Sunday, October 19, 2014

"The controllers of credit"

“TODAY you may say that all society is in debt to those who hold the levers of credit, and that when, or if, we lose our freedom altogether we shall have for masters the remaining controllers of land and machinery, who will have behind them, as ultimate masters, the controllers of credit.”

~Hilaire Belloc: The Way Out.


“OUR wage-slaves have lived under Capitalism for so long that a secure and sufficient wage is for them the economic ideal.”

~Hilaire Belloc: The Crisis of Civilization.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"The family was the well-rooted and established unit of society"

“THE Catholic Church becoming the religion of Graeco-Roman society did among other things, two capital things for the settlement of Europe on its political side, and for arresting the descent into chaos. It humanized slavery and it strengthened permanent marriage. Very slowly through the centuries those two influences were to produce the stable civilization of the Middle Ages, wherein the slave was no longer a slave but a peasant; and everywhere the family was the well-rooted and established unit of society.”

~Hilaire Belloc: from The Crisis of Civilization.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


A COUPLE of generations ago there was a sort of man going mournfully about who complained of the spread of education. He had an ill-ease in his mind. He feared that book learning would bring us no good, and he was called a fool for his pains. Not undeservedly—for his thoughts were muddled, and if his heart was good it was far better than his head. He argued badly or he merely affirmed, but he had strong allies (Ruskin was one of them), and, like every man who is sincere, there was something in what he said; like every type which is numerous, there was a human feeling behind him: and he was very numerous.

Now that he is pretty well extinct we are beginning to understand what he meant and what there was to be said for him. The greatest of the French Revolutionists was right—"After bread, the most crying need of the populace is knowledge." But what knowledge?

The truth is that secondary impressions, impressions gathered from books and from maps, are valuable as adjuncts to primary impressions (that is, impressions gathered through the channel of our senses), or, what is always almost as good and sometimes better, the interpreting voice of the living man. For you must allow me the paradox that in some mysterious way the voice and gesture of a living witness always convey something of the real impression he has had, and sometimes convey more than we should have received ourselves from our own sight and hearing of the thing related.

Well, I say, these secondary impressions are valuable as adjuncts to primary impressions. But when they stand absolute and have hardly any reference to primary impressions, then they may deceive. When they stand not only absolute but clothed with authority, and when they pretend to convince us even against our own experience, they are positively undoing the work which education was meant to do. When we receive them merely as an enlargement of what we know and make of the unseen things of which we read, things in the image of the seen, then they quite distort our appreciation of the world.

Consider so simple a thing as a river. A child learns its map and knows, or thinks it knows, that such and such rivers characterize such and such nations and their territories. Paris stands upon the River Seine, Rome upon the River Tiber, New Orleans on the Mississippi, Toledo upon the River Tagus, and so forth. That child will know one river, the river near his home. And he will think of all those other rivers in its image. He will think of the Tagus and the Tiber and the Seine and the Mississippi—and they will all be the river near his home. Then let him travel, and what will he come across? The Seine, if he is from these islands, may not disappoint him or astonish him with a sense of novelty and of ignorance. It will indeed look grander and more majestic, seen from the enormous forest heights above its lower course, than what, perhaps, he had thought possible in a river, but still it will be a river of water out of which a man can drink, with clear-cut banks and with bridges over it, and with boats that ply up and down. But let him see the Tagus at Toledo, and what he finds is brown rolling mud, pouring solid after the rains, or sluggish and hardly a river after long drought. Let him go down the Tiber, down the Valley of the Tiber, on foot, and he will retain until the last miles an impression of nothing but a turbid mountain torrent, mixed with the friable soil in its bed. Let him approach the Mississippi in the most part of its long course and the novelty will be more striking still. It will not seem to him a river at all (if he be from Northern Europe); it will seem a chance flood. He will come to it through marshes and through swamps, crossing a deserted backwater, finding firm land beyond, then coming to further shallow patches of wet, out of which the tree-stumps stand, and beyond which again mud-heaps and banks and groups of reeds leave undetermined, for one hundred yards after another, the limits of the vast stream. At last, if he has a boat with him, he may make some place where he has a clear view right across to low trees, tiny from their distance, similarly half swamped upon a further shore, and behind them a low escarpment of bare earth. That is the Mississippi nine times out of ten, and to an Englishman who had expected to find from his early reading or his maps a larger Thames it seems for all the world like a stretch of East Anglian flood, save that it is so much more desolate.

The maps are coloured to express the claims of Governments. What do they tell you of the social truth? Go on foot or bicycling through the more populated upland belt of Algiers and discover the curious mixture of security and war which no map can tell you of and which none of the geographies make you understand. The excellent roads, trodden by men that cannot make a road; the walls as ready loopholed for fighting; the Christian church and the mosque in one town; the necessity for and the hatred of the European; the indescribable difference of the sun, which here, even in winter, has something malignant about it, and strikes as well as warms; the mountains odd, unlike our mountains; the forests, which stand as it were by hardihood, and seem at war against the influence of dryness and the desert winds, with their trees far apart, and between them no grass, but bare earth alone.

So it is with the reality of arms and with the reality of the sea. Too much reading of battles has ever unfitted men for war; too much talk of the sea is a poison in these great town populations of ours which know nothing of the sea. Who that knows anything of the sea will claim certitude in connexion with it? And yet there is a school which has by this time turned its mechanical system almost into a commonplace upon our lips, and talks of that most perilous thing, the fortunes of a fleet, as though it were a merely numerical and calculable thing! The greatest of Armadas may set out and not return.

There is one experience of travel and of the physical realities of the world which has been so widely repeated, and which men have so constantly verified, that I could mention it as a last example of my thesis without fear of misunderstanding. I mean the quality of a great mountain.

To one that has never seen a mountain it may seem a full and a fine piece of knowledge to be acquainted with its height in feet exactly, its situation; nay, many would think themselves learned if they know no more than its conventional name. But the thing itself! The curious sense of its isolation from the common world, of its being the habitation of awe, perhaps the brooding-place of a god!

I had seen many mountains, I had travelled in many places, and I had read many particular details in the books—and so well noted them upon the maps that I could have re-drawn the maps—concerning the Cerdagne. None the less the sight of that wall of the Cerdagne, when first it struck me, coming down the pass from Tourcarol, was as novel as though all my life had been spent upon empty plains. By the map it was 9000 feet. It might have been 90,000! The wonderment as to what lay beyond, the sense that it was a limit to known things, its savage intangibility, its sheer silence! Nothing but the eye seeing could give one all those things.

The old complain that the young will not take advice. But the wisest will tell them that, save blindly and upon authority, the young cannot take it. For most of human and social experience is words to the young, and the reality can come only with years. The wise complain of the jingo in every country; and properly, for he upsets the plans of statesmen, miscalculates the value of national forces, and may, if he is powerful enough, destroy the true spirit of armies. But the wise would be wiser still if, while they blamed the extravagance of this sort of man, they would recognize that it came from that half-knowledge of mere names and lists which excludes reality. It is maps and newspapers that turn an honest fool into a jingo.

It is so again with distance, and it is so with time. Men will not grasp distance unless they have traversed it, or unless it be represented to them vividly by the comparison of great landscapes. Men will not grasp historical time unless the historian shall be at the pains to give them what historians so rarely give, the measure of a period in terms of a human life. It is from secondary impressions divorced from reality that a contempt for the past arises, and that the fatal illusion of some gradual process of betterment of "progress" vulgarizes the minds of men and wastes their effort. It is from secondary impressions divorced from reality that a society imagines itself diseased when it is healthy, or healthy when it is diseased. And it is from secondary impressions divorced from reality that springs the amazing power of the little second-rate public man in those modern machines that think themselves democracies. This last is a power which, luckily, cannot be greatly abused, for the men upon whom it is thrust are not capable even of abuse upon a great scale. It is none the less marvellous in its falsehood.

Now you will say at the end of this, Since you blame so much the power for distortion and for ill residing in our great towns, in our system of primary education and in our papers and in our books, what remedy can you propose? Why, none, either immediate or mechanical. The best and the greatest remedy is a true philosophy, which shall lead men always to ask themselves what they really know and in what order of certitude they know it; where authority actually resides and where it is usurped. But, apart from the advent, or rather the recapture, of a true philosophy by a European society, two forces are at work which will always bring reality back, though less swiftly and less whole. The first is the poet, and the second is Time.

Sooner or later Time brings the empty phrase and the false conclusion up against what is; the empty imaginary looks reality in the face and the truth at once conquers. In war a nation learns whether it is strong or no, and how it is strong and how weak; it learns it as well in defeat as in victory. In the long processes of human lives, in the succession of generations, the real necessities and nature of a human society destroy any false formula upon which it was attempted to conduct it. Time must always ultimately teach.

The poet, in some way it is difficult to understand (unless we admit that he is a seer), is also very powerful as the ally of such an influence. He brings out the inner part of things and presents them to men in such a way that they cannot refuse but must accept it. But how the mere choice and rhythm of words should produce so magical an effect no one has yet been able to comprehend, and least of all the poets themselves.

~Hilaire Belloc

Monday, October 13, 2014

"The Book lost its old position in this country"

"IT IS an interesting speculation by what means the Book lost its old position in this country. This is not only an interesting speculation, but one which nearly concerns a vital matter. For if men fall into the habit of neglecting true books in an old and traditional civilization, the inaccuracy of their judgments and the illusions to which they will be subject, must increase."

~Hilaire Belloc: On the Decline of the Book.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Absence Of The Past

IT IS perhaps not possible to put into human language that emotion which rises when a man stands upon some plot of European soil and can say with certitude to himself: "Such and such great, or wonderful, or beautiful things happened here."

Touch that emotion ever so lightly and it tumbles into the commonplace, and the deadest of commonplace. Neglect it ever so little and the Present (which is never really there, for even as you walk across Trafalgar Square it is yesterday and tomorrow that are in your mind), the Present, I say, or rather the immediate flow of things, occupies you altogether. But there is a mood, and it is a mood common in men who have read and who have travelled, in which one is overwhelmed by the sanctity of a place on which men have done this or that a long, long time ago.

Here it is that the gentle supports which have been framed for human life by that power which launched it come in and help a man. Time does not remain, but space does, and though we cannot seize the Past physically we can stand physically upon the site, and we can have (if I may so express myself) a physical communion with the Past by occupying that very spot which the past greatness of man or of event has occupied.

It was but the other day that, with an American friend at my side, I stood looking at the little brass plate which says that here Charles Stuart faced (he not only faced, but he refused) the authority of his judges. I know not by what delicate mechanism of the soul that record may seem at one moment a sort of tourist thing, to be neglected or despised, and at another moment a portent. But I will confess that all of a sudden, pointing out this very well-known record upon the brass let into the stone in Westminster Hall, I suddenly felt the presence of the thing. Here all that business was done: they were alive; they were in the Present as we are. Here sat that tender-faced, courageous man, with his pointed beard and his luminous eyes; here he was a living man holding his walking-stick with the great jewel in the handle of it; here was spoken in the very tones of his voice (and how a human voice perishes!how we forget the accents of the most loved and the most familiar voices within a few days of their disappearance!); here the small gestures, and all the things that make up a personality, marked out Charles Stuart. When the soul is seized with such sudden and positive conviction of the substantial past it is overwhelmed; and Europe is full of such ghosts.

