Defensor pacis

Marsilius of Padua, the great neo-pagan revolutionary of the early 14th century, presented himself, as Hobbes did later, as the defender of peace. He was the precursor of Luther and Calvin (inventors of “peace through total war”) as a theorist of populist democracy, when the popes were living in Babylonian captivity at Avignon, and the University of Paris had become the centre of intellectual fashions; Marsilius was actually its rector for a while.

He taught (says I) a post-Christian theology, which diminished the worldly power of the Church essentially to nothing, and enhanced the secular power, which he imagined rising from “the people,” in the instrumental power of the Holy Roman Emperor, which, as my reader was probably taught in school, was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. ┬áIn practice, a form of caesaropapistical terror was enjoined, once its defining features were all given pretty names. Political modernism was being launched.

Up here in the High Doganate, we tend to condemn the memory of Marsilius of Padua (a medical man by initial profession). We do so even although this has little effect in the world below us, which still asks how this institution is to be spelt.

Indeed, the late John Muggeridge, who taught me to stop calling hot weather “muggy,” but call it “lutherish” instead, did not blame Martin Luther for the Reformation, in which he (Luther) was only among the more recent participants. We gave that honour personally to the Devil, as Doctor Johnson had also declared the Devil to be “the first Whig.”

This was when I was living with Mr Muggeridge, in what we called “Manning House,” immediately before I took up my station in the High Doganate, and set up as the author of this blog.

I have just written to a confused reader, who asked whether it should be spelt “Dogan,” or “Dogon,” or like the Philistine god, “Dagon.” I take it the altitude “high” will need no gloss, for we are eleven floors in elevation.

My own preferred spelling is the High Doganate, for it contains myself, a Dogan, named after the primitive tribes of Mariolaters in West Africa who were discovered — to their shock and discomfiture — by Cape Breton Presbyterian missionaries when meandering upon the central plateau of Mali in the last but one century. They wrote home about their adventures.

These Dogans themselves, who claim to have descended from the stars as extra-terrestrials, seem to prefer the spelling, “Dogons,” but I subscribe to my mother’s transcription of their demonym. Catholics in insular Nova Scotia and western Newfoundland came to be called (informally) “Dogans” and, as it were, negrified.

Indeed, when I converted to Catholicism (and Mariolatry) myself, my Cape Breton mother shrieked that her son had “turned into a Dogan,” and added (perhaps facetiously) that they eat Protestant babies at Easter.

“Only when they can find one, mama,” I replied.