Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Further Reflections on Catholicism

The Digest of Several posts:

Whole and part

Catholics tell me that Catholicism is the 'fullness' of Christian truth, the 'fullness' of the faith. I was pondering this as I sat today in a weekday Mass.

If you take a drop of water or a grain of salt and split the water-drop or slice through the grain, the molecular structure remains intact, and it is not true to say that half the water-drop or a fragment of salt is less than water or less than salt. This is the nature of matter or of material substance.But the same is not true of spiritual truth - and the echo of this can be heard in the oath that is sworn in a court of law, "the truth, the whole truth, so help me God."

It is not possible to take away anything from truth and have it maintain its character as truth. To remove the slightest bit of it, to twist a word from a plain meaning to an obscure one, to add something to it which does not belong to it, to shade the context with diverting or irrelevant details or aspersions of bad faith, covert motives, interests not subjected to open inquiry -- all these things undermine the possibility of truth.

And actually truth remains in a mysterious ether, an atmosphere or aura of good faith between men - or at least the possibility of this good faith. Ultimately spiritual truth is bathed in this aura of Mystery - and even the truth, the whole truth, the truth of the material witness, the truth of the material world - depends upon it.

Men think that by stripping away to the very roots of the material world they will arrive at the truth they seek. Our culture has been consecrated, so to speak, to this task. But it is actually an anti-consecration, a kind of cursing of matter, a condemnation of matter to material disintegration. What this act of anti-consecration means is that modern men have lost the flexibility of thought to move from the material to the immaterial realm. Thinking is a spiritual act, and they have the spiritual means of thinking but they have lost all knowledge of the guidance of a spiritual force. So a spiritual force not guided by spiritual principles becomes anti-spiritual. It becomes demonic.

Before the splitting of the atom in 1945, I believe that the material world lay under a kind of protection, so that the despiritualization of human thinking did not penetrate to the roots of life. But now we are in the midst of this despiritualization. The havoc lies all around us, in our culture, our landscape, our politics, our lack of loyalty to anything. There are times when I come close to a great despair in humanity. It's not that no one cares. They care, but they cannot listen. They don't know how.

The instrument of thinking has to be attuned to the ether in order for listening to become possible - somewhere, deep within man, this instrument has to vibrate with the whole truth. This is not to say that the 'whole truth' can be known. But somehow it must be felt, or believed, in a living core of incorruptible faith. Perhaps this is the real meaning of Modernity - that the core of faith should be shut up in a dank basement labelled the 'Unconscious,' full of unclean spirits that feed off of it in the darkness.

It is not by unburying the Unconscious that we reclaim the whole of ourselves but by the restoration of the fullness at the core of faith.

"The renunciation of truth does not heal man."--Benedict XVI, Truth and Tolerance "...The teachers of the Church unfold the classic view...of the fact that man was not shut out from the Tree of Life until after he had maneuvered himself into a position that was not appropriate by eating from the Tree of Knowledge... for man to be immortal in this condition would indeed be perdition... There are indeed final boundaries we cannot cross without turning into agents of the destruction of creation itself."

God and the World: "... when Christianity is taken away, archaic powers of evil that had been banished by Christianity suddenly break loose again."

Santayana on the Spirit: "...the Nicene Creed tells us the Son was begotten not made, that is to say, came through an inner impulse, without plan or foresight, from the substance of the Father... ... the novel fact of human existence is passion of the spirit. "

"...This passion would certainly not have overcome the spirit in heaven, where the harmony between powers and form is perfect, and life is ever at its topmost, ecstasy - as in the God of Aristotle. But that is sheer myth; and as matter can exist only in some form , so Spirit can exist only incarnate in the flux of matter and form... Passion is therefore inseparable from Spirit in its actual existence, and exposes it to perpetual obscuration and suffering."

Its degradation: "Obscuration and suffering bring temptations with them, and spirit is tempted... to love evil and be content with lies... to deny matter; to despise form; and to pose itself the only power... and arbiter of truth...But this is itself the greatest of lies and the sin of the spirit against its own vocation. Spirit proceeds, and is always proceeding, from the Father and the Son . . . It was not the Holy Ghost that denied his dependence on the Father and the Son; it was Lucifer. And Lucifer merely lost his brightness and became Satan..."