As you take the road to Paradise, about halfway there you come to an inn, which even as inns go is admirable. You go into the garden of it, and see the great trees and the wall of Box Hill shrouding you all around. It is beautiful enough (in all conscience) to arrest one without the need of history or any admixture of the pride of race; but as you sit there on a seat in that garden you are sitting where Nelson sat when he said goodbye to his Emma, and if you will move a yard or two you will be sitting where Keats sat biting his pen and thinking out some new line of his poem.

What has happened? These two men with their keen, feminine faces, these two great heroes of a great time in the great story of a great people of this world, are not there. They are nowhere. But the site remains.

Philosophers can put in formulae the crowd of suggestions that rush into the mind when one's soul contemplates the perpetual march and passage of mortality. But they can do no more than give us formularies: they cannot give us replies. What are we? What is all this business? Why does the mere space remain and all the rest dissolve?

There is a lonely place in the woods of Chilham, in the County of Kent, above the River Stour, where a man comes upon an irregular earthwork still plainly marked upon the brow of the bluff. Nobody comes near this place. A vague country lane, or rather track; goes past the wet soil of it, plunges into the valley beyond, and after serving a windmill joins the high road to Canterbury. Well, that vague track is the ancient British road, as old as anything in this Island, that took men from Winchester to the Straits of Dover. That earthwork is the earthwork (I could prove it, but this is not the place) where the British stood against the charge of the Tenth Legion, and first heard, sounding on their bronze, the arms of Caesar. Here the river was forded; here the little men of the South went up in formation; here the Barbarian broke and took his way, as the opposing General has recorded, through devious woodland paths, scattering in the pursuit; here began the great history of England.

Is it not an enormous business merely to stand in such a place? I think so.

I know a field to the left of the Chalons Road, some few miles before you get to Ste. Menehould. There used to be an inn by the roadside called "The Sign of the Moon." It has disappeared. There used to be a ramshackle windmill beyond the field, a mile or so from the road, on an upland swell of land, but that also has gone, and had been gone for some time before I knew the field of which I write. It is a bare fold of land with one or two little scrubby spinneys alongside the plough. And for the rest, just the brown earth and the sky. There are days on which you will see a man at work somewhere within that mile, others on which it is completely deserted. Here it is that the French Revolution was preserved. Here was the Prussian charge. On the deserted, ugly lump of empty earth beyond you were the three batteries that checked the invaders. It was all alive and crowded for one intense moment with the fate of Christendom. Here, on the place in which you are standing and gazing, young Goethe stood and gazed. That meaningless stretch of coarse grass supported Brunswick and the King of Prussia, and the brothers of the King of France, as they stood windswept in the rain, watching the failure of the charge. It is the field of Valmy. Turn on that height and look back westward and you see the plains rolling out infinitely; they are the plains upon which Attila was crushed; but there is no one there.

All men have remarked that night and silence are august, and I think that if this quality in night and silence be closely examined it will be found to consist, in part at least, in this: that either of them symbolizes Absence. By a paradox which I will not attempt to explain, but which all have felt, it is in silence and in darkness that the Past most vividly returns, and that this absence of what once was possesses, nay, obtrudes itself upon the mind: it becomes almost a sensible thing. There is much to be said for those who pretend, imagine, or perhaps have experienced under such conditions the return of the dead. The mood of darkness and of silence is a mood crammed with something that does not remain, as space remains, that is limited by time, and is a creature of time, and yet something that has an immortal right to remain.

Now, I suppose that in that sentence where I say things mortal have immortal rights to permanence, the core of the whole business is touched upon. And I suppose that the great men who could really think and did not merely fire off fireworks to dazzle their contemporariesI suppose that Descartes, for instance, if he were here sitting at my tablecould help me to solve that contradiction; but I sit and think and cannot solve it.

"What," says the man upon his own land, inherited perhaps and certainly intended for his posterity"what! Can you separate me from this? Are not this and I bound up inextricably?" The answer is "No; you are not so far as any observer of this world can discover. Space is in no way possessed by man, and he who may render a site immortal in one of our various ways, the captain who there conquered, the poet who there established his sequence of words, cannot himself put forward a claim to permanence within it at all."

There was a woman of charming vivacity, whose eyes were ever ready for laughter, and whose tone of address of itself provoked the noblest of replies. Many loved her; all admired. She passed (I will suppose) by this street or by that; she sat at table in such and such a house; Gainsborough painted her; and all that time ago there were men who had the luck to meet her and to answer her laughter with their own. And the house where she moved is there and the street in which she walked, and the very furniture she used and touched with her hands you may touch with your hands. You shall come into the rooms that she inhabited, and there you shall see her portrait, all light and movement and grace and beatitude.

She is gone altogether, the voice will never return, the gestures will never be seen again. She was under a law; she changed, she suffered, she grew old, she died; and there was her place left empty. The not living things remain; but what counted, what gave rise to them, what made them all that they are, has pitifully disappeared, and the greater, the infinitely greater, thing was subject to a doom perpetually of change and at last of vanishing. The dead surroundings are not subject to such a doom. Why?

All those boys who held the line of the low ridge or rather swell of land from Hougoumont through the Belle Alliance have utterly gone. More than dust goes, more than wind goes; they will never be seen again. Their voices will never be heard--they are not. But what is the mere soil of the field without them? What meaning has it save for their presence?

I could wish to understand these things.

~Hilaire Belloc: from First and Last

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Papal authority and scholastic philosophy

“INCIDENTALLY, I may say that the position of the Papacy is misunderstood when it is regarded as a despotic authority acting capriciously. It is part and parcel of the Catholic Church, defining and guiding—not inventing—doctrines, and identified with the general life of Catholicism. Catholics act as they do, not because one individual has taken into his head to give them orders on a sudden, but because they are in tune with the whole spirit of the Catholic Church, of which the Pope is the central authority.

“As an example of the misunderstanding, I may quote the attitude often taken by Non-Catholics towards the advice given by Leo XIII and subsequent Popes in the matter of Scholastic Philosophy. “Pius X,” we are told, “ordained that a philosophy which flourished in the thirteenth century should be the philosophy of the twentieth,” and this attitude is compared to that of an American fundamentalist denying the conclusions of geology. All that is out of focus. No such thing was ever “ordained.” Cardinal Mercier’s great revival of scholasticism at Louvain was approved and commended, and its study warmly supported. But no Catholic is bound to accept that particular system or its terms. I may say in passing that anyone who does adopt it seems to me wise, for it derives from Aristotle, the tutor of the human race, and it represents the highest intellectual effort ever made by man; nor is there conflict between it and evidence, nor any reason to believe that our own particularly muddled time with its disuse of reason is philosophically superior merely because it comes last. But scholasticism is only a human system of thought; it is not a revelation; and the idea that it could be thought equivalent to the Faith or that the Papacy was here imposing it as of Faith could only occur to one wholly unfamiliar with the ancient and abiding Religion of Christendom.”

~Hilaire Belloc: “Church and State.”  (in Essays of a Catholic)  

"Conflict with Catholicism seems to be inevitable"

“I NOTICE, for instance, that certain of our critics are particularly shocked by the admirable statement on the part of the English Catholic bishops just before the late General Election in Britain, where they say that it is no part of the State’s duty to teach, and add that “authority over the child belongs not to the State, but to the parent.” Nothing could be more odious in the ears of modern Nationalism—because nothing is more true. In the face of this tremendous claim of the Modern State, a claim which not even the Roman Empire made, the right to teach what it wills to every child in the community, that is, to form the whole mind of the nation on its own despotic fiat—our critics cannot maintain that the Modern State does not pretend to be “absolute.” It is in fact more absolute than any Pagan state of the past ever was. What is more, its absoluteness increases daily; that is why its conflict with Catholicism seems to be inevitable.”

~Hilaire Belloc: from “Church and State.” (Essays of a Catholic)

The Tree of Knowledge

THE nation known to history as the Nephalo Ceclumenazenoi, or, more shortly, the Nepioi, inhabited a fruitful and prosperous district consisting in a portion of the mainland and certain islands situated in the Picrocholian Sea; and had there for countless centuries enjoyed a particular form of government which it is not difficult to describe, for it was religious and arranged upon the principle that no ancient custom might be changed.

Lest such changes should come about through the lapse of time or the evil passions of men, the citizens of the aforesaid nation had them very clearly engraved in a dead language and upon bronze tablets, which they fixed upon the doors of their principal temple, where it stood upon a hill outside the city, and it was their laudable custom to entrust the interpretation of them not to aged judges, but to little children, for they argued that we increase in wickedness with years, and that no one is safe from the aged, but that children are, alone of the articulately speaking race, truth-tellers. Therefore, upon the first day of the year (which falls in that country at the time of sowing) they would take one hundred boys of ten years of age chosen by lot, they would make these hundred, who had previously for one year received instruction in their sacred language, write each a translation of the simple code engraved upon the bronze tablets. It was invariably discovered that these artless compositions varied only according to the ability of the lads to construe, and that some considerable proportion of them did accurately show forth in the vernacular of the time the meaning of those ancestral laws. They had further a magistrate known as the Archon, whose business it was to administrate these customs and to punish those who broke them. And this Archon, when or if he proposed something contrary to custom in the opinion of not less than a hundred petitioners, was judged by a court of children.

In this fashion for thousands of years did the Nepioi proceed with their calm and ordinary lives, enjoying themselves like so many grigs, and utterly untroubled by those broils and imaginations of State which disturbed their neighbours.

There was a legend among them (upon which the whole of this Constitution was based) that a certain Hero, one Melek, being in stature twelve foot high and no less than 93 inches round the chest, had landed in their country 150,000 years previously, and finding them very barbarous, slaying one another and unacquainted with the use of letters, the precious metals, or the art of usury, had instructed them in civilization, endowed them with letters, a coinage, police, lawyers, instruments of torture, and all the other requisites of a great State, and had finally drawn up for them this code of law or custom, which they carefully preserved engraved upon the tablets of bronze, which were set upon the walls of their chief temple on the hill outside the city.

Within the temple itself its great shrine and, so to speak, its very cause of being was the Hero's tomb. He lay therein covered with plates of gold, and it was confidently asserted and strictly and unquestionably believed that at some unknown time in the future he would come out to rule them for ever in a millennial fashionthough heaven knows they were happy enough as it was.

Among their customs was this: that certain appointed officers would at every change in the moon proclaim the former existence and virtue of Melek, his residence in the tomb, and his claims to authority. To enter the tomb, indeed, was death, but there was proof of the whole story in documents which were carefully preserved in the temple, and which were from time to time consulted and verified. The whole structure of Nepioian society reposed upon the sanctity of this story, upon the presence of the Hero in his tomb, and of his continued authority, for with this was intertwined, or rather upon this was based, the further sanctity of their customs.

Things so proceeded without hurt or cloud until upon one most unfortunate day a certain man, bearing the vulgar name of Megalocrates, which signifies a person whose health requires the use of a wide head-gear, discovered that a certain herb which grew in great abundance in their territory and had hitherto been thought useless would serve almost every purpose of the table, sufficing, according to its preparation, for meat, bread, vegetables, and salt, and, if properly distilled, for a liquor that would make the Nepioi even more drunk than did their native spirits.

