Sunday, June 9, 2019

"All human conflict is ultimately theological"

"THERE IS another form of impressing the truth, and testifying to it, and doing good by it, which is the dogmatic assertion of truth by the old and the experienced and the revered, to the young. It is out of fashion, it is invaluable. I can myself testify to two such experiences which stand out supreme among many many hundreds in my own early life. I am afraid they may seem trivial to my readers; I can only say that for myself they were as strong as any great joy or pain could be. One was a sentence which Cardinal Manning said to me when I was but twenty years old. The other was one which the Master of my College, Dr. Jowett, of Balliol,
said to me when I was twenty-two years old.

"The profound thing which Cardinal Manning said to me was this: 'all human conflict is ultimately theological'.

"It was my custom during my first years in London, as a very young man, before I went to Oxford, to call upon the Cardinal as regularly as he would receive me; and during those brief interviews I heard from him many things which I've had later occasion to test by the experience of human life. I was, it may be said, too young to judge things so deep as sanctity and wisdom; but, on the other hand, youth has vision, especially upon elemental things; and Manning did seem to me (and still seems to me) much the greatest Englishman of his time. He was certainly the greatest of all that band, small but immensely significant, who, in the Victorian period, so rose above their fellows, pre-eminent in will and in intelligence, as not only to perceive, but even to accept the Faith. Not only did his powerful mind discover, but his powerful will also insisted upon all the difficult consequences of such an acceptation. He never admitted the possibility of compromise between Catholic and non-Catholic society. He perceived the necessary conflict, and gloried in it.

"This saying of his (which I carried away with me somewhat bewildered) "that all human conflict was ultimately theological": that is, that all wars and revolutions and all decisive struggles between parties of men arise from a difference in morals and Transcendental doctrine, was utterly novel to me. To a young man the saying was without meaning: I would have almost said nonsensical, save that I could not attach the idea of folly to Manning. But as I grew older it became a searchlight: with the observation of the world, and with continuous reading of history, it came to possess for me a universal meaning so profound that it reached to the very roots of political action; so extended that it covered the whole.

"It is, indeed, a truth which explains and co-ordinates all one reads of human action in the in the past, and all one sees of it in the present. Men talk of universal peace: it is only obtainable by one common religion. Men say that all tragedy is the conflict of equal rights. They lie. All tragedy is the conflict of a true right and a false right, or a greater right and a lesser right, or, at the worst, of two false rights. Still more do men pretend in this time of ours, wherein the habitual use of the human intelligence has sunk to its lowest, that doctrine is but a private, individual affair, creating mere opinion. Upon the contrary, it is doctrine that drives the State;  and every State is stronger in the degree in which the doctrine of its citizens is united. Nor have I met any man in my life, arguing for what should be among men, but took for granted as he argued that the doctrine he consciously or unconsciously accepted was or should be a similar foundation for all mankind. Hence battle.

"The truth Dr. Jowett gave me came to thus." . . (cont. next post).

~Hilaire Belloc: "The Cruise of the 'Nona'."

@ Amazon

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