SalvationVere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutáre-"It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation"-

What is salvation?

What a load of history this word bears for Western man - as though salvation or the desire for it were the very engine of our history itself. Modernity is the desire for salvation and history to coincide, which is to say, modernity is the ambition to do away with the supernatural horizon of salvation, or to empty salvation of its supernatural content. The traditional anchors of this supernatural content, Hell, Heaven, and Limbo, have been pushed beneath the frontiers of consciousness. They no longer correspond to any real sense of place in the cosmos, but they do continue to eke out a small living in the moral sphere, like the Salvation Army.

It is an interesting question, and one asked by far better minds than my own, whether history can continue to exist without a concept of salvation which is beyond history, outside of history. This seems to be the battle arena of our time.

As Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, "Even Adorno said that there can be justice only if there is a resurrection of the dead, so that past wrongs can be settled retroactively, as it were. There must, in other words, somewhere, somehow, be a settling of injustices, the victory of justice." [From his conversation with Peter Seewald, in Salt of the Earth, 1996.]

Putting the same thing more boldly and dramatically, George Bernanos once commented that "the thirst for justice will lay waste the world." That is because man's thirst for justice refers to the coexisting supernatural in him. Take away the supernatural coexistent and all that frustrated energy pours into the heart and soul of man, creating rancorous reverberations and resonances at every turn.We live in such society now,which George Orwell depicted as the "Two-Minute Hate" of the totalitarian tyranny of 1984.

We see the "Two-Minute Hate" principle applied to Catholics as a matter of course, and other targets and groups as needed. We have in this world a media, television and newspapers, which can disseminate these rancorous messages all day every day - although they are not called rancorous messages but "news."

"The loss of the idea of salvation has often been correlated with the rise of ideological this-world salvational movements --e.g. "Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God it becomes, not divine, but demonic."
Truth and Tolerance

But too few people correlate the loss of the supernatural with the decline of thinking. This is because the people who do the thinking in society have no interest in such pursuits. For "... the intellectuals, especially academics, are fascinated by power," Paul Johnson reminds us, in his book Intellectuals (1988).

Intellectual man is the heir of religious man. But he would rather not be an heir but a ruler in his own right, dispelling all secrets [cf. Johnson: "It is one of the characteristics of the intellectual to believe that secrets, especially in sexual matters, are harmful."] with the exception of the shameful -- to him - secret of his own origin.

Declaration and Commemoration
October, 2005

Today at Radnor Friends Meeting I made my announcement or declaration that I was taking steps to become a member of the Roman Catholic Faith. While sitting in the silent meeting meditating about what I would say, or whether indeed I would get up to say anything, I felt some fear and uncertainty. I knew that there was some anti-Catholic sentiment in at least a few of the Friends, though more as a subcurrent or mood than as a conscious or principled decision. Indeed, anti-Catholicism is the subcurrent mood of Protestant or ex-Protestant society in general; the general tenor was established in the 1550's and only increased in the revolutionary events of the 1600's and the so-called Enlightenment.

It seemed to be the craze to subtract from God or from all the things that had heretofore carried society, as if by a process of subtraction and denigration, an addition and heightening of mankind would mysteriously turn up on the other side of the equation.One has to ask: was it necessary, in the development of rationality and science, for this absurd balance-sheet attitude toward the relation of God and man to have gotten started?

For the experiment is still going on, although it has entered a self-contradictory and even suicidal phase. Perhaps in essence that is what 'rationality' is: it is that in us which always sails perilously close to fixation, and it is only through a conversion experience of some kind that we escape shipwreck.

Still, I need not have worried about speaking. Afterwards a number of people came up to me and said how much they appreciated my sharing my religious journey. "That's what it's about - sharing the journey, walking the talk." The Quakers proved themselves most worthy of their name -Friends.

I should not fail to mention also that after I had spoken, another Friend got up to add on to what I had said. I had never seen this lady before; apparently, she was a visitor. She spoke most intelligently and appropriately about how the outlawing of Catholic churches in England in the 1500's had created a number of people who felt a loss, who felt that they missed the old services, and that George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, had perhaps appealed to these lost former Catholics in his message and preaching. This made complete sense to me; in fact, I wondered that I had not thought of it before. It seemed providential in a way that this lady had visited the Radnor congregation today - she was from Ithaca, New York.