From this discovery ensued a great plenty throughout the land, the population very rapidly increased, the fortunes of the wealthy grew to double, treble, and four times those which had formerly been known, the middle classes adopted a novel accent in speech and a gait hitherto unusual, while great numbers of the poor acquired the power of living upon so small a proportion of foul air, dull light, stagnant water, and mangy crusts as would have astonished their nicer forefathers. Meanwhile this great period of progress could not but lead to further discoveries, and the Nepioi had soon produced whole colleges in which were studied the arts useful to mankind and constantly discovered a larger and a larger number of surprising and useful things. At last the Nepioi (though this, perhaps, will hardly be credited) were capable of travelling underground, flying through the air, conversing with men a thousand miles away in a moment of time, and committing suicide painlessly whenever there arose occasion for that exercise.

It may be imagined with what reverence the authors of all these boons, the members of the learned colleges, were regarded; and how their opinions had in the eyes and ears of the Nepioi an unanswerable character.

Now it so happened that in one of these colleges a professor of more than ordinary position emitted one day the opinion that Melek had lived only half as long ago as was commonly supposed. In proof of this he put forward the undoubted truth that if Melek had lived at the time he was supposed to have lived, then he would have lived twice as long ago as he, the professor, said that he had lived. The more old-fashioned and stupid of the Nepioi murmured against such opinions, and though they humbly confessed themselves unable to discover any flaw in the professor's logic, they were sure he was wrong somewhere and they were greatly disturbed. But the opinion gained ground, and, what is more, this fruitful and intelligent surmise upon the part of the professor bred a whole series of further theories upon Melek, each of which contradicted the last but one, and the latest of which was always of so limpid and so self-evident a truth as to be accepted by whatever was intelligent and energetic in the population, and especially by the young unmarried women of the wealthier classes. In this manner the epoch of Melek was reduced to five, to three, to two, to one thousand years. Then to five hundred, and at last to one hundred and fifty. But here was a trouble. The records of the State, which had been carefully kept for many centuries, showed no trace of Melek's coming during any part of the time, but always referred to him as a long-distant forerunner. There was not even any mention of a man twelve foot high, nor even of one a little over 93 inches round the chest. At last it was proposed by an individual of great courage that he might be allowed to open the tomb of Melek and afterwards, if they so pleased, suffer death. This privilege was readily granted to him by the Archon. The worthy reformer, therefore, prised open the sacred shrine and found within it absolutely nothing whatsoever.

Upon this there arose among the Nepioi all manner of schools and discussions, some saying this and some that, but none with the certitude of old. Their customs fell into disrepute, and even the very professors themselves were occasionally doubted when they laid down the law upon matters in which they alone were competentas, for instance, when they asserted that the moon was made of a peculiarly delicious edible substance which increased in savour when it was preserved in the store-rooms of the housewives; or when they affirmed with every appearance of truth that no man did evil, and that wilful murder, arson, cruelty to the innocent and the weak, and deliberate fraud were of no more disadvantage to the general state, or to men single, than the drinking of a cup of cold water.

So things proceeded until one day, when all custom and authority had fallen into this really lamentable deliquescence, fleets were observed upon the sea, manned by men-at-arms, the admiral of which sent a short message to the Archon proposing that the people of the country should send to him and his one-half of their yearly wealth for ever, "or," so the message proceeded, "take the consequences." Upon the Archon communicating this to the people there arose at once an infinity of babble, some saying one thing and some another, some proposing to pay neighbouring savages to come in and fight the invaders, others saying it would be cheaper to compromise with a large sum, but the most part agreeing that the wisest thing would be for the Archon and his great-aunt to go out to the fleet in a little boat and persuade the enemy's admiral (as they could surely easily do) that while most human acts were of doubtful responsibility and not really wicked, yet the invasion, and, above all, the impoverishment of the Nepioi was so foul a wrong as would certainly call down upon its fiendish perpetrator the fires of heaven.

While the Archon and his great-aunt were rowing out in the little boat a few doddering old men and superstitious females slunk off to consult the bronze tablets, and there found under Schedule XII these words: "If an enemy threaten the State, you shall arm and repel him." In their superstition the poor old chaps, with their half-daft female devotees accompanying them, tottered back to the crowds to persuade them to some ridiculous fanaticism or other, based on no better authority than the non-existent Melek and his absurd and exploded authority.

Judge of their horror when, as they neared the city, they saw from the height whereon the temple stood that the invaders had landed, and, having put to the sword all the inhabitants without exception, were proceeding to make an inventory of the goods and to settle the place as conquerors. The admiral summoned this remnant of the nation, and hearing what they had to say treated them with the greatest courtesy and kindness and pensioned them off for their remaining years, during which period they so instructed him and his fighting men in the mysteries of their religion as quite to convert them, and in a sense to found the Nepioian State over again; but it should be mentioned that the admiral, by way of precaution, changed that part of the religion which related to the tomb of Melek and situated the shrine in the very centre of the crater of an active volcano in the neighbourhood, which by night and day, at every season of the year, belched forth molten rock so that none could approach it within fifteen miles.

~Hilaire Belloc: On Something

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"The ambiguity of words"

“AGAIN, in the matter of the ambiguity of words: A man who thinks that, because the Church needed “Reformation” in the early sixteenth century, therefore the disruptive movement also known as “the Reformation” was necessary and good, is less intelligent than a man who does not confuse these totally distinct terms, though they happen to be expressed by the same set of syllables.”

~Hilaire Belloc: from “The Approach to the Skeptic.” (Essays of a Catholic)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"The distribution and use of wealth"

“THE only difficulty is to keep in our minds a clear distinction between what is called economic law, that is, the necessary results of producing wealth, and the moral law, that is the matter of right and wrong in the distribution and use of wealth.”

~Hilaire Belloc: Economics for Helen.

•  Amazon

"This classic introduction to the basics of economic theory offers a constructive approach to economic education by defining terms and introducing key concepts without using insider jargon and complex theories. The fundamental questions about why the economy fluctuates and how small farmers, small business people, families, consumers, and innovators are affected by these fluctuations are considered. Serious alternatives to modern economic theories are explained, with attention to the realities that have been largely unchanged through the last century."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Survivals and New Arrivals―VI. The Opportunity

• Chapter I: Introductory
• Chapter II. The Two Cultures
• Chapter III. Survivals
• Chapter IV. The Main Opposition
• Chapter V. New Arrivals
• Chapter VI. The Opportunity

Chapter VI. The Opportunity

THE New Paganism advances over the modern world like a blight over a harvest. You may see it in building, in drawing in letters, in morals.

But it seems—as yet—to be producing no positive force. It is breeding no new organized religion to combat the Faith. That may come Meanwhile there is a gap: and that gap is our Opportunity. It is possible to reconvert the world.

What weapons can Catholicism discover wherewith to reconquer from Paganism the advance which it shall have made in our culture?

This Opportunity presented to Catholicism has two aspects The first is, that Paganism being of its nature a confessed inability to answer the Great Questions on Man's nature and destiny is of its nature an invitation to those who possess the key. The second is that we are dealing, not with a Paganism native to those we have to meet, but with a Paganism which is a corruption of, and decline from, a much better state of society, some memory of which remains, and the corruption of which may soon prove sufficiently shocking to provoke reaction. We are still dealing with Christendom: with Christendom in ruins, but with Christendom. Our fathers aid us.

As to the first, our unique power to answer the Great Questions, it has always seemed to me the most powerful instrument possessed by the Faith in the spiritual crisis now so close upon us. You cannot perhaps convert despair when despair has been erected into a system, as it has in the greater part of Asiatic Paganism; but you can check it in its beginnings, when it is no more than the loss of something which the despairing man knows he has enjoyed, and cannot but wish he might recover. To the Great Questions which man must ask himself and which so insistently demand an answer (What is man? Whence comes he? Has the universe a purpose? What part does man play in that purpose? What final destinies may be his?) the Catholic Church gives not only a reply (Buddhism does that after a fashion, and even in a very vague manner other Paganisms less systematized) but a fully consistent solution: a sound, complete, system of philosophy. Moreover Her answer is not only consistent; It is triumphant. She knows fully her own validity; She can point in actual practice to the effect of happiness produced in society by Her philosophy.

Those Great Questions will be asked again and again. We are not hearing the last of them; we are rather at the beginnings of their second postulation, at the beginnings of a new interest in them.

It is a strange mark of the New Paganism, and the most hopeful one, that it should already have become occupied, with discussion at least, on the problem of Man. But the greater part of our Neo-Pagans remain throughout the discussion in ignorance of what the Catholic scheme may be. The success or failure of our effort against the New Paganism will depend much more on letting people know what the Catholic Church is, than upon anything else.

It is arresting to discover in what numbers modern men with a reasonable standard of instruction in the rest of the world about them are blank upon the most important subject of all; though it lies everywhere right to their hand. They have not the ABC of the Faith.

Here in England, where I am writing these lines, not a day passes but someone, often of eminence, starts a theological controversy in the popular Press, makes an affirmation, one way or the other, upon the Great Questions, and proposes an answer. But in the whole mass of the stuff—and there are thousands of columns of it—there is not one hundredth which shows the least acquaintance with what the Catholic Church may be: the Catholic theology and its two thousand years of accumulated definition and reason: the philosophy which made our civilization and in the absence of which our civilization may perish.

Thus an Anglican Bishop, Dr. Barnes of Birmingham, a man distinguished in his University, a very clear writer and, one would have said, compelled by his very profession to read some theology, told us his reasons the other day for denying the Catholic doctrine of the Resurrection. He said it was incompatible with chemistry! Evidently he had no idea what the Catholic doctrine might be.

Sir Oliver Lodge, a physicist, produced somewhat earlier a strong affirmation of the future life. It turned out to be this life: much as it is lived in the clubs and hotels of his acquaintance. He has never heard, apparently, the Catholic doctrine of Eternity, nor the implications of that doctrine, nor so much as an echo of the profound speculations, the profounder conclusions which contemplation of Catholic dogma has reached in that awful affair.

These are two typical examples from England. Of course, things are better on the continent of Europe where there is some acquaintance with scholastic philosophy even among the opponents of the Catholic Church. But everywhere the chief need is instruction, and our greatest weakness in the conflict which has begun is the difficulty of getting our opponents to know the mere nature of the subject they are so ready to discuss.

The second opportunity we have is of a different sort, not intellectual but moral. The falling of Christendom into Paganism must necessarily produce results shocking to our inherited culture.

Of this reaction there are already signs, but how far will it be pushed? Left to itself that reaction will effect little. The more hopeful Catholic is encouraged when he sees the disgust already provoked by the first products of the new Paganism. He notes the appeal still presented by traditional morals, by the desire to save beauty and proportion and decent living. The less hopeful Catholic notes the vast and increasing proportion of the world about him in which such disgust is not aroused: on which the worst innovations meet with no protest, though commonly, it is true, with no welcome. He sees the continued progress of slime and the gradual (or rapid) swamping of province after province in our ancient culture.

