melancholy gives rise to malice, rancor, cowardice, despair, slothfulness in fulfilling the commands, and a wandering of the mind on unlawful objects.
  • Avarice gives rise to treachery, fraud, deceit, perjury, restlessness, violence, and hardnesses of heart against compassion.
  • Gluttony propagates foolish mirth, scurrility, uncleanness, babbling, and dulness of sense in understanding. 
  • Lust generates blindness of mind, inconsiderateness, inconstancy, precipitation, self-love, hatred of God, affection for this present world and dread or despair of that which is to come.
If you feel overwhelmed as if by a swarm of buzzing insects, that’s the idea. Sin overwhelms the body, heart, and soul with howling desires, tempting us to further sins, always presented as desirable.  

Vainglory exhorts the conquered heart: “Thou oughtest to aim at greater things, that, as thou hast been able to surpass many in power, thou mayest be able to benefit many also.” (You can tell these are sins speaking—they do so in archaic grammar.) 

Envy whispers: “In what art thou inferior to this or that person? why then art thou not either equal or superior to them? What great things art thou able to do, which they are not able to do! They ought not then to be either superior, or even equal, to thyself.” (I’m sure you’ve never heard this one, right?)

Anger nudges the conquered heart, “as if with reason”: “The things that are done to thee cannot be borne patiently; nay rather, patiently to endure them is a sin; because if thou dost not withstand them with great indignation, they are afterwards heaped upon thee without measure.” (Are you feeling angry yet at how unjust it is to be accused of sin for feeling angry?)

Melancholy comes along to point out how ridiculous it is to feel anything but sorrow (read, blackpilled): “What ground hast thou to rejoice when thou endurest so many wrongs from thy neighbours? Consider with what sorrow all must be looked upon, who are turned in such gall of bitterness against thee.” 

Avarice reassures that it is right to want more possessions because, after all, the hard times are coming: “It is a very blameless thing, that thou desirest some things to possess; because thou seekest not to be increased, but art afraid of being in want; and that which another retains for no good, thou thyself expendest to better purpose.”

Gluttony chimes in: “God has created all things clean, in order to be eaten, and he who refuses to fill himself with food, what else does he do but gainsay the gift that has been granted to him?”

At which Lust delivers the coup-de-grace: “Why enlargest thou not thyself now in thy pleasure, when thou knowest not what may follow thee? Thou oughtest not to lose in longings the time thou hast received; because thou knowest not how speedily it may pass by. For if God had not wished man to be united in the pleasure of coition, He would not, at the first beginning of the human race, have made them male and female.” (Funny that, almost as if sex has something to do with being male and female, but never mind, time’s a-wasting, it’s time to get down to business!)

Whisper, whisper, whisper. The vices murmur at the conquered heart: “You deserve it. Why should she have his attention, and not you? They hate you, they want you dead—are you angry yet? You should be—they stole from you. You need to prepare, you might starve otherwise. Those longings you have for attention and sex define you. Here, take this pill, it will make you feel better.”

“The life of man upon earth is a warfare.” —Job 7:1

I know, I know. Nobody believes in sin anymore. Back in Gregory’s day, it was only monks who obsessed over not listening to the deadly thoughts, but by the early fourteenth century, when Dante was writing, the monks (and friars) had convinced everyone to worry about such nonsensical things as virtue and vice. There was a brief period (say, 1215-1517, a mere 300 years) when things got somewhat out of hand, with sinners thinking they needed to do penance to have access to communion (see canon 21 of the Fourth Lateran Council, plus all the handbooks in pastoral care for training the priests to train the laity to identify sins), but first somebody came up with the bright idea that sinners might give alms as a form of penance, and then somebody else came up with the bright idea that making charitable donations for hospitals and bridges had nothing to do with resisting sin, all the while arguing by the by that sin was simply a trick of the priesthood to make people feel guilty in the first place, and before you could say, “Jesuit casuistry,” “sin” had been redefined to mean something you could wiggle your way out of with equivocations and “ambiguous language” (see Suarez), not to mention charitable donations to the Church. Along the way, Protestants stopped believing in sin completely, except as something you could only be saved from by grace, which by definition, being Protestants, they were, so Q.E.D. no need to worry about sin! [1] 

By the time Kant came along in the late eighteenth century, morality had nothing to do with sin and everything to do with perspective: your morality may not be my morality, although my morality should not interfere with yours. (I hope I have this right. I’m pretty sure I read something like this somewhere recently, but that’s the way with Kant—we think in his terms without realizing it.) Add a little J.S. Mill, and hey presto! Morality has become the pressure of the masses on the eccentrics who just want to do experiments in how to live (try polygamy, you’ll like it!). Cue Freud, and sin becomes something you can blame on your mother; cue Jung, and it is the stuff of psychedelic dreams that points you to the secrets of the archetypes. (Probably; it’s hard to tell with Jung.) Bring in the advertisers, and before you can say, “Knife,” everyone is encouraged to embrace his or her sin as healthy, because, after all, you wouldn’t want those desires repressed! Google “Seven Deadly Sins” nowadays, and you will come up with Disney Princesses and ad campaigns. Sin is good! Sin is desirable! Sin is sexy!

Conversely, of course, we are never meant to be unhappy, for which there are potions and pills. 

To judge from the chatter on the Internet these latter days, absolutely nobody doubts that we are living through a moral crisis, although there is considerable debate on how to deal with it. Some want to double down on the drugs (read, hormones and anti-depressants). Some want to rage at the machine (Googling that phrase now...). Some blame the Globalists. Some blame the Nationalists. Some blame the cities. Some blame the whites. Pretty much everyone is busy blaming everyone else because, of course, without those people everything would be fine. (Feel free to add your own lists, I’m sure the federal officers reading this blog would like to know!) Everyone seems to recognize that we are under siege from ... something, but nobody seems to agree on its name. For some, it is Intolerance; for some, it is Degeneracy. For some, it is Hate; for some, it is Love. The premise would seem to be that if everybody else stopped being bad, things would be fine. Because, of course, their morality has nothing to do with mine. (Told you, we’re living in Kantland!)

Here’s a clue: Job did nothing wrong, and yet the Lord allowed Satan to test him. Why should that be?

Read on: Draco Layer Four: The Anagogic or Mystical Sense

Can you solve the riddle and read the signs?


[1] I’m kidding, obviously. You try paraphrasing over a thousand years of moral philosophy in a paragraph—it’s harder than it looks. Start here, if you want more bibliography: Servais Pinckaers, O.P.,  The Sources of Christian Ethics, trans. from the 3rd edition by Mary Thomas Noble, O.P. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1995).


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