How do you explain that my message of conversion to Catholicism was received with all cordiality of spirit amongst these people, and that in fact it found an answering chord in this visitor who just happened to be present on this day?I learned in Meeting today that our Radnor Friend, and my personal friend, Louis Hepburn, had died. There is to be a memorial service for him this afternoon. Louis was a warm presence in that meeting and a welcoming person to me. I had looked for him when I came in this morning.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Journey to Rome

Reflections on my journey to Rome
In medias res

The holy tears . . .

Today at Mass at St. Colman's. I had attended Quaker Meeting at 10 AM at Radnor and then went to the 12 Noon Mass at St. Colman's. My feelings about the Quakers are complicated, but it is now certain that while their intentions are pure, and I appreciate their anti-militarism, these virtues alone are not sufficient. This protestantized world seems so sad, with people lacking access to the Holy Ritual to take them out of themselves. Thank God no one mentioned the Catholic Scandals in today's Meeting: I don't think I could have stood it. I have avoided going to the Meeting ever since the Scandals broke, and the newspaper has been full of it. Today a few people shared good feelings - I mean, one mentioned that it was the time of Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah, and the recent earthquake which killed 20,000 people in Kashmir... and then another woman mentioned a recent religious event where a priest, a rabbi and an imam had all gotten together and affirmed that they all worshipped the One God, and how inspiring that was for her.

I was reminded of a passage I had underlined in Georges Bernanos' book, The Diary of a Country Priest---"Comforting truths, they call it! Truth is meant to save you first, and the comfort comes afterwards. Besides, you've no right to call that sort of thing comfort. Might as well talk about condolences! The Word of God is a red-hot iron..."

The speaker, the Curé of Torcy, describes the kind of priest who preaches the "comforting truths" -- "who descends from his pulpit...with a mouth like a hen's vent, a little hot but pleased with himself, he's not been preaching: at best he's been purring like a tabby-cat."

Most of the Quaker witness I have heard this past year have been little more than the purrings of a tabby-cat. Is it any wonder that I have sought the Catholics?Radnor Meeting is a beautiful old meeting house in the suburban green land, with a hillside full of graves behind it and well-tended trees. St. Colman's, by contrast, is in Ardmore - a beautiful old church, to be sure, but with no green around it, only pavement and parking lot, and across the street a string of automobile sales yards, the new and used cars sporting American flags. Certainly this is no beautiful setting. But to enter this Church and attend this Mass is to be in another order of reality altogether. It felt to be not only in a different world from the Quakers, but on a different planet. And yet this is not true, for the Quaker Meeting and the Catholic Mass exist or rather co-exist in this world and in this same city.

Two weeks ago, when the Grand Jury report was put out and the Philadelphia Inquirer leapt at the opportunity it provided to -- once again -- take up the cudgels against the Catholic Faith, Father Tadeusz Pacholoczyk conducted the Mass. He gave a long homily, first apologizing --"for I have much to share with you today." His talk was pew-gripping intelligent -- not glossing over the problems of the sexual abuse scandals, but not omitting mention either of the anti- Catholic sentiments fomented in the way the press handled them. He managed to weave a good bit of history and theology into his remarks; I felt I was witness of a long and ongoing drama, of a story that had been told before, confronted before, atoned before. "Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church..."

The Catholic Church has always known itself to be the Church of sinners: it has always clasped this knowledge of human negation, so to speak, to itself. It was something the Jews refused to grasp, and the Protestants negated. Protestantism is thus, in a manner of speaking, a kind of double negation. It is primarily a negation of Catholicism, and, being in effect a form of negation, it let slip the firewalls which Catholicism had erected concerning the knowledge of sin -- the original negation. A double negative is thus not a positive; it is only a contortion. I think this explains many of our woes today, from the abuse of our land to the abuses of our politics. More on these matters in time.

