The Thinking 

Goodbye, Beloved Friend and Mentor

March 29, 2013


Lawrence Auster, March 18, 2013, standing in front of my family's home

MY ENTRY on the death of Lawrence Auster can be found here at VFR. I am also posting it in its entirety below:


Lawrence Auster died today at 3:56 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time, at a hospice in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His death came after more than a week of rapidly worsening distress and physical collapse caused by the pancreatic cancer he endured for almost three years.

On Monday evening, after arriving at the hospice in the late afternoon, Mr. Auster read and responded to a few emails. He then closed his battered and medicine-stained Lenovo laptop for the last time. “That’s enough for now,” he said, holding his hands over the computer as if sated by an unfinished meal.

He did not expect that to be the last.

But the blogging career that stands out on the Internet and in the history of American letters as a tour de force of philosophical and cultural insight was over. Mr. Auster entered a state of sedated and sometimes pained sleep the next day, after a night of agony. He spoke no more than a few words during the next two days and died peacefully this morning after about ten hours of unusually quiet and mostly undisturbed rest.

Only extreme incapacitation could have brought that career to a close. For many of us, it was a marvel, a form of essential daily food. No man gave more to his readers. No writer responded more energetically to the people who took in his words and either approved or rejected them. No thinker, except perhaps Plato, jousted more ably with his students or left such an elegant and finished record of philosophical conflict and resolution. He was philosopher, journalist, guru and cultural psychoanalyst in one. And no writer on culture and politics had sounder judgment about the world around us, or more brilliant observations.

The relationship between Mr. Auster and the hundreds of often-anonymous correspondents who wrote to him over the years was like that between a boxing coach and his fighters. He trained his followers in the art of intellectual combat — and the price was a staggering workload as he edited the debates that have appeared here over the years. He paid tireless tribute to the fight for truth. But, as he insisted, he wasn’t a hero. He was just doing what came naturally. He was doing what he had to do.

Sadly, as of today, View from the Right, except for an entry about his funeral and possibly more on his death, will become inactive. He wanted it that way. VFR could not continue beyond Mr. Auster’s death because it is the creation of an utterly unique personality and mind.

The site will, however, remain online permanently, as long as the Internet exists. There are also plans to collect his writings, both those found here and those unpublished, in book form. At the time of his final siege of illness, he was working hard to make that happen.

His work will continue to be read and appreciated. The number of “vile sycophants” will grow. Falsehoods will for many years more be overturned by those who have come in contact, directly or indirectly, with Mr. Auster. I am certain of that.

Readers will note the synchronicity of Mr. Auster’s death. He died on Good Friday. He said repeatedly that becoming a Christian believer was the most important event of his life. Born a Jew, he was baptized as an Anglican on Holy Thursday 15 years ago. And, he was received into the Catholic Church and took the sacraments, including Holy Unction, in his hospital room on Sunday.

There is much more to be said — about the man and the ideas. But today is a day for grief, as well as for gratitude. His almost unimaginable suffering is ended.

Soon we can feel wonder too. We can sit back and marvel at what we had — and still have. The loss of this great fighter invites us to love even more the ideas, principles and heritage that Lawrence Auster loved. It behooves us to love America, even a deceased America, as much as he did; to love Western civilization; to love the written word and unfettered intellectual discourse. His combativeness sprang in part from an internal wellspring of affection.

But we cannot help but also love less. For the world is less without him.

Laura Wood

—- Comments —-

Matthew Hoot writes:

Looking in at VFR these past few days and not seeing any new posts one had a sensation like stepping out expecting firm ground and instead finding empty space. Lawrence Auster was always very much there. His departure is a grave wound at a time when the enemies of all that he loved grow more menacing by the day.

What made VFR so great was that it provided bold real-time commentary about critical public issues that few other commentators touch and did so with unmatched intelligence and vigor. Many times I profited from Auster’s replies and even, on occasion, from his rebukes. It was always a privilege to have a comment posted at VFR.

Today, I trust, he finds himself in the wonderfully new and yet quite familiar position of being on the side of the angels.

