Southerners have often been mocked for their agrarian simplicity by Yankee-minded folks.  We know the insults well by now:  hicks, hillbillies, rednecks, and so on.  But Dixie should not be ashamed of this.  We ought rather to delight and exult in it.

Richard Weaver gives us good ground for doing so in his contrast of the Northern/Yankee and Southern types:

“Nowhere has the Northern mind more clearly embraced the Faustian concept than in the idea of progress. There is the constant out-reaching, the denial of limits, the willingness to dissolve all into endless instrumental activity, to which even some American philosophers have supplied theoretical support. Hence the incessant urge to be doing, to be transforming, to effect some external change between yesterday and today. The mood of the Americans, another French critic of a century ago remarked, is that of an army on the march. The language of conquest fills the air. They will ‘master nature’; they will ‘attack problems’; they will ‘control energy’; they will ‘overcome space and time.’ The endlessness of progress in these terms is the most generally accepted dogma. And thus enchanted by the concept of an infinite expansion, they reject the classical philosophy as too constricting

“The Southerner, to sum up the contrast, has tended to live in the finite, balanced, and proportional world which Classical man conceived. In Cicero and Horace he has found congenial counsellors about human life. The idea of stasis is not abhorrent to him, because it affords a ground for the identity of things. Life is not simply a linear progression, but a drama, with rise and fall. Happiness may exist as much in contemplation as in activity. Experience alone is not good; it has to be accompanied by the human commentary. From this, I believe, has come the South’s great fertility in myth and anecdote. It is not so much a sleeping South as a dreaming one, and out of dreams come creations that affect the imagination” (“The South and the American Union”).

It is a fine historical, philosophical analysis, but the Christian South must go beyond these for justification of her way of life.  Wendell Berry is helpful in this respect.  Essays like the “The Gift of Good Land” provide a Biblical grounding for a life of restraint, of proper limits to human striving.  But Mr. Berry is mostly concerned with men and women being good stewards of the creation.  This is by no means unimportant, yet it nevertheless prevents him from fully developing a theological understanding of the Yankee and Southern types.

There is a man who can help us in this, however:  an exceptional teacher of the Holy Scriptures, Fr. Athanasios Mitilianaios, an Orthodox priest who fell asleep in the Lord in 2006.  In his exposition of verses from both Genesis and Revelation, he shows with remarkable clarity the two essential types of mankind to which the North and the South correspond.

In his sermon on Revelation 9:1-12 (an overview of which may be viewed here; all quotes from Fr. Athanosios are via that presentation), in which he describes the meaning of the terrifying locusts, he says,

“Do you know that a man who has no faith in God is terrified of the universe?  . . .  Man is afraid of earthquakes, hurricanes, and thunderstorms, elements which have really lost their balance and rhythm in these last decades, and which create an impression of a dangerous and unfriendly universe for today’s troubled man.  All of things torment, in the manner of locusts—as the text says—the man who has lost the purpose of his existence, the man who has lost his faith or belief in God.  Thus, the locusts of fury are already terribly tormenting today’s man.”

Fallen man, man separated from God, therefore, seeks out consolation for himself, something to take his mind off the foreboding world around him.  And he finds it in the unceasing development of advanced, technological civilization:

“It is not by mere coincidence that Cain and his descendants originally developed civilization. Cain and his four children created civilization. According to Hebraic tradition, his daughter invented the spinning wheel, using wool to make threads and clothing. From this it becomes obvious that the generations of Cain, and this is a very subtle detail, were primarily preoccupied with the development of civilization… God had cursed Cain, so he needed to develop something to lighten the burden of that curse. Thus, man became preoccupied with the elements of civilization because the purpose of civilization is to introduce consolation in man’s life.”

Here is the basic outline of one type of man – the type of Cain, which corresponds to Yankee man.  But what of the second type?

“In contrast, the descendants of Seth, who was born to serve as a replacement for Abel who had been killed by Cain, focused on the worship of God and the simplicity of life. To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time men began to call upon the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26). He trusted in the Lord. So Enoch, or Enosh (Enos in the Septuagint), trusted and hoped in the name of the Lord and God.”

The second type is Seth, satisfied with simple living and worshipping God.  This corresponds to Dixie’s folk.

Fr. Athanasios expands on these two types.  Of Cain’s type, he notes further:

“Man now desires to satisfy all his senses, to live hedonistically. Man now lives to enjoy. Thus, the demonic element has entered his life, his culture, and his civilization. He constrains an over-exerted nature to extract from it as much as he possibly can. He uses chemistry, nuclear energy (all the elements that destroy) not only his life, but also his environment. The psalmist says their belly was filled from your hidden things (cf. Psalm 16/17:14). The hidden things of God are the things we search: the depths of the ocean, the depths of the earth to extract, extract, extract – I do not know what! We create to eat—not to meet our needs—but to fulfill our desires.”