I was, in fact, overwhelmed, by Father Tad's homily; and afterwards, when we were streaming out, I gripped his hand and practically shouted in his face: "Wonderful, wonderful! I felt like clapping!" He was at first taken aback but then he smiled when he understood my import, and gave me his blessing.Indeed this young priest -- he is perhaps 35 or 40 -- is a star -- or so I feel the term is not amiss when describing the presence of a spiritualized intelligence. Father Tad, Ph.D. is on the staff of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and lives, when in Philadelphia, at the St. Colman's Rectory. Indeed, St. Colman's is richly blessed in its priests. Father Sherwood is often present at the RCIA sessions which I attend, conducted by Deacon Shaeffer and his wife. There is in addition Father Wright, who is retired, but still conducts Masses; and a Father Maloney who assists on weekends. All of these priests, as well as the Deacon and his wife, as well as the women lay readers during the services, impress me with their devotion and faithfulness. No one has ever struck a false note or said a false thing. Every Mass I have attended has been conducted with beauty, truthful simplicity and honor. In short, I have found a faithful Catholic parish two miles from my home. I am utterly thankful for this miracle.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity -- an important book in my conversion stages. Some quotes:

"The most fundamental feature of Christian faith ...is,namely, its personal character. Christian faith is more than the option in favor of a spiritual ground to the world; its central formula is not 'I believe in something,' but 'I believe in you.'...

...The logos of the whole world, the creative original thought, is at the same time love; in fact this thought is creative because, as thought, it is love, and, as love, it is thought. It becomes apparent that truth and love are originally identical; that where they are completely realized they are not two parallel or even opposing realities but one, the one and only absolute...

To this extent one could very well describe Christianity as a philosophy of freedom... the Christian option for the logos means an option for the personal, creative meaning [and] ... at the same time an option for the primacy of the particular as against the universal. . .

But if the logos of all being, the being that upholds and encompasses everything, is consciousness, freedom, and love, then it follows... that the supreme factor in the world is not cosmic necessity but freedom. The implications of this are very extensive. For this leads to the conclusion that freedom is evidently the necessary structure of the world... and this again means that one can only comprehend the world as incomprehensible...

With the boldness and greatness of a world defined by the structure of freedom there comes also the somber mystery of the demonic, which emerges from it to meet us...As the arena of love [the world] is also the playground of freedom and also incurs the risk of evil. It accepts the mystery of darkness for the sake of the greater light constituted by freedom and love . . ....

The doctrine of the Trinity did not arise out of speculation about God.... it developed out of the effort to digest historical experience. ..God stands above singular and plural. He bursts both categories...

To him who believes in God as tri-une, the highest unity is not the unity of inflexible monotony...... When it becomes clear that the being of Jesus as Christ is a completely open being, a being 'from' and 'toward,' which nowhere clings to itself and nowhere stands on its own, then it is also clear at the same time that this being is pure relation (not substantiality) and, as pure relation, pure unity.....

... From the point of view of the Christian faith, man comes in the most profound sense to himself, not through what he does, but through what he accepts. He must wait for the gift of love, and love can only be received as a gift. It cannot be 'made' on own's own, without anyone else; one must wait for it, let it be given to one. And one cannot become wholly man in any other way than by being loved, by letting oneself be loved...

...The primacy of acceptance is not meant to condemn man to passivity... On the contrary, it alone makes it possible to do the things of this world in a spirit of responsibility, yet at the same time in an uncramped, cheerful, free way, and to put them at the service of redemptive love.

...The disinterested character of simple adoration is man's highest possibility; it alone forms his true and final liberation.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mothers - and Others

Dr. David Jacobs, a history professor at Temple University, gave a talk yesterday at the Free Library about his research into UFO’s and the “Alien Agenda.” Dr. Jacobs is the world’s leading authority on the UFO-abduction phenomenon, and teaches a college course in it – the only one in the USA.

There’s a sort of melancholy appropriateness in opening this subject on Mother’s Day, because activities involving reproduction and genetic manipulation apparently figure prominently in the alien agenda. Dr. Jacobs’ interest in the subject began with a focus on UFO sightings and developed to a more thoroughgoing exploration of what people were saying happened to them during their abductions. He has led over 700 abduction investigations using hypnosis, and found reference to egg-taking procedures (150 times); physical examinations (400 times); Mindscan (staring) procedures (375 times) and baby and toddler contact (180 times). In his book, The Threat: Revealing the Secret of the Alien Agenda, he carefully describes his procedures and distinguishes his practice from the kinds of therapeutic interventions that have led to false-memory or sexual-abuse charges.