How far the reaction may go, whether we may not even be able to lead it to a triumphant conclusion, no man can tell. I cannot but wish—somewhat temerariously—that the new Paganism may develop a little too rapidly, shock a little too violently the dormant conscience of Europe, and thereby prepare the counter-attack against it.

Our world finds itself moving towards nothingness; can it remain content in the prospect of such a goal?

All the old goals have disappeared. Civil liberty has not done what was asked of it, it has not even been achieved. Its concomitant, so-called "democracy," has not done what was asked of it, it has not given man dignity or security. Both these great ideals of the 19th century are ending in mere plutocracy and in our subjection to a few quite unworthy controllers of all our lives: the monopolists of material, of currency, information and transport; the tyranny of trust—masters in production, banking, journals and communications.

The lay philosophies have gone. They have all broken down. They are no longer in effect. They fulfilled no ultimate function; they solved no problem, they brought no peace. Their power has departed.

Even the noble religion of Nationalism has only brought us to the mutual self-destruction of the Great War and threat of much worse: and Nationalism itself is growing weary. It made its supreme effort in compelling men to muster for the huge slaughter; it will hardly so muster them again.

The void which I thus indicate is not only negative. It creates what engineers call "a potential," just as a void in nature creates a "a potential." For a void must be filled. Therefore the emptiness of the present moment, and its unrest, have a certain most important, positive effect; and that is the Opportunity. We live not only in a moment of confusion, disappointment and anger, but also in a moment of Opportunity for the Faith.

I have discussed in the last section what signs there might be of new Counter-Religions arising against the Faith and said that, as yet, none appeared. I said also that though not certain yet such a creation was probable. I add here that in its delay is the Opportunity for the Faith to take the initiative again after its long siege of 300 years.

Some solution, as we saw in the discussion of New Arrivals will presumably be attempted; some creed, some social philosophy in which men can rest. Nor will the process perhaps be very long delayed. Mankind of our sort seems unlikely to carry on for long without certitude, real or imaginary. Our minds need something on which to bite and should sooner or later, and sooner rather than later, erect doctrines of which tradition will make an unshaken system; men should adopt not only conventions of conduct, but a code of morals; they should discover or invent something to worship. We of the Faith can present them something real to discover, which, when they have found it, will destroy any desire to invent.

Such is the nature of the Opportunity—and it is of deep interest. Perhaps there has never been an occasion in history when interest of the same kind was present in the same degree.

Perhaps it is more than an Opportunity. Perhaps action has already begun.

The men of a particular period are not aware of the forces that arise in their day. Men in the mass appreciate a force when it is mature and when its action has begun to produce effects upon a large scale. When it is nascent its presence goes either unnoticed or despised.

There is present today throughout the civilization of Europe and its expansion over the New World, a force of this kind; it is the recovery of the Catholic Apologetic.

It is curious to note that the power of this new influence is more readily recognized by the opponents of the Catholic Church than by its friends. These last are too much aware of the old anti-Catholic fashion in history and literature. They exaggerate its survival and are timid.

On the top of that there is the desire not to disturb. What is worse, the very philosophy of our opponents has tinctured our supporters. Among the less-cultivated the connection between religion and its secondary social effects is unfamiliar. Among the somewhat more cultivated there is the fear of disturbing superficial worldly relations. Even in the highest rank of intelligence and sincerity there has grown up a sort of habit in accepting insult, and a "vis inertiae" which inhibits the Catholic from doing freely what his opponents do freely. Yet the Catholic apologetic grows.

This new force, the modern Catholic apologetic, is fought shy of, even by those in whose favor it is working; but to convince yourself of its existence, note two things: the rapidity with which its opponents have discovered its presence, and the change in general tone now running like a tide through the thought of our time.

A new antagonism to the new force of the Catholic Church shows itself in nations of Protestant culture by a certain note of exasperation which in the day of our fathers was unknown. There was plenty of active opposition and bludgeoning of the Church in mid-Victorian days; but it was a contemptuous and assured anger: that of today is panicky. In nations of the Catholic culture the ill-at-ease Catholic advance shows itself in a sort of sullen muttering among our opponents; the complaint of an old cause which thinks its success a matter of right but no longer certain.

If we turn to the positive evidences of this Catholic advance we shall discover these only after a very general fashion.

The characteristically modern test of numbers fails. We are not as yet rapidly advancing in numbers. But the numerical test does not apply at first to a rising moral force. A modern man accustomed to testing everything by numbers, would, if he had been put down in Rome about the year 280, have decided that the Catholic Church had no chance—but he would have been quite wrong.

In numbers, I repeat, the Catholic Church is not advancing appreciably in the modern world. I think that on the whole, in mere numbers, She is slightly receding. Great peasant areas in France have been lost, and in all Catholic countries great numbers of the new working-class suburbs of the towns have been lost: and these losses more than compensate, on a mere counting of heads, for the new recruitment among the thinkers.

In Ireland there may now be some increase over twenty years ago, especially since the stoppage of emigration after 1914. I have no statistics by me as I write; but certainly, compared with a lifetime ago, the figures are against the Faith even there. Whether they be so in Great Britain or no I cannot tell—nor can anyone else—for there is no satisfactory record; but I doubt whether the increase through conversion and the bringing up of the children of mixed marriages has either compensated for the leakage or proved equivalent to the general increase of the population.

Here I am subject to correction by many good observers who will disagree with me. But, at any rate, their margin of disagreement will not be very wide. In Italy and Spain, where the position has been firm now for many years, there have been lost throughout two generations, and especially latterly, great bodies of artisans in the new industrialism. The bulk of the Germans have been subjected for a long lifetime to an anti-Catholic hegemony; in certain Slav States, notably in Bohemia, Nationalism lost, or weakened, Catholic numbers.

But the more important intellectual and moral tests of the advance are all in our favor. To begin with, the Catholic case has "got over the footlights." It has "pierced." Intellectual Europe today is again aware of the one consistent philosophy upon this earth which explains our little passage through the daylight; which gives a purpose to things and which presents not a mere hodgepodge of stories and unfounded assertions, but a whole chain and body of cause and effect in the moral world. It is further becoming apparent that there is, as yet, no rival in this respect to the Catholic Church. There is now no full alternative system left.

Of perhaps more effect in a time such as ours, after so long a prevalence of intellectual decline, is the pragmatic test of the Faith, that is, its test in practice; for practice and experience affect even those who cannot think.

It has become more and more clear in the last generation, and with particular acceleration since the latest and immense catastrophe of the Great War, that the Faith preserves whatever, outside the Faith, is crumbling: marriage, the family, property, authority, honor to parents, right reason, even the arts. This is a political fact—not a theory. It is a fact as large and as certain as is a neighboring mountain in a landscape.

If the influence of the Church declines, civilization will decline with it and all the effects of tradition. It is a commonplace with educated men that the Catholic Church made our civilization, but it is not equally a commonplace—as it ought to be—that on Her continued power depends the continuance of our civilization. Our civilization is as much a product of the Catholic Church as the vine is the product of a particular climate. Take the vine to another climate and it will die.

It is error to mistake this product of the Catholic Church, Civilization, for her true end and nature. Her nature is that of an infallible and divine voice. Her end is beatitude elsewhere for us all: who here are exiles. But my point is that all men should closely watch the fortunes of the Faith, both those who accept it and those who reject it, because that fortune is bound up with all those lesser things which even those who reject the Church regard as essential to right living, from the lesser arts and amenities to the main institutions of European society.

Those who defend and support the Church (though believing it to be but a man-made illusion) because it happens to be the support of a temporal structure, are in grave moral and theological error. The Faith is not to be supported on such grounds. My thesis is not of that kind—God forbid!—but rather that all men believing or unbelieving should fix their close attention, at this moment of revolution and transition, upon the Catholic Church, as being the pivotal institution whereupon the fate, even temporal, of all must turn.

Two things still partly mask that truth: chaotic and feverish industrialism and the idea that tradition can be destroyed and yet life remain. For the second I would say that those who maintain it do not understand the nature of life, of maturity, of a fixed organism—from which if you take away its vital principle the whole decays. While as to the first, industrialism, I should say that it has lived its odd diseased life (strangely and suddenly expanding, but without sufficient happiness) by what it retains of Catholic doctrine. Insofar as Industrialism and its bad commercial morals have lived with any health—and health is not their conspicuous feature—that non-Catholic culture has hitherto lived by retaining some sense of moral responsibility, and I might add (however distantly) of the Incarnation—of the Incarnation's effect, at least, upon human dignity. It has survived on ideas inherited from a better time. Moreover today the non-Catholic culture is manifestly failing, and its only issue is towards nothingness—even more among its Pagan rich than among its now rebellious poor.

I apprehend that in the near future there will arise grave difficulties from the very fact that the tide of the Faith is rising. Those engaged upon helping on that tide will confuse Faith with fads. For this peril a recognition of authority is the first and indeed the only safeguard. Moreover, we have no doubt where Authority lies, and therein we are singularly fortunate, for we act under obedience to a Society of Divine Foundation, of known and definable organs for its expression, and of infallibility in its final decisions.

And upon the right conduct of our passage through such perils, how much depends! Upon the right conduct of the presentation of the Faith in the next long lifetime surely depends the future of the world.

There would seem to be no third event between two issues. Either we shall see the gradual permeation of mankind by the only body of truth to which the mind leaps in unison, rendering all as secure as it can be among a fallen race; or our civilization will sink to be a completely alien body, knowing even less of the Faith than do the distraught town millions of today.

It would seem as though, before the youngest of our children has passed, the world will have had to take its decision between these two alternatives: either the spreading of the Faith throughout the now closely intercommunicating body of mankind, or the splitting of that vast association into two camps: one small, and perhaps dwindling, of the fold; the other large, perhaps growing larger, upon the hills without.

Not a few profound observers (one in especial, a modern French-Jewish convert of the highest intellectual power) have proposed, as a probable tendency or goal to which we were moving, a world in which a small but intense body of the Faith should stand apart in an increasing flood of Paganism. I, for my part (it is but a personal opinion and worth little) believe, upon the whole, a Catholic increase to be the more likely; for, in spite of the time in which I live, I cannot believe that the Human Reason will permanently lose its power. Now the Faith is based upon Reason, and everywhere outside the Faith the decline of Reason is apparent.

But if I be asked what sign we may look for to show that the advance of the Faith is at hand, I would answer by a word the modern world has forgotten: Persecution. When that shall once more be at work it will be morning.

~Hilaire Belloc

Survivals and New Arrivals―V. New Arrivals

• Chapter I: Introductory
• Chapter II. The Two Cultures
• Chapter III. Survivals
• Chapter IV. The Main Opposition
• Chapter V. New Arrivals
• Chapter VI. The Opportunity

Chapter V. New Arrivals

WHILE the Faith is engaged in its main modern battle with the positive forces of Nationalism and Anti-Clericalism, the negative force of intellectual decline, those who are to be our next antagonists, after these are spent, wait in reserve: they will conduct the attack in the near future.

To change the metaphor, the New Arrivals are waiting in the wings while the Main Opposition of our day still fills the stage and the Survivals are filing away to their exits.