“It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.” Ecc. 7:5

Fitzgerald writes:

May eternal memory, peace and rest be his. He will be greatly missed by those of us whom benefited from his presence, wit and intelligence. A great lion of Truth has thrust off this mortal coil. It is our loss not his.

Robert B. writes:

I am out in Colorado skiing with my little Billy. I woke up last night at 1:30 AM and spent an hour trying to get back to sleep.

I read your notice this morning and am grieving so hard. My family and I never stopped praying for Larry and still are. Although my wife Terese sent Lawrence a poem she had written for him, I just could not bring myself to say goodbye to him–it was like giving up on him and I just couldn’t do it.

God Bless you for looking after him, as I assume you are the friend he was staying with.

Damn, I just can’t stop crying.

Laura writes:

I am crying with you.

Ed Suarez writes:

Thank you for the wonderful tribute to Lawrence Auster. I feel an inexplicable void with his passing. He was a lion in the arena of conservative thought and irreplaceable. However, you are one of but a few that must carry the mantle so that Christ-centered and Western thought may continue. I will be praying for you and others to continue the fight Auster so boldly led.

 Laura writes:

Thank you.

But I think you meant to say that you feel an explicable void. The reason for this emptiness is all too understandable.

Hal K. writes:

Thanks for posting the final entries on Lawrence Auster’s blog. His passing away is a loss for many people.

 Winnie writes:

Thank you for sharing the sad news of Lawrence Auster’s passing, and for the information about his funeral. May God bless you for your care and companionship during his final weeks.

My prayers have been answered for his entry into the fullness of the Sacraments and the Chuch – what an amazing grace.

I pray now for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of all who knew and loved him.

Mark Jaws writes:

Those were beautiful words. Thanks you so much for sharing them with us. We owe Lawrence so much. I will miss him terribly. I am so fortunate to have met him a few times and to have dined with him and members of my family during a visit to New York about five years ago. His passing serves to remind us that our time here is short and we must strive every day to discharge our full duty to God, our community, and our family.

P.S. I once asked Lawrence, “Whose work do you actually enjoy reading?” His immediate response – Laura Wood.

Kathlene M. writes:

Thank you for your beautiful and eloquent passage today about Lawrence. I never shared this with anyone except my husband but several weeks ago I had a premonition that Lawrence would pass away around Easter. He was in my prayers frequently over the past year.

I’m extremely sad today, but it is a relief to hear that he received Holy Unction before his passing. I had prayed that he would find peace and healing for his body and soul before he went into God’s loving embrace.

God bless you as you continue with your own worthy writings. I continue to be a reader of your site and of Lawrence’s archived writings. I wish I could physically be at his funeral but I will be there in spirit.

Alan M. writes:

What a beautiful entry on Lawrence’s blog. I was thinking he might pass today and, as you point out, what a fitting day.

Lawrence always pointed out interesting synchronicities and I thought I would share one with you.

Take a look at the VFR page with your annoouncement of Mr. Auster’s death and and the note from him below it that is titled “I am still here.”

I take two things from this:

1. Lawrence is still here with us in spirit and his writings

2. Jesus said that he would be with us, even to the end of days.

Katie’s Dad writes:

I am both crestfallen and relieved at today’s news. I don’t know exactly when I started reading VFR, but I figure it was about the time I started blogging under the pseudonym Katie’s Dad at (I think that was in 2002). I linked to VFR often, and was pleased that the favor was reciprocated on one occasion. I took the blog down after learning it had cost me a job at a government agency despite all diligent and prudent efforts on my part to conceal my identity. I was quoted or mentioned only seven times at VFR. Each time was a great thrill! And I know that somewhere in the cloud I still have replies from Lawrence that I will keep in the digital trove I intend to pass down to my daughter.

Reading VFR helped fill a void for me, enriched me and gave me the courage to continue raising my daughter with traditional values in the face of a stiff and sickening headwind of political correctness. Since learning the severity of Auster’s illness, I’ve been tinkering around with starting a new blog with even tighter controls about my identity and including some fellow conservatives with whom I exchange ideas. His passing makes it more urgent that I do so. I have been sitting on a domain name for six years in case I ever felt the need to get back in the game.