Dr. Jacobs is no kook, and in fact his presentation, speaking style and prose can be characterized as sincere intelligence infused with moral alarm. The testimonies of abductees, he said, “have led us to where we do not want to go” – that is, to the possibility of the conquest and replacement of the human race through penetration and manipulation of its genetics. I would not have given much countenance to this sort of thing if I had not been following the recent postings of Jeff Wells and Joseph Caldwell – about which more in a moment. Given the state of humanity today, and especially the incredible array of problems lurking just behind the corporate façade of USA, Inc. today – worries about an alien agenda seemed to me in the highest case improbable. Why look for more trouble, when anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear can perceive so much trouble of our own making already in place for some kind of catastrophic implosion? Yet in a strange way the “alien agenda” is like a distorting mirror of our current predicament, bringing certain aspects of our situation into sharper focus. It is these I want to comment on today – three in particular: (1) environmental; (2) nurturance and emotionality; and (3) religious value.

(1) The Environmental Argument

In “The Alien Invasion of Earth: Strategy for Planetary Conquest,” Joseph George Caldwell writes that

“…The current hominid race of the planet, Homo sapiens, is in the process of destroying the biosphere. Large human numbers and industrial activity are causing the extinction of an estimated 30,000 species per year, and contributing to a greenhouse-gas warming of the planet that may dramatically alter the biosphere….

“…At the present time, the alien invaders are in a life-and-death struggle with the current hominid soul-group, Homo sapiens … for the control of Earth. They have abducted a large number of H. sapiens and genetically modified them so that future generations of physical human bodies will be better matched to their souls than to H. sapiens souls, and they will incarnate on Earth in increasing numbers. Unfortunately for them, however, they are in serious danger of achieving a Pyrrhic victory. H. sapiens is destroying the biosphere at an incredible rate, and there will soon be no planet left for the invaders to occupy – at least not a “Garden of Eden” biosphere like H. sapiens inherited and proceeded to destroy. The process of abducting H. sapiens and then reincarnating in place of an H. sapiens soul takes years to accomplish, and by that time there will be nothing left for the conquerors but a ruined, species-desolate planet…”

:… The current race of Earth’s human beings has committed a grievous sin against Earth’s biosphere, to the other species of Earth, and to itself – it is destroying its very home. This incredibly foolish, suicidal act of self-destruction can have only one end – the loss to the H. sapiens soul group of its physical planet…”

Caldwell’s essay is posted on his website: http://www.foundationwebsite.org/AlienInvasionStrategy.htm

Caldwell’s argument falls partially into Jacobs’ “Positives” category. The “Positives” argue that the Aliens represent a higher form of spirituality and that their intentions are benign. Treating the Alien phenomenon in this fashion harmonizes with New Age teachings about spiritual transformation and the development of higher consciousness. Concerning the environmental aspect, Jacobs quotes from one abductee who reported a conversation with an Alien, who told her that “humans did not understand that their actions had effects beyond themselves.” The abductee said that the Alien was talking almost “like he has a love affair with the Earth.” When Jacobs asked her to clarify what she meant, she reported that the Alien had said, “That’s it’s one of the most beautiful places he’s seen…. [The thought seemed to be --] Do you think we would invest our time [with someone or something that] would not make a difference?” The idea seems to be that the Aliens covet the earth for themselves, and that is why they are devoting enormous intelligence, energy and organization to the task of altering the reproductive organism of human beings.

But Jacobs finds this implausible, noting that “the strategem of environmental concern developed well after the Breeding Program was in place.” However, the missing key that Caldwell’s interpretation supplies is that the breeding program exists for the purpose of enabling the incarnation of Alien (or hybrid) souls on the earth. It is not environmental destruction per se that motivates them. Rather, it is assuring for themselves a future planetary home. Given the increasing pace of environmental degradation, the escalating number of reports of abductee stories become truly alarming. Maybe the Aliens know something we don’t? According to Caldwell, the peak of world oil resources – which some geologists think may be happening this decade, if not this year or next – will create end-game wars for control of resources. The question for the Aliens is whether sufficient numbers of humans will be destroyed in order to tip the demographic balance in favor of the genetically altered alien-human hybrids.

Whatever is it, neither Jacobs’ view nor Caldwell’s view is likely to generate much comfort. If anything, Caldwell’s view is even more pessimistic, in that he includes the scenario of the human race engaging in a suicidal war.