And he says also of Seth’s type:

“Psalm 16: the men of the world are those who are satisfied with uncleanness, and fill their belly with thy hidden treasures. But I, says the psalmist, shall be satisfied when I look upon your glory (cf. Psalm 16, Septuagint). This is the camp of Seth. The other camp that eats the hidden things is the camp of Cain. Thus, we see that the man of faith is satisfied and filled with the glory of God, and he cultivates the earth very simply. He sees God, and he is filled. God fills him. Therefore, he only takes from nature what is of necessity to him without forcing nature. This is what the Lord meant by saying that man does not live with bread alone (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4). From the moment we believe that man does not live with bread alone, but with the word of God and with the vision of God, balance has been established in the powers of nature. Then, the tortures of contemporary civilization that torment today’s man will not exist.”

It will be quite obvious to anyone looking around the South today that the greater number of us have left the camp of Seth and joined that of Cain, as evidenced by our giant, oversized cities, our fat, flabby bodies, our screen addiction, and such like.  This has been the concern of Southerners faithful to their tradition since the days of the Vanderbilt Agrarians and before.  It will not be an easy process to reverse.  True children of Dixie will therefore need to develop bridgeheads of simple Christian agrarianism from which to call their wayward brothers and sisters back from the abyss.  They will be tremendously helped in this by monasticism, the life of simple Christian agrarianism par excellence:

“Monasticism (from the Greek word μοναχός—solitary) is the ancient Christian practice of withdrawal from the world in order to dedicate oneself fully and intensely to the life of the Gospel, seeking union with our Lord Jesus Christ. The focus of monasticism is the soul’s purification, illumination, and deification, or theosis. It is the process of perfection in Christ to which every Christian is called: ‘Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt. 5:48).

“Within their monastery enclosure, monastics live a life of spiritual stillness called hesychasm, working in silence and constant prayer throughout the day, keeping vigil at night, and carefully attending to their thoughts and feelings through inner watchfulness and prayer, while participating continually in the Sacraments and the liturgical life of the Church. At the center of this life lived for Christ is the ceaseless repetition—vocally or silently—of the Jesus prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’ This prayer, practiced within the framework of perfect obedience to the monastery’s abbot, brings the grace of God into the disciples’ souls. With patience and perseverance, in time and by the great mercy of God, they attain to the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.”

Monasticism has its roots in the New Testament itself, and flourished amongst Dixie’s forebears, notably amongst the Irish.  St. Enda (+530) is a particularly renowned monastic father of Ireland, in whose life one may see the main features of Celtic monasticism.  For example:

“The holy Abbot Enda and his brethren led an extremely austere ascetic life, imitating the Desert Fathers of Egypt. Each monastic community comprised a church or chapel with a number of monastic cells. On Inishmore monks practiced manual labor and devoted most of their time to fasting, prayer and studying the Holy Scriptures. Apart from tiny stone ascetic monastic cells, the monks lived in separate caves or isolated sketes, as many of them chose the ascetic traditions of the ancient fathers.  . . .

“The brethren slept on the bare ground of their cells or laid down a bundle of straw. They had a flock of sheep which provided them with wool to weave their clothes. They toiled on the land, grew barley and oats, baked bread and did many other things with their own hands. In spite of these austere customs, hundreds of ascetics settled on this holy island, and Inishmore became a shining light of holiness in Western Europe for many centuries. Notwithstanding the coldness of the monastic cells, the ascetics did not feel cold as their hearts were glowing with ardent divine love. A cloud of future missionaries, who studied in this island monastic city, absorbed its spirit of love, community, sanctity and prayer, disseminating this radiant light to many foreign lands that had before been pagan.

“The fame of St. Enda spread far and wide. The loving care of the holy abbot was directed not only toward monks, but also at the poor, the oppressed and suffering. According to tradition, he ordered the monks to build ‘eight places for refuge’ on the island, where all who had nowhere else to go could find shelter and care. St. Columba who had visited Inishmore in his early youth was so impressed by its atmosphere that he described it as ‘the second Rome for pilgrims’, ‘the Sun of the West’ (the Aran Islands lie to the west of the westernmost country of Europe) and witnessed that the glory of Inishmore was so bright that ‘even the angels of God descended from heaven and worshipped in its churches.’ It was said that Columba went into mourning on the day he had to leave Inishmore. For many, Inishmore was in some sense like an image of Paradise. Many wanted it to be the site of their resurrection so they dreamed of being buried on Inishmore.”