Now to appreciate the character of the New Arrivals at any epoch of the Church's history is essential to understanding Her position at that epoch: but it is also the hardest task of all. It is essential, because, by the nature of the New Arrivals do we test the effect the Church is having on Her time: the reaction which She, for the moment, provokes. It is difficult because the things to be studied are not yet developed. They are still slight in substance or embryonic in form. The Survivals we know thoroughly. They are our acquaintances from childhood, our senior friends. Everyone recognizes them and knows all about them. They were familiars of our own parents and we half regret their passing. But the New Arrivals are oddities, disturbing or ignored. Many of us have hardly come across more than one of them. Such as we have met come little into our lives, and when they do, so irritate us with their crudity or incomprehensibility that it is easier to turn aside from them and forget them.

The dear old "Higher Critic," the cousinly "Agnostic" with his test tubes and little geological hammer, these are of the Household as it were: furniture as domestic to us as the landscape of home. And Harnack still with us, Renan and Huxley lately gone, the decorous melancholy of Arnold, are on the best-used shelf of our library. But when it comes to the men who chat pleasantly with the dead, to the men who like discords in music, to the men who prefer the ugly in paint and stone, to the men who openly despair, to the men who willingly share their wives, to the men who laud what we used to call perversion in sex, to the men who find honor quaint and to the men who respect theft and swindling, we not only feel out of place but superior and impatient, as though these barbaric futilities were so ephemeral as hardly to be taken seriously. But we should beware of that mood or it may make us underestimate our enemies.

When I say "we," I speak of my own generation, and I that am writing here am close on sixty; it may be that men and women in the thirties would write differently and feel for the New Arrivals more respect.

Well, when we do look long enough at the New Arrivals pressing to come forward, we discover one very interesting mark common to them all: they are at issue with the Catholic Church not directly on doctrine as were their elders, but on morals. Morals derive from doctrine, of course, and indirectly the quarrel is doctrinal: as all human conflicts are. But the distinctive note of the New Arrivals is that they do not propose new theses to be held in theology, as did the heresiarchs of old, nor first principles in philosophy which contradict the first principles of the Faith, as did our nineteenth century opponents, but that they have a new ethic—or perhaps none.

All the Survivals and even the agents of the present Main Opposition maintained and maintain in practice (and more or less even in theory) the bulk of Catholic morals. They inherited these from the past. They were and are part of that general European civilization which was the creation of the Catholic Church. But the New Arrivals are, in greater and lesser degree, shedding so much of this heritage that they are of a novel kind: they speak in a new language.

Herein lie both the peril and the acute interest of our moment.

We are approaching unknown forms in the conflict between the Church and the world. We are about to meet—or our children are—not the assault of rebels, men of our own speech and manner, but the assault of aliens. Hitherto it has been Civil War: it is soon to be Invasion.

Hitherto the mysteries have been abandoned as unreasonable or illusory; for instance, the Eucharist, the Incarnation. The strict discipline of the Faith has been rejected as too harsh or too meticulous: Theology has been ridiculed as a map of "Terra Incognita," a whimsical imagination. The official framework of the Church has been attacked as tyrannical and man-made, lacking true authority: the main doctrines—even of the Godhead—as lacking evidence and therefore negligible. Hitherto all manner of competing systems in thought have been proposed for the supplanting of the Faith. But throughout these age-long quarrels the tradition of Catholic culture has been preserved. Those in theory most opposed to the Faith have in practice followed the conventions of Europe. Even when they attacked property or marriage it was in the name of Justice. They maintained the concept of human dignity. They were indignant, in all their vagaries, against evils (such as oppression of the poor) which the Faith itself had taught men to hate. Now something quite other is beginning to show. A strange New Paganism. We are concerned to discover its quality, what older allies it will find and whether it may not be the forerunner of some new positive religion.

What quality has it, this New Paganism? To what allies older than itself may it rally? Does it portend the advent of a new positive religion to be set up against the Church in the last days?

Those three questions I would now examine:


It is the common and very true remark of those who survey the modern world as a whole, and especially of those who survey it from the central standpoint, which is that of the Church, and more particularly of those who survey it from the heart of contemporary discussion, which is in France, that the struggle now lies between the Catholic Church and Paganism.

That is now a truism to all save the provincial and belated. But what Paganism? Therein lies our interest. Certainly it is not the Paganism of that radiant Greco-Latin antiquity from which we sprang. The pristine things are not recovered through decay. Senility may be called second childhood, but we do not find in it the eagerness and vitality of youth. Popular faith having rotted into that base welter called the "Modern Mind," there has arisen a growth from the slime. That growth is certainly a Paganism. But a Paganism of what character? Of what smell, taste and stuff? We must know that if we are to guess at its results.

First, why do we call it a Paganism at all?

Paganism at large may be defined as natural religion acting upon man uncorrected by revelation.

If the word "uncorrected" seems unsuitable—for after all, natural religion is true as far as it goes, and the truth does not, qua truth, need correction—let me substitute for the term "uncorrected" the term "unsupplemented." Paganism is what the special language of St. Paul calls "the old Adam," and what we today would put in terms more normal to our idiom as "the natural man."

Let us see in what this religious attitude (for it is a religious attitude—as are indeed all fundamental attitudes of the mind) consists.

Man has a conscience; he knows the difference between right and wrong. He also is necessarily aware of certain great problems upon his nature, end, and destiny which he may not be able to solve, but the solution of which, if it could be reached, must be far more important for him than anything else. Does he only mature, grow old and die, or is that process but part of a larger destiny? Have his actions permanent or only ephemeral consequences to himself? Are awful unseen powers to which he devotes gratitude, worship and fear, imaginations of his or real? Are his dead no longer in being? Is he responsible to a final Judge?

He may decide that as there is no evidence no conclusion is possible, that the search for it is a waste of effort and any apparent discovery thereof an illusion. But he cannot deny that on what the answer is—did he but know it—all conduct and all values turn.

He has a sense of beauty which is, in the average man, strongly founded, and consonant to the great Catholic doctrine that the Creation is good. He is necessarily informed by a sense of justice, and feels that some degree of conformity to it is necessary to the very existence of civil society. He recognizes (does the natural man inspired by natural religion) the folly and danger of excessive pride, of excessive appetite, anger, and the rest: for he has humor to keep him sane.

It might seem at first sight that man thus turned loose and sufficient unto himself would fall into a vague but contented philosophy under which we would live well balanced, as the animals live normally to their instincts, and that the Pagan would be the least troubled of men.

That man would so live if he were left free from the trammels of what calls itself "revelation" is the fundamental doctrine of all that movement which has been leading us back towards Paganism. There is already present among us the conception that Paganism, once re-established, will result in a decently happy world, at any rate a world happier than that world of Christendom which was formed throughout the centuries under the spell of the Faith.

But it is not so. There appears one eccentric point of supreme moment, most revealing, bidding us all pause. It is this: Paganism despairs. Man turned loose finds himself an exile. He grows desperate, and his desperation breeds monstrous things.

Each kind of Paganism came to suffer from horrid gods of its own at last, and these give to each Paganism its particular savor. But the mark of the New Paganism is that it has not reached these last stages by a long process of debasement. It is not entering a period of fresh life. Its gods are already the vile gods of complexity and weakness. The New Paganism is born precocious and diseased.

We conceive of the Pagan, when first we hear of his advent, as a normal man. We all sympathize with him in our hearts; we all understand him: many of us have been at one time or another (mostly in youth) of his company. What quarrel, we then asked, has revealed religion with him? Wherein lies his weakness? We know now. It lies in his rejection of a central spiritual truth, to wit, that man is permanently degraded in his own eyes—without escape: that he has in him the memory of things lost: that he is of heavenly stuff, condemned and broken. It is the doctrine which we Catholics call the Fall of Man.

We cannot use that doctrine as an argument against the Pagan, because if we do so we are, in the eyes of the Pagan, begging the question. But what will appeal to him and to any observer from without, is this: that Paganism, the natural man, acting without revelation, does not conform to his own nature: he is not in equilibrium and repose. It looks as though he ought to be, but in fact he is not. Before the advent of the Faith, even despair could struggle to be noble. But since the medicine for despair has been known, those who refuse the remedy turn base. Europe expecting it knew not what, was one thing. Europe baptized and apostatizing is quite another. Its material has changed.

The New Pagan, of course, laughs at the strict doctrine of the Fall; but he cannot laugh at the actual fact that man, when he acts as though he were sufficient to himself, not only permanently, necessarily and regularly does a myriad things of which he is himself ashamed, not only lacks the power to establish his imaginary healthy normal condition, but increasingly, as his Pagan society progresses, falls into worse and worse evils.

That is patently true. It is not a theory of what should happen when men cease to accept the truth upon man's nature: it is a statement of what does actually happen, witnessed to by all contemporary history and by the experience of individual characters. The old pre-Catholic Paganism did evil but admitted it to be evil. One of the greatest, and, I think, the most tragic lines in Latin verse is that famous phrase:

"Video meliora, proboque: deteriora sequor."

It is a very epitome of the human story: of one man and of all.

But the New Paganism works in an attempted denial of good and evil which degrades all it touches.

Well, then, we say "Pagan society ends in despair." But despair is not normal to men; despair is not the healthy mental state of the healthy natural creature. To say that it is so would be a contradiction in terms. Therefore do we find the old Paganism of the classics accompanied by a perpetual attempt to cheat despair by the opiates of beauty or of stoic courage.
But the New Paganism lives in despair as an atmosphere to be breathed, lives on it as a food by which to be nourished.

The New Paganism then, which is just raising its head, has this quality distinguishing it from the old: that it is beginning where the old left off.

If all Paganisms end in despair, ours is accepting it as a foundation. That is the special mark we have been seeking to distinguish this New Arrival. Hence the lack of reason which is intellectual despair, the hideous architecture and painting and writing which are aesthetic despair, the dissolution of morals which is ethical despair.

The thing is as yet unformed and only shocking in isolated instances. It is tentative as yet, not universal: rather appearing so far, as a series of special lapses from the old Christian standards of civilization in this, that and the other respect, than as a mode. Some few deliberately detestable buildings and sculptures in our towns, (especially in our capitals): books, still somewhat eccentric, portraying every vice; the forced and still novel apology in speech for evil of every kind—preferably for the worst: all these are still no more than isolated insults and challenges. The New Paganism is still no more than a New Arrival. But it is rapidly growing; it is also gathering cohesion; and it cannot but appear in full and formidable strength within a comparatively short period as historical time is reckoned.

We elder people may not live to see the thing full blown though I think we shall—noting as I do the pace at which change is proceeding; but our children will certainly see it. When it is mature we shall have, not the present isolated, self-conscious insults to beauty and right living, but a positive coordination and organized affirmation of the repulsive and the vile.

The New Paganism is advancing to its completion. It is about to take on body and to act as one.

To appreciate that truth take the instance of Marriage. Antique Paganism held the institution of marriage, but of marriage as a civil contract and dissoluble. When the Catholic Church had succeeded to the Pagan Empire it declared marriage holy and indissoluble. It affirmed of marriage and the instincts on which marriage was based, not only that they were good but that the institution itself was a Sacrament.