(2) Nurturance and emotionality

Some of the most poignant passages in Jacob’s book deal with the robotic aliens’s envy of human emotionality and free will. Abductees reported being asked by Aliens to hold and nurture babies. One alien took an abductee into a room called an “incubatorium,” which contained hundreds of containers of fetuses, and asked her to hold a baby. “she’s telling me .. that the babies need to be held, otherwise they can’t grow right… What we need to teach them is emotions, feelings, that they cannot do. She’s explaining to me that they can feed and clothe the babies, they can grow physically, but they cannot give these babies emotional development, that they need me to help them do that…”

According to numbers of abductee reports, the hybrids (Alien-human merged beings) “have no memories of parents, siblings, family life, nurturing, or other emotionally important events that bond humans to each other.” A hybrid once explained to an abductee that he has no memories, only “files” – “we were just told who [our parents were] and they‘re on files.” The hybrid denied being a robot, but said “the meaning was the same” – “That a robot has no bonding. It just does what it’s programmed to do,” and “Even if I had those emotions, what good are they because nothing will happen?”

(3) Meaning and religious values

On one level David Jacob’s The Threat can be read as a picture about the kind of human society that we seem to be developing. The emphasis that the Aliens give to bonding and emotionality is in glaring contrast to the selfish and money-driven values of modernity so highly touted by the feminists. Caldwell in his piece quotes the Biblical phrase that “Those who destroy the earth will themselves be destroyed.” The same sober lesson could be applied to the heartless and brutal regime of abortion – that those who destroy their own children in the name of freedom will be subjected to the tyranny of an alien race that, whatever its status of morality or culture, places a high value upon reproduction.

The irony – if there is an ‘irony’ here – is that despite the great progress made in human genetics and reproduction, there yet remains an aura of the mysterious about it, such that one may rightly distinguish reproduction from conception. In the generational life of human beings it is proper to speak of procreation and conception rather than reproduction and manipulation of genes. But in the genetic science of today we are losing the sense for the metaphysical dimensions of humanity. The irony is that our scientists are becoming more and more like the aliens that Jacobs describes in this book. It is quite possible that genetic science will lead to the manufacture of purely ‘physicalized’ human beings, if indeed it has not already done so. In achieving this, we will have achieved a “concubinage with matter” that will effectively spell the end of human spiritual evolution. If this is where things are going, the picture put forth by the abduction stories is a symbolic representation of what is going on in science today. It is in the nature of a parable or warning.

Whatever the nature of the threat, David Jacobs confesses at the conclusion of his book that “I am persuaded that the abduction phenomenon is real. And as a result, the intellectual safety net with which I operated for so many years is now gone. I am as vulnerable as the abductees themselves. I should ‘know better,’ but I embrace as real a scenario that is both embarrassing and difficult to defend..”

Maybe it’s all fantasy. But after reading Jacobs, I’m not so sure. If nothing else, the picture of the Aliens resembles nothing so much as the horrifying imagery of the uncontrolled human intellect which seeks to control nature but forgets to control itself. Such a fantastic horror has grown up in a modern society which has progressively and insidiously alienated moral feeling and value from scientific research and even from personal action. Wherever the truth of the abductee phenomenon may lie, David Jacobs appeared to me as a man not alienated from himself. In that sense Dr. Jacobs’s research tells not so much what aliens are doing to us but what we are doing to ourselves – and in that sense I share his alarm.

Note: Jeff Wells in his blog,
has lately been exploring the abductee phenomenon mainly from the point of view of programming, mind control, and sexual abuse.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Two Book Reviews

The Sleepwalkers. By Arthur Koestler -- "A history of man's changing vision of the universe." It is a fascinating look -- both biographical and philosophical-scientific -- at the history of astronomy amd especially at the fate and fortunes of heliocentric theory. First published in 1959, it makes a close companion to Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances (also published that year) which examines a similar set of circumstances (the rise of science) without so much biographical detail but with a deeper philosophical perspective of the evolution of consciousness.