Aside from my own nascent project, I have a proposal: Since there are so many VFR advocates that have been published in VFR comments many multiple more times than I have been, shouldn’t there be an outlet for the discussions to continue? Maybe we could use a Tumblr account and invite VFR’s most regular commenters to have limited authoring privileges. There is so much content on VFR that can be brought back for discussion and re-thought based on current conditions it seems a good way to continue Lawrence’s fight.

While I am thrilled that VFR is going to be around in its current state going forward, I believe we need to do more.

Were it not for work intruding too much to be left alone, I would take the rest of the day off to think about the friend I never met. I unfortunately will not be able to attend the services. But I will take the time for contemplative prayer.

Stephen writes:

Words can’t describe my sorrow at the news. Thank you for all you have done for Mr. Auster and for all of us who care about him. And thank you for your announcement today.

Jewel writes:

Thank you, thank you so much for the lovely tribute to Lawrence. His story is moving. My confirmation into the Catholic Church tomorrow is all the more firm, knowing that he is in that great cloud of witnesses. I shall be praying for him regularly.

John Purdy (aka “John P.”) writes:

I’m a notorious Asperger’s case and not good at these things but like Robert B. I am saddened to tears to hear of Lawrence’s passing. Lawrence and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye: he once banned me from his blog, with vitriol, for what I thought was a fairly innocuous comment. He later claimed to have no recollection of the incident. I always had the utmost respect for Lawrence (I never called him Larry) and he contributed greatly to my understanding of traditionalist thought. His treatment of Voegelin’s concept of Gnosticism was perhaps his greatest contribution to my education. His courage in the face of cancer was an inspiration to me. I’m also sick but my petty concerns pale in comparison to his. He claimed he was not a hero but I have it on good authority that no one feels he’s a hero when he’s being one.

We all knew this was coming but I hoped somehow we would be spared this. A great man has been lost.

Sage McLaughlin writes:

I opened the Holy Bible just now, and sought out a passage, something to give me some resolve on a most difficult Good Friday. I came immediately upon this, and thought of Larry, whom we loved:

And many of them said: He hath a devil, and is mad: why hear you him?
Others said: These are not the words of one that hath a devil.
Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
And it was the feast of the dedication in Jerusalem: and it was winter.”

John 11:19-22

Robert Jackall, Wilmott Family Professor, Williams College, writes:

I’m a long-timer admirer of your own work and I was a devoted reader of Larry Auster’s blog. He and I met only a few years ago, but enjoyed several meals together during that time. He was a remarkable person and a remarkably acute thinker.

I wish I could attend his funeral in Philadelphia but I’m teaching that day at Williams College. My best regards to you and all of his friends.

SJ writes:

I don’t want this to sound disrespectful, and I trust that readers will understand what I am trying to say: I often find that death gives me hope. Nothing else makes the Almighty, and our relationship to Him, seem so prominent. Nothing else drives home the consequences of sin, and the glorious love of Christ our Saviour. Your point about Good Friday synchronicity is powerful to me. A time like this leaves me feeling mournful in a small way, at the loss of a great teacher and ally in this life – but also hopeful for the future joy that awaits us. Unlike many other readers, I guess, I feel no void today – only a sense of great joy at the God that loves us enough to bring us home once and for all at the end of this fleeting life. I am happy that Lawrence’s trials are over, replaced by an eternal rest.

Laura writes:

What you say is true — but I don’t feel that happiness yet.

H.L. Moore writes:

Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Lawrence Auster.

To read the thinking and writing that both of you do and have done is an inspiration and also a source of strength and hope in these unsettled times.

God bless you both.

Laura writes:

Thank you.

Alissa writes:

Rest in peace, Lawrence Auster. I never knew much about you but I loved your writings.

Garrick writes:

In the pre-internet days I always read Commentary Magazine and they often published his letters to the editor. Few have been as realistic on immigration and the shrinking of traditional white America. Rest in peace, Sir Lawrence.