The Manichaean—that is, the Puritan—regarded these instincts as evil. The Church restricted them outside the sphere of marriage; The Manichaean condemned them altogether. The Neo-Pagan objects to both. He would set up man as an animal. He would, so far, make of marriage nothing but a civil contract terminable on the consent of both parties; soon he must make it terminable at the will of only one. The older heretics in this matter emphasized the human misery caused by the doctrine of indissoluble marriage, denied its divine sanction and worked to abolish its consequences in law. The New Pagans reject it from the root. Logically the Neo-Pagan should get rid of the institution of marriage altogether; but the very nature of human society, which is built up of cells each of which is a family, and the very nature of human generation, forbid such an extreme. Children must be brought up and acknowledged and sheltered, and the very nature of human affection, whereby there is the bond of affection between the parent and the child, and the child is not of one parent but of both, will compel the Neo-Pagan to modify what might be his logical conclusion of free love and to support some simulacrum of the institution of marriage. But his aim is opposed to the whole scheme, and we may truly say that the facility and frequency of divorce is the test of how far any society once Christian has proceeded towards Paganism.

Neo-Paganism grows prodigiously. The process has till recently been masked by the fragmentary survival of the Catholic Scheme, in attenuated and rapidly disappearing forms, through-out the Protestant culture; the tradition of free Will for instance, with its strong effects upon the organization of society, still lingers, retarding the return of servile conditions in Industrial England. You may even note with surprise occasional spasmodic rebellions by the individual against monopoly, legal, economic or political: the survival, however vague and attenuated, of some dogma such as that of future reward and punishment for conduct in this life, or of human equality in despite of riches.

These remnants of Catholic doctrine both put a brake upon the pace of the great change and hide the process from the eyes of the average observer. But I do not see what chance of survival these fragments have in the modern world outside the Catholic body itself: the full corpus of Catholic faith and discipline in communion with Rome.

So long as there were definite Protestant creeds, more or less thought out and sustained by logic of a kind, so long as men could say what they thought and acted thus and thus, Paganism was kept out.

Whether this were to the advantage or disadvantage of mankind may be debated; just as one may debate whether it is better for a body to be warped or to be dead; but at any rate, so far as our present problem goes, these poor survivals of isolated and (in large part) distorted Catholic doctrines, oppose the return of Paganism.

Take, for instance, the Catholic doctrine of Charity. Out of that sprang, in the Middle Ages, and has been carried on to our own time, the whole body of social services, relief of the poor, hospitals, and the rest. These continue after a fashion, though the tradition outside the Catholic body has degenerated into sentimentalism on the one side and wild egalitarian extravagance upon the other. But present as are for the moment these distortions of sane Catholic truth, they cannot survive, because they do not answer the question "Why?" Why should one be charitable to one's fellow men? Why should one be at a burden, social or personal, of tending the sick with particular care and saving suffering, even to the poorest?

The old Paganism did not do these things. It permitted, for sport, such cruelty to man as Catholicism alone dispelled.

Most people, if they were asked to answer this question "Why?" would reply that such Charity was part of men's natural instincts; but all Pagan history and Pagan literature is there to prove the contrary; or at any rate, that if a certain measure of Charity be part of natural religion, and thus admitted by Pagan man, he does not act upon it. For, when a consistent creed is absent, the various parts of moral action are disassociated one from another, and all rapidly fail.

To take another instance. Why should I believe in moral sanctions applicable in a future life? So long as people went definitely by an accepted body of doctrine, such as the Calvinist, even so long as they accepted the authority of canonical scripture (though at their own individual interpretation) there was cohesion and therefore a principle of survival in the whole of what they thought and did. But when these creeds and authorities have gone—and take the white world as a whole, there is not much of them left today outside the Catholic Church—no guide to conduct remains but the instincts of men left to themselves, uncorrected, and the tendency to satisfy those instincts, even to their own hurt.

Paganism once erected into a system, once having taken on full shape, and proceeding to positive action, must necessarily become a formidable and increasingly direct opponent of the Catholic Church. The two cannot live together, for the points upon which they would agree are not the points which either thinks essential.

The clash must arise at first indirectly. A Pagan state makes certain laws which are repugnant to the Catholic conscience, laws concerning marriage or property, or domestic habits in eating and drinking, or concerning the freedom of labor, or any other function of the dignity of man. It proposes, let us say, what is called the "sterilization of the unfit," or compulsion in the matter of hours and wages ("compulsory arbitration" the beginning of fully servile institutions)—or "eugenics," or the compulsory limitation of progeny, or any other nastiness.

In no such examples—and one might add a hundred more—would it be possible for the Catholic individual or the Catholic body to approve or even to stand aside as a neutral.

We have seen how this is so in the case of a universal compulsory educational system—there the Catholic objection is obvious. But it is present also, though less obvious, in any other hypothetical case you may consider. There will arise as the New Paganism spreads instances in which a Catholic finds himself asked to obey a law which he cannot in conscience obey—as for instance, to make a declaration of mental incapacity in a dependent, well-knowing that this will legally involve castration. There cannot be an indefinite postponement of the issue

I have suggested that the threat of Paganism returning among the white races, and the strength of Paganism when it shall have returned, will be presumably enhanced by a sort of moral alliance between it and the exterior Paganism of the East, of Asia and not only of Asia, but, for that matter, of Africa too.

Now such a statement sounds, when it is put thus simply and shortly, and today, too unlikely to be acceptable. Its unlikeliness is even violent in the ears of the modern man. We have stood apart for centuries from organized Heathendom: that great sea surrounding the island of Christendom.

Latterly—that is, during the last three centuries, but especially during the nineteenth—we had even grown to despise the heathen world. It was far weaker than ourselves in military power, and in nearly all those arts of life which, even as we lost our own religion, we had come to regard as the most important.

But great tendencies are not to be judged by contemporary experience alone; still less by an inherited habit of thought from the past. We have to strike a curve and to find out the future probable development of that curve. It is worthless merely to strike a tangent from the particular moment in which we live If you had hazarded such guesses, even as little as fifty years ago, as (l) that by 1929 the United States would be under prohibition, (2) that women would be sitting in the English House of Commons, (3) that Russia would be organized as an experiment in Communism under a clique of Jews, the suggestions would have sounded mad. Yet all these things have come to pass and an observer of general tendencies in the course of the nineteenth century might have observed the beginnings of the forces which were to lead to such widespread changes.

What forces are present today making for a moral alliance between the rising Paganism of the white man and the age-long Paganism of the black, brown and yellow man?

They are two, and they are sufficiently remarkable.

There is, in the first place, the sympathy between any one Paganism and another; for all forms of Paganism have in common the principle that man is sufficient to himself, and all have in common the negation of an absolute Divine Authority acting through revelation. They also have all in common the indulgence of human passion, and the practical permission of excess in it, whether in the passions of the appetite, or of anger, or of any other driving power in natural man.

In the second place there is propinquity. We are today mixed up with the old outer world as the classic Paganism of our forefathers never was. The Paganism of the Mediterranean basin, from which all our culture springs, was not originally affected very much by the Paganisms of Asia; by the Paganism of the Black races it was affected hardly at all: not because they would not have had some natural affinity with any other Paganism, but because there was little physical contact between them. Today such opportunity is universal, and is increasing in effect. Today the barrier, the only effective barrier, against such infiltration of Pagan ideas from races other than our own, is a strong anti-Pagan moral system and creed—and there is none such outside the Catholic Church.

If anyone doubt the menace of which I speak, let him note the nature of the degradation which has already, so recently and rapidly, come over our art. It is not the most important side of the affair, but it is the most easily discoverable, and therefore I mention it before the others. Thus, in our popular music the thing is glaring. The modern revolution in that art is a direct introduction of a force deriving from African Paganism. There is a strong though indirect and veiled corresponding influence in architecture, coming, not indeed from Africa, where Paganism was too debased to have any architecture at all, but from the same spiritual roots as nourished the monstrous moles of the ancient East. In this perversion the Prussians have been pioneers, the Bavarians after them, and the French are now following suit. England, happily for herself, lags behind. In Italy, with its strong Catholic culture, there is now a powerful reaction towards the ancestral beauty of European things as towards order in all its forms. But take Europe as a whole, and it is suffering heavily, and perhaps increasingly, in its external forms of art, not only architectural but pictorial, from the Pagan influence of Asia. In sculpture this repulsive innovation is notorious.

But by far the most profound effect of what I will call "The Pagan Alliance" appears in what lies at the root of everything—to wit, Philosophy.

Whether it be in the form of religious error, or in the commoner form of negation (which is the essential of the Buddhist business—what it is plainer to call, in Christian terms, Atheism) the influence of these ancient alien Paganisms is upon us everywhere.

At the same time we are growing more and more to respect the cultures arisen from those exterior paganisms. Our modern Neo-Pagans of European stock have welcomed this fraternization as a good thing. This welcome springs in part from their "brotherhood of the world" business; but much more is it a response of like to like.

It is not a good thing: it is a very bad thing, is this new respect for the non-Christian and anti-Christian cultures outside Europe. Insofar as it progresses it will inevitably breed, as it has already bred in so many, a contempt of Christian tradition and philosophy, as being things at once old-fashioned and puerile. There is more than one prominent European writer professing not only close acquaintance with, but reverence for, the Buddhist negation of God and of personal immortality: at the other extreme you have the respect for the Pagan ruthlessness and the Pagan doctrine of right-by-conquest.

There is no doubt that a powerful accelerator to this tendency was the sudden modern development of Japan. When the Japanese army defeated the Russian twenty odd years ago, it was a turning point in the history of our culture. When the Government of Great Britain took the step of allying itself openly with this new force—a policy which preceded that victory—it was a moral turning-point even more serious.

The thing has not yet gone so far as to become an immediate menace. The inter-communion between the new Paganism of Europeans and the very ancient Paganism of other races is as yet only faintly sketched out; but it is advancing. I cannot but believe that in another generation it will be powerful, apparent to all.

There remains, apart from the old Paganism of Asia and Africa, another indirect supporter of Neo-Paganism: a supporter which indeed hates all Paganism but hates the Catholic Church much more: a factor of whose now increasing importance the masses of Europe are not as yet aware: I mean the Mahommedan religion: Islam.

Islam presents a totally different problem from that attached to any other religious body opposed to Catholicism. To understand it we must appreciate its origins, character and recent fate. Only then can we further appreciate its possible or probable future relations with enemies of the Catholic effort throughout the world.

How did Islam arise?

It was not, as our popular historical textbooks would have it, a "new religion." It was a direct derivative from the Catholic Church. It was essentially, in its origin, a heresy: like Arianism or Albigensians.

When the man who produced it (and it is more the creation of one man than any other false religion we know) was young, the whole of the world which he knew, the world speaking Greek in the Eastern half and Latin in the Western (the only civilized world with which he and his people had come in contact) was Catholic. It was still, though in process of transformation, the Christian Roman Empire, stretching from the English Channel to the borders of his own desert.

The Arabs of whom he came and among whom he lived were Pagan; but such higher religious influence as could touch them, and as they came in contact with through commerce and raiding, was Catholic—with a certain admixture of Jewish communities.

Catholicism had thus distinctly affected these few Pagans living upon the fringes of the Empire.