It is interesting to see Koestler circling around the concept of the evolution of consciousness, but without quite hitting it. Barfield's account, on the other hand, leads quite naturally to it because he is intent upon exploring the concept of participation. Because Koestler lacks the concept of participation, he is not able to project himself into the ancient Greek mind without making it sound like a modern mind that has made a mistake. Thus he exhibits the tendency of modern commentators to "surreptiously substitute our own phenomena for those which [the Greeks] were in fact dealing with." (Barfield, p. 44.) Barfield stresses that the phenomena of the ancient Greeks were participated - that is, "It never would have occurred to an ancient Greek to doubt that the heavenly bodies and their spheres were in one way or another representations of divine beings." The perpetual dogma of Greek science was that the heavenly bodies move in perfect circles in uniform speed. Rather, it was no "dogma" but simply self-evident, in much of the same way that "evolution" has become self-evident to the modern mind. And there are as many inconsistencies with the notion of circular movement as there are with the idea of evolution, for which scientists are busy, then as now, with "saving the appearances." This, to Koestler, is an 'ominous phrase,' showing 'a split world reflected in the split mind.' But before the Scientific Revolution, it was simply a given that the heavenly worlds and the earthly world were wholly different and disjunct. It cannot therefore be framed in the modernist, post-psychiatric terminology of 'split-mindedness.'

Since we no longer view the world in this manner, it is unthinkable (to us) that the celestial and the terrestrial worlds would represent anything other than a common cosmological history.Our world view is unitary, but it is flat; the ancient view was disjunct, but it was marked by differentia of all kinds. One could say that the planets were personalities - this is an example of participated consciousness. But even as late as Copernicus, Koestler notes, ". . . gravity is the nostalgia of things to become spheres." The idea of moral perfection was perhaps the last to go in cosmology.

Because Koestler lacks the concept of participation, he can only speculate that the reason the ancient Greeks, who first came up with the heliocentric notion but then "turned their backs on it," was because of a deep-seated "fear of change." He blames Plato and Aristotle in particular for this state of affairs, saying that their views of the cosmos were motivated by "the craving for stability in a disintegrating culture." In this respect Koestler may be revealing the particular blind spot in his Jewish heritage -- a heritage which is characterized above all by a pronounced antipathy to participation -- otherwise known as paganism -- in all its forms. Koestler, though not hostile to the Christian Church, likewise shows an inability to understand the inspiration of Christianity in civilization in his descriptions of medieval life: "... emotions required a rigid system of conventional forms... chronic and insoluable mental conflicts... mass hysteria ... compulsive ritual.... etc."

I am reminded of a passage in John Murray Cuddihy's book, The Ordeal of Civility (also reviewed here; see next)in which he discusses the "value-package of Western civilization" -- that is, charity feudalized to chivalry, later animated to courtesy and finally modernized to civility. Cuddihy's book is a study of 19th century emancipation of the Jews, and he comments that this Western value-package was "the collective representation of Western culture that rubbed emerging Jewry the wrong way." Some of Koestler's pronouncements on the Middle Ages reveal this historic Jewish antipathy. His best pages come after his medieval commentary.

Koestler's portraits of Copernicus, Kepler, Tycho de Brahe and Galileo are richly drawn and profound. Although lacking full understanding of the medieval world, he is nonetheless in sympathy with its "mystic sap" which inspired Copernicus, Kepler and Tycho. It was Galileo who "...precipitated the divorce of science from faith," and with that divorce there began a new fragmentation of experience: science divorced from religion, religion from art, substance from form, matter from mind.

Where Koestler's Jewish heritage may prevent him from seeing the true dimensions of participation and imagination, it gives him, on the other hand, a deeper understanding of the moral gravitational sphere. Commenting on the paradox of intellectual advancement and "moral dwarfism," he says: "It may be thought unfair to judge a man's character by the standard of his intellectual achievements, but the great civilizations of the past did precisely this; the divorce of moral from intellectual values is itself a characteristic development of the last few centuries." [See note] This banishment of the moral - and the emotional, and the esthetic - aspects of life from thinking and science gives him the greatest anxiety for our future. "The basic novelty of our age is the combination of this sudden unique interest in physical power with an equally unprecedented spiritual ebb-tide."

This depth of understanding gives Koestler's account of science and scientists its moral gravity. Although he does not understand why the appearances need to be saved in terms of the moral, he does see how the ever-widening rift between science and moral consciousness is leading to ever more serious consequences fofr humanity and for the earth.

[Note: A later comment -- I would have thought that the ancient standard was the reverse of Koestler's dictum: one's intellectual achievement was judged by one's character, and not as the meritocratic-tending Koestler's dictum has it. Nevertheless, I do take his general point.]


