Page 3, 22nd May 1959

22nd May 1959
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Page 3, 22nd May 1959 — Finding a pattern in man's history
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Finding a pattern in man's history

By E. I.

WATKIN

INCONCLUSIVE: the word sums up my impression of this study of the significance of history and for the Christian in particular. The inconclusiveness. however, is not the fault but the merit of the

author.

Precisely because his knowledge is so wide, his judgements so balanced, bis view so manysided, Fr. D'Arcy shows that inconclusiveness is paradoxically the inevitable conclusion, the necessity of our ignorance alike of the pattern of human history as disclosed by its course and to a large extent of its place and function in God's revealed design of man.

He does not therefore dismiss out of hand attempts to discover a significant pattern in history. On the contrary he finds illumination in Professor Toynbec's monumental essay and even more in the work of Vico.

The historicist

WHATEVER the part played by free will and hazard the fact that history is after all determined by human nature

and reactions to the environment suggests that it cannot be in principle impossible to detect, however obscurely, causes and forces operative in history and discoverable by the philosopher of history the historicist, Fr. D'Arcy calls him.

For my own part, I believe that. grounded in the limitation of human nature. there is a dialectical process at work in history and detectable there, though the complexity of the factors present in any concrete situation is such that we can do no more than descry its operation dimly without any prospect of describing the details of its working.

Among the historicists Fr. D'Arcy's preference is for the pioneer Vico who saw or claimed to see Providence at work in and through the facts of history such as they are determinable in themselves independently of any hypothetical explanation and overruling even follies and crimes to its purpose for humanity.

But he finds something to be learned even from a writer so idiosyncratic and unorthodox as Gerald Heard, his ideal of a human solidarity, to be finally achieved which will nevertheless be a community of individuals

spiritually and intellectually mature.

A tension

FR. D'ARCY is as fully con scious of the difficulty, a tension, as he shows, throughout Christian spirituality and the history of the Church of reconciling an uncompromising otherworldliness, insistence upon the paramount-it might seem exclusive importance of individual salvation, the soul's eternal union with God in Christ, with the humanism which prizes culture and historical progress for their own sake.

In view, however, of the historical nature of the incarnation and Redemption he is sure that somehow these historical and humanist values perform an indispensible function in preparation for the final communion of saints with God and one another in the new heaven and earth promised at the conclusion of history. Here, however, he demonstrates a field for future Christian thought rather than prejudge the conclusion it may reach. Altogether this book is primarily an invitation and stimulus to reflection, provision of food for reflection. Possibly Fr. D'Arcy's most valuable study is of historical method and the attainment of its certainties. an analysis illuminated and supported by detailed examples drawn from fields so diverse as *w "restarnent criticism and the Bayeux " tapestry."

Fr. Teilhard

SOME of Fr. D'Arcy's detailed I-1 judgements in my opinion invite reserve. He is more favourable than i could he myself to the late Fr. Teilhard de Chardin's not very convincing attempt to amalgamate biological evolution with a Christian interpretation of history.

In particular, modern astronomy

with its disclosure of a quasiinfinite universe makes it impossible to accept, as Fr. D'Arcy appears to do, Fr. Teilhard's dictum that man is " a central and singular gathering point of the whole stuff of the Universe.'

Fr. D'Arcy allows more to human progress confined surely to knowledge and the power knowledge confers than I am prepared to concede.

" We no longer take for granted bestial religions, savage moral systems." No religion, no moral system of the past was so bestial, so savage as Communism or its totalitarian confrere, National Socialism.

Bergson

BERGSON, it is true, exaggerated

becoming at the cost of permanence. But in view of the fact that he finally arrived at Christian mysticism and the threshold of the Church we cannot fairly say that: " The Bergsonian elan gave no permanence to the self and led ... to the 'leant of Sartre."

Nor can 1, as Fr. D'Arcy appears to do, accept Marrou's position that historical generalisations such as "la cite antique, feudalism, borgeois capitalism " are " only . . . a construction of the mind." When justified by the evidence they express objective realities firmly founded on the concrete individual facts whose nature they express.




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