Now what Mahomet did was this. He took over the principal doctrines of the Catholic Church—one personal God, Creator of all things; the immortality of the soul; an eternity of misery or blessedness—and no small part of Christian morals as well. All that was the atmosphere of the only civilization which had influence upon him or his. But at the same time he attempted an extreme simplification.

Many another heresiarch has done this, throwing overboard such and such too profound doctrines, and appealing to the less intelligent by getting rid of mysteries through a crude denial of them. But Mahomet simplified much more than did, say, Pelagius or even Arius. He turned Our Lord into a mere prophet, though the greatest of the prophets; Our Lady (whom he greatly revered, and whom his followers still revere), he turned into no more than the mother of so great a prophet; he cut out the Eucharist altogether, and what was most difficult to follow in the matter of the Resurrection. He abolished all idea of priesthood: most important of all, he declared for social equality among all those who should be "true believers" after his fashion.

With the energy of his personality behind that highly simplified, burning enthusiasm, he first inflamed his own few desert folk, and they in turn proceeded to impose their new enthusiasm very rapidly over vast areas of what had been until then a Catholic civilization; and their chief allies in this sweeping revolution were politically the doctrine of equality, and spiritually the doctrine of simplicity. Everybody troubled by the mysteries of Catholicism tended to join them; so did every slave or debtor who was oppressed by the complexity of a higher civilization.

The new enthusiasm charged under arms over about half of the Catholic world. There was a moment after it had started out on its conquest when it looked as though it was going to transform and degrade all our Christian culture. But our civilization was saved at last, though half the Mediterranean was lost.

For centuries the struggle between Islam and the Catholic Church continued. It had varying fortunes, but for something like a thousand years the issue still remained doubtful. It was not till nearly the year 1700 (the great conquests of Islam having begun long before 700) that Christian culture seemed—for a time—to be definitely the master.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Mahommedan world fell under a kind of palsy. It could not catch up with our rapidly advancing physical science. Its shipping and armament and all means of communication and administration went backwards while ours advanced. At last, by the end of the nineteenth century, more than nine-tenths of the Mahommedan population of the world, from India and the Pacific to the Atlantic, had fallen under the Government of nominally Christian nations, especially of England and France.

On this account our generation came to think of Islam as something naturally subject to ourselves. We no longer regarded it as a rival to our own culture, we thought of its religion as a sort of fossilized thing about which we need not trouble.

That was almost certainly a mistake. We shall almost certainly have to reckon with Islam in the near future. Perhaps if we lose our Faith it will rise. For after this subjugation of the Islamic culture by the nominally Christian had already been achieved, the political conquerors of that culture began to notice two disquieting features about it. The first was that its spiritual foundation proved immovable; the second that its area of occupation did not recede, but on the contrary slowly expanded.

Islam would not look at any Christian missionary effort. The so-called Christian Governments, in contact with it, it spiritually despised. The ardent and sincere Christian missionaries were received usually with courtesy, sometimes with fierce attack, but were never allowed to affect Islam. I think it true to say that Islam is the only spiritual force on earth which Catholicism has found an impregnable fortress. Its votaries are the one religious body conversions from which are insignificant.

This granite permanence is a most striking thing, and worthy of serious consideration by all those who meditate upon the spiritual, and, consequently, the social, future of the world.

And what is true of the spiritual side of Islam is true of the geographical. Mahommedan rulers have had to give up Christian provinces formerly under their control: especially in the Balkans. But the area of Mahommedan practice has not shrunk. All that wide belt from the islands of the Pacific to Morocco, and from Central Asia to the Sahara desert—and south of it—not only remains intact but slightly expands. Islam is appreciably spreading its influence further and further into tropical Africa.

Now that state of affairs creates a very important subject of study for those who interest themselves in the future of religious influence upon mankind. The political control of Islam by Europe cannot continue indefinitely: it is already shaken. Meanwhile the spiritual independence of Islam (upon which everything depends) is as strong as, or stronger than, ever.

What affinities or support does this threat of Islam promise to the new enemies of Catholic tradition?

It will sound even more fantastic to suggest that Islam should have effect here than to suggest that Asiatic Paganism should. Even those who are directly in contact with the great Mahommedan civilization and who are impressed, as all such must be by its strength and apparently invincible resistance to conversion, do not yet conceive of its having any direct effect upon Christendom. There are a few indeed who have envisaged something of the kind. But what they had to say was said before the Great War, was confined to individuals either isolated or eccentric, and produced no lasting impression upon either the French or the English: the only two European countries closely connected, as governing powers, with the Mahommedan. To the New World the problem is quite unfamiliar. It touches Mahommedanism nowhere save very slightly in the Philippines.

Nevertheless I will maintain that this very powerful, distorted simplification of Catholic doctrine (for that is what Mahommedanism is) may be of high effect in the near future upon Christendom; and that, acting as a competitive religion, it is not to be despised.

No considerable number of conversions to Mahommedanism from Christendom is probable. I do not say that such a movement would not be possible, for anything is possible in the near future, seeing the welter into which Christian civilization has fallen. But I think it improbable, and even highly improbable, because Mahommedanism advances in herd or mob fashion. It does not proceed, as the Catholic religion does, by individual conversions, but by colonization and group movement.

But there are other effects which a great anti-Catholic force and the culture based upon it can have upon anti-Catholic forces within our own boundaries.

In the first place it can act by example. To every man attempting to defend the old Christian culture by prophesying disaster if its main tenets be abandoned, Mahommedanism can be presented as a practical answer.

"You say that monogamy is necessary to happy human life, and that the practice of polygamy, or of divorce (which is but a modified form of polygamy) is fatal to the State? You are proved wrong by the example of Mahommedanism."

Or again "You say that without priests and without sacraments and without all the apparatus of your religion, down to the use of visible images, religion may not survive? Islam is there to give you the lie. Its religion is intense, its spiritual life permanent. Yet it has constantly repudiated all these things. It is violently anti-sacramental; it has no priesthood; it wages fierce war on all symbols in the use of worship."

This example may, in the near future, be of great effect. Remember that our Christian civilization is in peril of complete breakdown. An enemy would say that it was living upon its past; and certainly those who steadfastly hold its ancient Catholic doctrines stand today on guard as it were, in a state of siege; they are a minority both in power and in numbers. Upon such a state of affairs a steadfast, permanent, convinced, simple philosophy and rule of life, intensely adhered to, and close at hand, may, now that the various sections of the world are so much interpenetrating one and the other, be of effect.

The effect may ultimately be enhanced in the near future by a political change.

We must remember that the subjection of the Mahommedan—a purely political subjection—was accomplished by nothing more subtle or enduring than a superiority in weapons and mechanical invention. We must further remember that this superiority dates from a very short time ago.

Old people with whom I have myself spoken as a child could remember the time when the Algerian pirates were seen in the Mediterranean and were still in danger along its southern shores. In my own youth the decaying power of Islam (for it was still decaying) in the Near East was a strong menace to the peace of Europe. Those old people of whom I speak had grandparents in whose times Islam was still able to menace the West. The Turks besieged Vienna and nearly took it, less than a century before the American Declaration of Independence. Islam was then our superior, especially in military art. There is no reason why its recent inferiority in mechanical construction, whether military or civilian, should continue indefinitely. Even a slight accession of material power would make the further control of Islam by an alien culture difficult. A little more and there will cease that which our time has taken for granted, the physical domination of Islam by the disintegrated Christendom we know.

That the New Arrival called Neo-Paganism will increase seems assured. That it will find support, positive from the older Paganism, negative from Islam as a fellow opponent of Catholicism, is possible or probable—though the modes of such support are not apparent today. But will it long remain as the Main Opposition when it shall have come to maturity? Or will it give way to some New Religion, with definite tenets and an organization of its own? Is there any appearance as yet of such a development? That is what we may next examine, and we must begin by looking at one or two typical bodies of the sort already in existence in order to decide whether they threaten to grow, or point to what might succeed them.

Outside the Catholic Church, we say, what was once Christendom is rapidly becoming Pagan: Pagan after a new fashion, but still Pagan. It is falling into the mood that man is sufficient to himself, and all the consequences of that mood will follow under a general color of despair.

But will this mood, after a first trial, be supplanted by a new religion sufficiently universal, organized and strong to challenge the Catholic Church? At present there is no sign of such a thing. None is present among the New Arrivals. But may not some such force soon arise?

It is very probable. It is not certain.

It is probable, because man can with difficulty persist in mere ideas or abstractions. He can with difficulty live on such thin food. He needs the meat of doctrine defined, of a moral code also defined—and with instances. He needs the institutions of a ritual and of all the external framework of worship. Moreover, man corporate demands answers to the great questions which face him: the problems of his own origin, nature and destiny. Man as an individual can decide them to be insoluble and lead his life—not easily—under the burden of that decision. But man in society does not repose in such negations. Therefore is the production of a new positive religion (with a special character of its own, a ritual, a doctrine) probable.

But it is not certain, for we know that, as a fact, great societies have long persisted content with a social scheme in which conventions take the place of doctrine and in which no defined philosophy clothed with external ritual and supported by organization is universal or even common. And when we consider the present situation we do not discover anything (as yet) from which, as from a seed, this new religion could spring.

It would seem, to begin with, that there will be no resurrection of the Protestant sects.

Not so long ago these were actual religions, and in particular Calvinism, with its fierce logic, iron conviction and completeness of structure, all informed with the French character of its creator. More loosely defined, but, still, organized and individual, heretical or schismatical bodies existed side by side with Calvinism. One could discover in each of these an ethic of its own, and, for all the Protestant ones combined, a fairly defined Protestant ethic or tone of mind. Meanwhile the Greek Church nourished an antagonism rather political than doctrinal and was also a powerful adverse force. But today these forces seem to have passed beyond the possibility of resurrection. Even the political strength of the Greek Church has been put out of action permanently by the effects of the Great War and revolution, with a gang of international adventurers replacing the old power of the Czardom and presiding over the ruin they have made.

I do not mean to deny that the strong evangelical spirit of Protestantism, and particularly of Calvinism, does not survive and is not an opponent; but when one is speaking of its resurrection as a religion for the future one must consider doctrine; and its doctrine has so thoroughly dissolved in the last fifty years that its re-establishment is hardly conceivable.

It is debatable, as I have said, whether this change is one for the worse or the better: on that point we may delay for a moment.

In one sense the power to hold any transcendental doctrine shows the soul to be still awake and therefore capable of achieving true transcendental doctrine, while those who lose the sense of the supernatural will be more difficult of approach.

On the other hand, with the loss of doctrine has gone the loss of support and framework of what opposed us. For instance, a Calvinist of the old school, with his passionately held dogma of salvation by faith, had for the ornament and ritual of the Catholic Church a correspondingly fierce hatred. His son today feels for such things indifference at the best or contempt at the worst; sometimes even admiration of adventitious beauty in Catholic rite and image.

At any rate whether this great change, the decay of the old Protestant bodies, be good or evil, it is an undoubted historical fact of our day. In Britain, as in Germany and the United States, the old catechisms, and what were in their odd way quasi creeds, have disappeared and we shall surely not hear of them again.

Where else may the seed of a New Religion, which shall grow to be the future arch-enemy of the Catholic Church, be sought?