John Murray Cuddihy, The Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx, Levi-Strauss, and the Jewish Struggle with Modernity. Basic Books, 1974.

John Murray Cuddihy's thesis is a study of the social tensions arising from the legal emancipation of the Jews in Europe. This emancipation was perhaps the most important consequence of the French Revolution. "The story of the exodus of Jews into Europe in the 19th century is a case study of culture shock," he writes, and it is the effect of that culture shock in the works of prominent Jewish intellectuals that Cuddihy traces in his book.

From the mid-1600's there was a movement from Eastern Europe and Poland of millions of Jews into Europe. They were essentially a people emerging from the Middle Ages, habituated to a theocratic and ethnocentric mode of life. They were to encounter, in the gentile non-kinship universalistic nation-state, a whole new system of manners and a code of what was considered proper to social and public behavior. The encounter of Jews with civil society became a whole intellectual apologetic. The hidden theme in all this, says Cuddihy, was the ordeal of civility -- that is, "... the ritually unconsummated social courtship of gentile and Jew ... the ideology of the Jewish intellectual was frequently a projection onto general, gentile culture of a forbidden ethnic self-criticism."

The tenor of Jewish intellectual activity can be characterized as an attempt to subvert or unmask the "hypocrisy of appearances." Freudian psychoanalysis, for instance, became a way to transform social conflicts into "cognitive problems." Thus Freud, writes Cuddihy "... the whole business of courtship and the sexual courtesies deriving from the feudal court are confronted... with the reality of an erect penis." The Freudian id became the moral equalizer legitimating Jewish-gentile equality as psychoanalysis became a countercultural adversary of the bourgeois-Christian ethos of civility and respectability -- the "Protestant Esthetic and Etiquette."

Likewise Marxism availaed to tear away the "bourgeois superstructure" to reveal the ugly reality of explotative economic relations beneath it. Marxism became a way to cover the deficit of Jewish social morality by generalizing it to capitalist society. Exposing economic relations in all their crudity - tearing away the "fig-leaf... of misleading appearances" -- would make society fit for the Jews rather than by looking into the question of how the Jews were to become fit for society.

Thus Cuddihy describes the intellectual atmosphere of 19th century Europe as comprised in large part of strategies of projection -- "an endless quest for euphemisms to describe the Jewish problem." Cuddihy describes the "ancient value-package" deriving from the concept of charity which became feudalized into chivalry which became secularized into courtesy which became modernized into civility as the collective representation of Western culture which "rubbed emerging Jewry the wrong way." The signal feature of this movement from charity to civility over the 2,000 year period is the distinction between the "person" and the "idea," culture and religion, faith and reason, private and public. That there could be a notion of truth and the value and dignity accorded to the search for it was highly dependent upon the maintenance of the civil realm, the public dimension -- the appearances, which discouraged the intrusion of the excessively personal, the crude, the obsessive, the antagonistic, the fanatic. The unwritten rules of civic participation undergirded the written political ones and made possible the continuation of the civis itself. This foundational fact was not understood by gentile society in the 19th century and is still little understood today.

I have often called the attention of my readers to Owen Barfield's book, Saving the Appearances, which I regard as essential to the understanding of the development of Western science. Western cultures were already embarked upon a long process of dissolving the "appearances" through a single-minded pursuit of empiricism, nominalism, reductionism, and materialism in science and philosophy. In the 19th century these processes already taking place in European culture encountered the emancipated Jewish intellectualism and the two movements collided in full force. After this collision, the two streams become almost impossible to disentangle.

The wreckage from this collision lies all around us today in the ruins of what were once hopefully denominated "Western civilization." Cuddihy's book discusses the Jewish contribution to this civilizational crisis, and by connecting the prominent themes of the Jewish intelligentsia to issues of Jewish emancipation, assimilation, and modernization, helps to fill in an important part of the picture.

This essay originally appeared on my "Sword in the Mouth" website - now no longer available. Original post date March 22, 2005, which I have retained, although I have slightly revised and edited the piece for inclusion today.
More on heliocentrism at my website Geocentrality - see link at left.
Essay on Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances was posted under the title "Thoughts and Things: Reviving Liber Naturalis," on Lila Rajiva's website.