The aim of becoming “an image of Paradise” is a mighty Southern goal.  And, indeed, some videos produced by a monastery in Appalachian Dixie, Holy Cross Monastery in Wayne, West Virginia, show how compatible monastic life and Southern life are (Christmas shape-note hymns; history of the monastery).

With the example of the monasteries, and that of our agrarian leaders – from John Taylor of Caroline County to Donald Davidson and Andrew Lytle – ever before us, Dixie will receive the inspiration, as well as the practical help, to reject the calamitous path of Cain, of God-opposing Progress, and return to the better path, our original path:  the way of the simplicity of God-loving Seth.  If we do not, however, we will assuredly drive God’s blessing away from us and call down a curse upon ourselves and upon our land:

“‘See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live . . .’” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19).

So again we say, Let those in Dixie rejoice in the insults of those who hate our simplicity.  They are an indication that we are on the right path.

Walt Garlington

Walt Garlington is a chemical engineer turned writer (and, when able, a planter). He makes his home in Louisiana and is editor of the 'Confiteri: A Southern Perspective' web site.


  • Harto says:

    “With the example of the monasteries, and that of our agrarian leaders – from John Taylor of Caroline County to Donald Davidson and Andrew Lytle – ever before us, Dixie will receive the inspiration, as well as the practical help, to reject the calamitous path of Cain, of God-opposing Progress, and return to the better path, our original path: the way of the simplicity of God-loving Seth.”

    Well and beautifully said, Mr. Garlington. Although I am Roman Catholic, I believe both Eastern Orthodoxy and Traditional Catholicism have something to offer the South. The latter may seem odd in light of America’s historical anti-Catholicism, once so infused with popular politics that it could be sarcastically called a “great American pastime,” but if one’s goal is a Christ-centered society – what we would call the “Social Kingship of Christ” – then both of these Christian traditions offer a path, if one is willing to walk it.

    • Richard Scott Farris says:

      AMEN Brother..We should recall and remember that Our President–Jefferson Davis–was a graduate of the most prestigious Catholic university of his time–“The Notre Dame of The South”–Transylvania University of Lexington, Kentucky; that he considered the Catholic Priesthood after the untimely quick death of his first Wife; that he was the first American President to include both a Catholic and a Jew in his Cabinet; that he had a warm relationship with Pope Pious IX (who many contend was the only world Sovereign who recognised our CSA as a fellow fully Sovereign Nation); and that indeed it was The Pope who played the key role in the final release of President Davis from that postwar cruel yankee prison instead of NYC newspaper editor Horace Greely.

  • William Quinton Platt III says:

    The north likes to preen itself on its high moral ground…it took the first State to end slavery only 4 years of existence to rid themselves of the few thousand blacks living amongst them…PA passed laws 4 years after 4 July 1776 to outlaw slavery…of course, this only gave slave owners in the Keystone State 4 measly years advance notice to sell their stock down the river.
    Then PA allowed the remaining handful of blacks to vote in elections until the onerous level of one percent of total population was achieved…at that time in 1840, PA’s blacks were disenfranchised…much as White Southern Males were disenfranchised by the 14th Amendment.

    The yankees hold no high moral ground…blacks in Mississippi in 1860 could own businesses, property, slaves…blacks were not allowed to MOVE to ILLINOIS or to LIVE in OREGON in 1860.

  • Paul Yarbrough says:

    “So again we say, Let those in Dixie rejoice in the insults of those who hate our simplicity. They are an indication that we are on the right path.. “
    Amen !

  • Billy P says:

    I work with those northern corporate geniuses who constantly seek progress and thoughtless change non-stop, to the detriment of their fellow man and common sense. Change for the sake of change…. never producing anything or leaving anything but chaos. They grow by acquisition, consume, enjoy and destroy what others have built. They draw my southern brethren into their way of thinking occasionally.
    They work themselves to death, the only goal being money……And most of these full-grown “men” can’t change a car tire.
    They’ll send out quarterly webinars on the importance of work life balance, but they don’t really believe in it. And, standby for the DEI required brainwashing webinar too.
    What an exhausting and worthless existence. A rat on a wheel.
    But they sure love our weather, and they love buying up all of our land.
    I can’t help but crave secession.

  • Richard Scott Farris says:

    Yankees by definition are dumb–in their puritanical hypocrisy for the last 400 Years–concerning true religion (or the lack therefore), true history and heritage, culture, society, government, politics, economics, education, language, cuisine and even sports and entertainment. Authentic Americans (i.e. Southerners) wear their children scorn as a proud Badge of Honour.

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