Terry Morris writes:

I miss him already. His last e-mail to me on March 10th began, “Terry, I hope you don’t mind but I have to point out…”

I wrote back to him in part, “Well if I did mind, I would be a fool.” Larry was always very gracious toward me, and I feel very blessed to have known and had many friendly correspondences with him over the years.

I’m so glad I reconnected with him after a two-years-long personal hiatus from blogging.

God bless you, Laura.

Jesse Powell writes:

Lawrence Auster was an intellectual giant. Always honest, very insightful and intellectually curious, and often humorous. Though he often expressed despair he never succumbed to cynicism or nihilism. He seemed to be the backbone and the intellectual foundation for the Traditionalist Conservative cause. Though I never commented at his website I read him regularly. He was most helpful to me in explaining the pathology of liberalism; the nature of the liberal worldview. I understood well the evils of feminism but did not before understand how feminism was related to the broader problem of liberalism. I found Auster to be a very likeable personality and this made reading him more fun.

The greatest debt I owe Auster is him providing a home to Laura Wood as a commenter that then helped Mrs. Wood launch this blog The Thinking Housewife. I first discovered this blog based on an entry at View from the Right as well. This website was the first place I found that allowed me to make a contribution to the cultural debate where I was welcomed and received approval for my contribution. To the extent Lawrence Auster made this site possible and successful through his support for Mrs. Wood I owe him a great deal.

This world seems more lonely and empty with Auster gone. It is like the end of an era. It is up to us now to forge ahead and make something positive of the future.

Perfesser Plum writes:

Magnificent tribute, Mrs. Laura, for a magnificent man. I had to fight the tears.

I can’t think of anyone more qualified than you in intellect and passion to select and edit writings for a series of books.

Kristor writes:

It may be a while before I can put my thoughts in order so as to write anything that even begins to convey how important Lawrence has been, and wil continue to be, not just in my search for truth, but as a friend. One extremely odd aspect of my relationship with him – and I feel sure this is true for other commenters, too – is how close I felt to him, even though I only spent a few hours with him in person, and after that spoke only a few times on the phone. There was something about the way Lawrence communicated through his writing that made him seem immediately present. I feel now as if I must always have known him.

The other thing I know I shall need to think about further, before I begin to understand it, is how Larry could make me feel great, and greatly honored, *even as he was severely criticising me.* How does that work?

Jeanette V. writes:

I will always think of Lawrence as my mentor from afar.  He put in words what I deeply knew but was unable to articulate.  Also, as a result of his blog plus other influences in my life I returned to my Savior, for that I will always be grateful.

I am so glad that he partook of the sacraments and had Holy Unction.  I couldn’t sleep after I got the email that he had gone into a medicated sleep as I knew death was imminent.  I was concerned that he hadn’t been accepted into the Catholic Church in time.

When he began to have his medical problems in January I felt that he would pass away around Easter. In fact, I was just telling my priest last night right before Maundy Thursday service I expected him to die on Good Friday.  We have been praying for him and will continue to do so.

I went to bed last night and my last thoughts were that someday I will once again see Lawrence.

I leave you with this prayer for the dead:

O God of spirits and of all flesh, Who hast trampled down death and overthrown the Devil, and given life to Thy world, do Thou, the same Lord, give rest to the souls of Thy departed servant Lawrence in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, sighing, and sorrow have fled away. Pardon every transgression which he has committed, whether by word or deed or thought. For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind; because there is no man who lives yet does not sin, for Thou only art without sin, Thy righteousness is to all eternity, and Thy word is truth.

For Thou are the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of Thy servants who have fallen asleep, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father, who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever unto ages of ages. Amen.

Karl D. writes:

I was so saddened to read of Larry’s passing yesterday that it has haunted me and continues to haunt me today in a way I can’t describe. Larry was the favorite professor and mentor I never had. Not in the contemporary professor student way, but in a (dare I say) traditional master/pupil relationship of years past. I can hardly accept that he is gone and that there will no longer be any more posts or almost daily communications of some kind between Larry and myself.