We are surrounded by many novel experiments in worship and doctrine, but in none of them, not even in the Spiritualist, which would seem the strongest in structure, does there appear a vitality sufficient to produce any universal growth.

We find no such vitality in what may be called the "experiments in subjectivism."

Their name is legion. Half-a-dozen have cropped up within the later part of my own lifetime, and no doubt another dozen or more will crop up within the same length of time in the immediate future. It was only the other day that I came across the Sect of Deep-Breathers. In a sense the petty experiments thus based on what is called "subjectivism" are always with us, because almost any statement of religious experience through the individual, and that experience treated as a full authority without reference to the Church or any other form of authority, is subjectivism. Every revivalist meeting is an example of subjectivism. So is every book claiming to discover the truth through personal emotion.

But the subjective sects of this sort are swarming today with an especial vigor that merits attention if we are seeking for the possible signs of a new religion. At least, they are swarming in the English-speaking world.

There is no space to discuss the origins of these things; it must be sufficient to mention them. All ultimately derive from the protest against the authority of the Church at the Reformation. Since the authority of the Church was denied, some other authority had to be accepted. The parallel authority of Holy Scripture was put forward. Then came the obvious difficulty, that, since there was no external authoritative Church, there was no one to tell you what Holy Scripture meant, and you were thrown back on the interpretation which each individual might make of any passage in the Bible, or its general sense. For instance (to take the leading example) the individual had to decide for himself what was meant by the words of Consecration. But the modern extension of the thing has gone far beyond such comparatively orthodox limits as trusting to the authority of Holy Scripture, even under private interpretation. It has taken the form of basing religion upon individual feelings. Men and women say: "This is true, because it is true to me. I have felt this, and therefore I know it to be true."

Of these subjective sects the most curious, though not the most powerful at the present moment, is the strange system called Christian Science. No doubt tomorrow another will succeed it, and after that yet another; but today it is Christian Science which stands out most prominently as the type of a subjective sect. Its votaries, of course, will tell us of much that it includes besides its most striking tenet; but that most striking tenet is sufficient to characterize it. The faithful of the sect are asked to regard the individual mental attitude towards evil, and especially physical evil, as a purely subjective phenomenon. Persuade yourself that it is not there, and it is not there. Hence powers of healing and all the rest of it.

Now these counter-religions, opponents to and, in their little way, rivals of the Catholic Church, have two characteristics apparently contradictory but not really so. One is the permanence of the phenomenon, the other is the ephemeral quality of individual instances. They are always cropping up—especially today—but they are also perpetually disappearing after a short life.

I would like to concentrate upon the second characteristic, to show why I do not regard any one of these counter-religions of the subjective sort as a serious menace to Catholicism.

The sectarian of these vagaries is often intense and always sincere. Based as her (sometimes his) mood is upon personal enthusiasm and personal spiritual experiences, it brooks no contradiction. But it does not last, because it makes no appeal to that fundamental necessity of the human reason for external proof. I may be told that it does so in the particular case of Christian Science which appeals to actual cures. But there is not sufficient volume and persistence of such cures. Moreover, the claim made is at issue with the common sense of mankind.

It is here that the various forms of subjective religion show themselves so much weaker than Spiritualism; for Spiritualism, as we shall see, bases itself on controllable positive proof. Amid a mass of fraud there is a certain residue of ascertainable evidence; and though much of that evidence may be shaken there is a remainder which cannot be denied. Spiritualism appeals to something which the human race has always demanded, to wit, external evidence verifiable by a number of independent means. Your purely subjective religion does not appeal to such evidence. It appeals to intensity of enthusiasm, and to little more. Hence its lack of substance, its probable lack of endurance.

Here it may be objected: "If you say that this or that sect, based on such mere emotions and wholly subjective in character, cannot form the seed of an organized Universal Religion; what about the Catholic Church, which Herself arose from such a beginning of enthusiasm and illusion?"
The parallel is wholly false.

Nothing is commoner than for those who are ill-acquainted with the early history of the Catholic Church and of the society in which it arose, to explain the origin of Catholicism in these terms. They put it forward as a subjective religion, confirmed by some marvelous cures which were real and a host of imaginary events which men only accepted because they were in an abnormal state of mind.

But has Catholicism really been like this in its origins it would never have survived. It survived because it appealed also to the general sense of mankind; because it fitted in with what mankind knew of itself and its needs, and of what it lacked to satisfy such needs; also because it confirmed itself every day in the lives of those subjected to it; because, of the wonders put forward, the greatest of all—the Resurrection—was reluctantly witnessed to by opponents; but most of all because it maintained unity. The Catholic Church was from Her origin a thing, not a theory. She was a society informing the individual, and not a mass of individuals forming a society. From Her very beginning She tracked down heresy and expelled it. She is a kingdom. Subjective religion is a private whim. Though it must continue an unceasing form of error so long as men refuse authority and are strongly subject to religious emotion, it will never build up a rival church. As a general tendency, especially while it still inherits the general ethic of its Protestant origins three hundred years old, it is an influence hostile to Catholicism; but its various products have not the stuff of permanence in them. They have not in them a sufficient correspondence with reality to create any one formidable opponent. Spiritualism has such correspondence with real (objective) phenomena.

What of Spiritualism?

When I examine Spiritualism from the outside I notice certain characteristics about it which are very remarkable.

In the first place there is a positiveness, an unquestioning and sober conviction which is quite different from the hysteria of the sects and which it is of the highest interest to note and analyze.

This conviction is not of the nature of Faith, properly so-called. Faith is a virtue, a grace, and an act of the will. The essential of Faith is an acceptation, upon authority, of things unseen; that is a refusal by the will to admit the opposite of a proposition, although experimental proof be lacking. But Spiritualism holds its convictions upon sensible, or supposedly sensible, experience; that is, upon experimental proof.

Now that is a new note altogether in the story of modern religions. The Presbyterian, the Lutheran, the Baptist and the rest did not say that they held their tenets through a direct personal experience of the senses. Neither Zwingle nor any other Heresiarch claimed that they had seen or heard the things which they believed. On the contrary, apart from their novel doctrines they retained a great mass of the ancient Catholic dogmas such as the Incarnation, the Trinity, etc., which of their essence are transcendental, and cannot be witnessed to by the senses. But Spiritualism says "I have physical evidence of those things hitherto called supernatural, and it is upon that physical evidence I base myself, not upon an internal emotion or 'religious experience' as does the typical Protestant sectarian today, nor on Authority as does every Catholic."

I think we ought to recognize how strong a foundation is this appeal to positive evidence, and what a fixed type of certitude it produces. I could quote the case of a man for whom I have the highest respect; one of the best living writers of the English language, who was frankly and openly an atheist and materialist till he was quite elderly, and who, being a very sincere man, made no concealment of his philosophy. He denied the survival of the soul and even the existence of God. This man by his own testimony (and he would be the last person to affirm anything he believed to be false) heard at a seance the voice—and, if I remember rightly, saw the face as well—of someone he had deeply loved and who was dead. He bore witness to this sight and hearing to myself and to the world. This man I have personally known and shall always revere.

Note further that all those who support Spiritualism talk in the same fashion. We have a prominent popular writer of fiction, a great physicist, and many other names drawn from every kind of intellectual pursuit repeating with passionate earnestness that "the thing is proved," that those who deny it are willfully refusing to examine plain testimony, and that anyone who will impartially do so will be convinced.

Now it may be contended that none of the phenomena, for which there is indeed a great body of testimony, have necessarily the character claimed for them. Many (for instance, the mentioning by a medium of things only known to one of those present) may be explained by what is a certainly proved fact and established (though abnormal and seemingly not of this world)—telepathy. Others (for instance, the seeing of a face or the hearing of a voice) may be set down to illusion. But it seems to be the general agreement of those who have gone deeply into the matter—and not less of those who abhor Spiritualism than of those who revere it—that there is, when all is explained (trickery, illusion and the rest of it) a certain balance of what we should call transcendental experience. You may meet many a man and woman in the case of the one I quoted; people who have become convinced of what are called "the truth of Spiritualism" after having been, like most of us, contemptuously skeptical. But the other process, the man who has believed in it and lost faith, is perhaps unknown, or at any rate very rare. Here then I say is the first mark of the thing, the strength of its conviction.

There is a great deal of tomfoolery about it (the spirits of the dead drinking whisky and smoking cigars: talking base journalese: playing silly little tricks and practical jokes). But when all this is allowed for, some real experience does remain, and on that real experience is based the intense conviction of which I have spoken.

Now there is a second mark in connection with spiritualism which renders it a considerable opponent, and it is a mark not usually recognized: its venerable lineage.

The thing, though of today in its existing form, is in essence as old as human record. It is one with witchcraft, necromancy, magic. What seems novel in it to us, only so seems novel because it has come after a period of rationalism. The average educated man of the nineteenth century thought that all the talk of all the centuries about witchcraft and demonology and the rest was too absurd to be worth noticing. He laughed it out of court. But his view was not a sound one historically. Whether such phenomena have occurred in the past is a matter to debate upon the evidence, but that mankind in the overwhelming mass of its extension in time and in space, that is, over much the greater part of the world and over much the greater part of its recorded history, has believed that such things go on, cannot be denied.

The fact that this very new religion is also nothing but a resurrection of a very old one, adds to its strength and to the seriousness with which we must regard it.

Catholic doctrine upon the matter is well-known. All such investigation is forbidden as an immortal act. It is either playing with falsehood, or (if there be, or where there be reality in it) it is of evil origin. We do not communicate with the blessed dead save in those very rare experiences which God may grant to a very few as visions. If we communicate with spirits of another world at will, summoning them regularly for our purposes, the spirits with which we are dealing are evil spirits. That is the teaching of the Church on this matter from the beginning to this our day.

We know (it may be said in passing) that its votaries are sometimes driven mad, sometimes exhibit all the phenomena of Possession, and that even its strictest supporters admit these practices to be perilous and only to be engaged in cautiously.

Everyone who has read that striking book by the late Father Hugh Benson, "The Necromancers," will remember the true drawing of the sincere medium and that medium's admission of the peril which his creed and practice involved.

There, then, are the two main features so far as I can analyze them of this strange new sect: (1) The quality of its certitude based, not upon emotion, but upon experiment: (2) The very deep roots in the human past from which it springs; the antiquity of the doctrine and practice of which it is but the resurrection.

Yet it has not in it the seed of a great new religion, and the reason should be plain. It enjoys advantages common to all research: it has experiment and evidence to work on. But it suffers the corresponding disadvantages. It has nothing of revelation in it, no unity of Philosophy, no general reply to the great questions and therefore no Authority. It takes on no body: it has no organization. That it will persist I believe. That it will grow is probable. That it will become a Church is not possible, for it is not made of the stuff of Universality out of which great organisms arise.

Where then shall we look for the seed of a New Religion? I should reply, tentatively, in this: the satisfaction of that Messianic mood with which, paradoxically, the despair of the New Paganism is shot. The expectation of better things—the confident expectation of their advent—affects the vileness and folly of our time everywhere. Let an individual appear with the capacity or chance to crystallize these hopes and the enemy will have arrived. For anti-Christ will be a man.

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