I actually half expect to find a post from Larry telling us what the afterlife is like and how his work is still not done as liberals in heaven are lobbying to let sinners in!

Seriously, I am glad Larry got to spend his final days under the watch and care of yourself and your family. My heartfelt thanks to you and yours for giving him that gift. I know Larry is now with Jesus enjoying the bliss of everlasting love.

Karen I. writes:

Mr. Auster fought his battle with the utmost dignity, which was apparent in his writings and his photos. He was an inspiration to me in that regard and many others. Your friend bore his cross with grace. As a patient at a cancer care center, due to being very high risk for some aggressive forms of cancer, I have sometimes wondered how I would fare in the event the worst happens. I can only hope I could face such trials with as much dignity and grace as Mr. Auster did. I will not forget his example of suffering with grace.

David Stollar writes:

I find it extraordinary how moving and sincere are these tributes and how many there are. The same was even more so of the many posts of good wishes and appreciation sent him even before he left us. I am sure he was as amazed as we were. It must have been clear to him by then that he had not wasted his days.

I know of no other such a happening. One cannot count the sort of thing one sees in the case of politicians and celebrities; these are merely conventional, expected and often self-seeking.

The wonder is how many people knew of his work and followed it, although he could hardly be considered a public figure. I don’t think he even published a book! I would guess that for every person posting here on this topic there are many, many others, perhaps hundreds, who feel similarly but don’t necessarily post (like me up until now).

One thing this points to is the potential power of the Internet for good, at least when in the ‘right’ hands. It certainly calls for a suitable follow up and a permanent forum to replace his. This should happen soon or the gathered crowds called together by this event could disperse their several ways and the impulse this has set in motion would be lost.

Perhaps a forum should be opened for suggestions of how to follow up this tragic, painful but triumphant departure with some fitting but living online monument. It should in some way bear his name and feature compendia and extracts from his extensive writings. Most of all it should be a place for encouraging ideas to be exchanged, to keep us misfits in good heart and give us mutual courage. It would take some moderating though, apart from anything else, ideas like his attract some weird fellow travellers.

Well, thinking out loud, as it were; and I know many of you who were much closer to him are already thinking along these lines. So let us stay together. Something like this, I’m sure he would agree, would be the best tribute of all, namely to take his work forward.

Greetings and commiseration from once Great Britain (not dead, as Mr. Auster would say; only sleeping, I assure you).

Laura writes:

I assure you, we will continue as an intellectual movement.

I don’t see the likelihood of dispersal. The ideas are in place, and that’s the most important thing. But right now, I’m not able to discuss the future. I want to mourn his death first.

Joe writes:

LA made one devil of an impact in ways that are surprising in a very welcome way.

My mother died shortly after Palm Sunday nine years ago. Her mother and father died the year before her, also around Eastertide. It brought great comfort knowing that Death is merely the soul’s graduation from one estate to the next. While I miss my parents deeply after all these years, I know they do in fact watch over me, sometimes visiting me in dreams, by sudden insights and through inexplicably recalled memories. I’ve often thought Jesus’ earthly friends must have thought they too were dreaming on seeing their resurrected Lord again.

Lawrence Auster surely looks down from heaven, wherever heaven may be. I believe our Maker calls us when we’re ready — and some are ready sooner than others.

Sarah S. writes:

You have been discreet and quietly busy as you have cared for your dying friend these many weeks. Some of your readers knew him, and many more of us read his work and wished we knew him. I would just say that your availability to help a loved one in time of great need is a powerful testimony to the ministry a family can have when the wife is a homemaker. Surely there is no comparison between the care of family or close friends and the care one would receive from people who are paid to work in an institution for the sick and dying.

Laura writes:

You raise an important subject. I have much to say about it. But for now, let me simply say that the caregiver benefits as much as the person who is ill or dying. I am convinced of that.

Mr. Auster said to me one day, as he was leaning on the shoulder of his “human cane,” “You know, you’re going to rise to a whole new level after caring for me.”

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